One good thing about the Caribbean culture is the acceptance of the cosmopolitan culture that exists across the board of the West Indies. Different races and their culture norms are praised and accepted in a way that lets the rest of the world know; “we’re all one”. One such day, and a popular favourite, is the day of Divali (or Deepavali). Divali is a Hindu celebration that takes place on the darkest night of the year of the new moon, usually observed on the 15th day of the month of Kartika in the Hindu calendar, to signify light over darkness, wealth and prosperity. On this night, millions of diyas are lit worldwide – mostly by Hindus – as a sign to ward off the evils that lurk and come with the darkness, and symbolizes the thrusting of the demon King Bali into hell. Hundreds of non-Hindus also partake in this cultural practice as a form of festivity…which suits us Caribbean people perfectly, because we love nothing more than an excuse to lime!
In the Hindu culture, the festival is celebrated for five continuous days with ample time dedicated to cleaning, changing curtains, fasting, and making things anew, where the third days is celebrated as the main Divali Day of reverence and triumph. They perform Lakshmi Puja in the evening and seek divine blessings of the Goddess of Wealth – Mother Lakshmi before feasting. The festival of Divali is also never complete without the exchange of gifts to near and dear ones, and other Hindu families. On this jubilant day, people light up diyas and candles all around their house. Diyas and small clay pots that that contains coconut oil and a cotton wick that is lit. The set up and lighting of diyas is also a fun activity for any family to do – of course with safety precautions taken – like don’t use kerosene! Diyas are usually sold at some hardware stores or variety stores around the time of the festival. You can pick one up and leave them in its natural clay form, paint them, or even douse them with glue and glitter. Don’t be afraid to go wild…unless it’s lit. Then don’t get too wild around open flames. That could end not-so-good.
Apart from the spirituality and history of this auspicious day, this festival of lights has become an annual favourite for its infamous food and delicacies, and public appreciation for the East Indian culture with its public diya shows. Local public parks usually bend bamboo and light diyas for all the public to enjoy and make it an event. Some other locations further south put on theatre shows, like at the Divali Nagar, and some families even have Divali parties where they invite the neighbourhood to take part in the renewal of their homes to feast over the national obsession of roti and kurma. Many other Candy delicacies are usually given out too, to children and guests. Later on in the night, different colourful varieties of fireworks light up the neighbourhood skies to end the closing of the old Hindu year, and the beginning of the New Year for success.
Divali is not only a spiritual festival but also a cultural one. Locals of all races enjoy the festivities, and most importantly, the holiday! Trini’s love a reason to stay home from work! – So don’t waste it; take your family to the neighbouring parks and watch the lights and eat roti and barfi till your heart’s content. Don’t be afraid also to partake in the festivities and adorn your house with diyas for the fun of it. So Shubh Divali and let the light illumine us with its brilliance, and dazzle all with its joy. And remember, life is always better with a little less karma and a little more kurma.