Holidays and Festivals: Divali
Divali is known in Trinidad and Tobago as the Festival of Lights. It originates from the Ramayan (a Hindu holy text) and celebrates the defeat of evil and victory of good with the return of Rama to Ayodhya and His coronation as King of Ayodhya. The story of Rama’s exile is also the story of the exile of the 'jeeva' or individual beings from God. The ultimate recovery of spirituality orders the joy and prayerfulness of the Festival of Lights: “Tamaso Maa Jyotir Gamaya.” (Lead me from darkness to light.)
Divali stands in the middle of a season of five festivals in the Hindu month of Kartik. Divali was selected as the representative holiday for the large Hindu community. Since then it has served as a means of presenting the religion and culture of the descendants of Indian indentured labourers.
The vigour with which the festival is engaged has now stretched into cultural programmes during weekends extending over one month before and after Divali. Poojaa or ceremonial worship, feasts and cultural programmes which include religious, folk, film and classical music, dances and songs are the main features.
Divali Nagar, which attracts many people from across the country hosts a yagna - a formal event two weeks before Divali. It serves to inform through discourse in a traditional ambiance of decor, Indian music and feast. This is followed one week later by a thematic exhibition on Hindu religious and cultural traditions, staged cultural programmes and a commercial section which caters mainly for shopping.
On Divali night, deyas or earthen lamps are lit across the country. Each locality takes pride to create artistic designs using bamboo arches and plantain trees to hold thousands of lighted deyas. Sumptuous Indian delicacies are prepared and shared with family and friends. Indian cultural and devotional music is played from homes and stages making it an enchanting experience.