Diwali/Deepavali observed in Trinidad and Tobago
Diwali, also known as Deepavali, is a significant and much-anticipated festival celebrated by the Hindu community in Trinidad and Tobago. The name Deepavali translates to "a row of lights," which aptly describes the essence of this festival of lights. In Trinidad and Tobago, Diwali is usually observed in October or November, depending on the Hindu lunar calendar. The date is determined by the position of the moon, specifically the new moon day of the Hindu month of Kartik.
Diwali has been celebrated in Trinidad and Tobago since the arrival of the first Indian indentured laborers in the mid-19th century. These laborers were brought to the country by the British colonial government to work on sugar plantations following the abolition of slavery. Over time, the Indian community in Trinidad and Tobago has grown and flourished, and Diwali has become an integral part of the country's cultural tapestry. In 1966, Diwali was declared a public holiday, further demonstrating its importance in the nation's cultural identity.
National customs for Diwali in Trinidad and Tobago
The celebration of Diwali in Trinidad and Tobago is characterized by several national customs that are observed by the Hindu community and embraced by the wider population. One of the most prominent customs is the lighting of deyas, small clay lamps filled with oil or ghee, which are placed around homes, temples, and public spaces. These lamps symbolize the triumph of light over darkness and good over evil.
Another significant custom is the preparation and sharing of various Indian sweets and delicacies, known as mithai. Families often spend days preparing these treats, which are then shared with neighbors, friends, and visitors during the festival. Rangoli, or colorful floor decorations made from colored rice, flour, or flower petals, can also be seen adorning the entrances of homes and temples, welcoming the Hindu goddess of wealth and prosperity, Lakshmi.
Fireworks and the bursting of firecrackers are also common during Diwali, adding to the festive atmosphere and driving away evil spirits.
Local customs for Diwali in Trinidad and Tobago
In addition to the national customs, there are several local customs specific to the celebration of Diwali in Trinidad and Tobago. One such custom is the annual Diwali Nagar, a large-scale cultural exposition held in the weeks leading up to the festival. This event showcases various aspects of Indian culture, including music, dance, cuisine, and craft, attracting thousands of visitors from across the country and beyond.
Another local custom is the hosting of community "motorcades," where decorated vehicles adorned with lights and religious images parade through neighborhoods, accompanied by music and dancing.
Diwali in Trinidad and Tobago is a vibrant and meaningful celebration that reflects the country's rich cultural diversity. It is a time for the Hindu community to come together in the spirit of unity, joy, and gratitude, while also sharing their customs and traditions with the wider population. The festival's emphasis on light, love, and prosperity makes it a truly special occasion for all who participate.