A report by Sandhya Santoo for Trinidad’s Express.
THE 30th Annual Divali Nagar celebrations began Thursday night at the National Council of Indian Culture (NCIC) Nagar site, in Chaguanas with a series of performances.
The event began with the symbolic lighting of the Nagar’s first deya, a bhajan performed by pupils of the Munroe Road Hindu School and the singing of the Ganga Maa strotram performed by the Hindu Prachaar Kendra.
President of NCIC Dr Deokinanan Sharma delivered the opening address and thanked the NCIC executive for their support in celebrating the 30th anniversary. Sharma gave an insight into this year’s theme, Ganga Maa and said that the Divali Nagar celebrations has brought an awareness of the Indo-Trinidadian culture and is an event which is fast growing in popularity.
Sharma also said that NCIC will partner with other Hindu religious organisations to hold a convention based on the Indian cultural diaspora next year in celebration of Indian Arrival Day.
Minister of Community Development, Culture and the Arts Dr Nyan Gadsby Dolly delivered greetings at the event. She praised NCIC for hosting the event which she said, has preserved and promoted an awareness of the Indian culture.
The Minister said: “The Divali Nagar is a significant aspect of the annual calendar of Trinidad and Tobago. The festival has served to preserve and promote Indian Culture nationally, regionally and internationally. It represents a cultural exchange among our people. This cultural exposition, our Divali Nagar, has inspired persons around the world to revitalize their Indian culture and heritage. Today, similar type festivals take place in Caribbean countries, the United States of America and Canada.
On behalf of the Government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, I would like to acknowledge and applaud the work of the NCIC for serving the people of this nation. You have continued to bring awareness of the religious, social and cultural dimensions of the festival of Divali.”
Gadsby-Dolly said that the various themes used for the celebrations each year has cultural significance. She also shared a Divali message.
“Through your various themes, attendees have the chance to learn about essential aspects of our Indian culture. This year’s theme, Ganga Ma – Sacred River focuses on the Goddess and symbolises purity. It speaks of cleansing, health and mercy. It reminds us of new life, rejuvenation and victory. They say that it is here, in Trinidad and Tobago, that the Ganges meets the Nile. And so even as we celebrate the sacred river and the festival of lights, we also celebrate our diversity as a people. We acknowledge the attributes of our Aripo River in northeast Trinidad, which is believed to have been connected to the Ganges River over 25,000 years ago.
With the upcoming observance of Divali, the Festival of Lights, let us all be reminded of the strength of communal ties, the victory of good over evil, light over darkness, and unity over dissension, and the power of love and hope. Divali reminds us all of the beauty of light and life. It embraces the values and morals which we hold true, regardless of religion or ethnicity and reminds us of our potential as a people. As we uplift communities across the nation, we pray that the light of Divali will illuminate our new journey towards sustainable development. May we always be blessed with the inspiration, creativity, courage and vision for what tomorrow brings,” said Gadsby-Dolly.
Delivering the feature address was President of the Guyana Hindu Dharmic Sabha Dr Vindhya Vasini Persaud.
Persaud. Persaud is also a Member of Parliament in Guyana and has been awarded the Medal of Service and an award from Pranav Ashram in Canada for contributions in the field of Hinduism, culture and humanitarian work.
Persaud spoke of the Nagar’s theme and made the point that women play a key role in society and that Trinidad and Tobago has understood this.
She said: “I think the people of Trinidad and Tobago definitely understand the meaning of ensuring that women have a position that is pivotal to the development of a nation.”
Quoting from Swami Vivekananda and Mahatma Gandhi, Persaud said: “If you can educate a man, you educate but one, but if you educate a woman you educate the nation…tonight I want to encourage you all to think of women in such a way and in such a light, empower, educate and enable all the women, all the girls, not only in Trinidad and Tobago but the world so that they can continue to be inspirations of all who they come into contact with.”
Persaud praised NCIC for hosting the Divali Nagar celebrations year after year and said that Divali Nagar goes beyond hosting the event but has a deeper meaning, particularly with the young generation.
“As you celebrate 30 years I encourage you to do it with absolute pride because as a people you have united, you have worked tirelessly and incessantly to make this happen consecutively and it’s not just these moments when we share the beginning of every Divali Nagar but it is what is involved. The training of young people, the immersion in culture, their exposure to the wider ambit of Sanatan vedic dharma, their introduction to values and principles and more importantly the sharing of cultural traditions and beliefs among all people,” said Persaud.
Persaud said that if people understood each other’s beliefs, the barriers separating them would be broken and there will be unity. She said that to understand what it means to be a global village, means having to reach out to the other.
“I want to encourage you to not confine to what it is you want to achieve, to the borders of your country rather each out to your sister nations across the world. Reach out to the cultural diaspora, build relationships, friendships, share ideas so that we can truly achieve what we mean by a global village,” she said.
Persaud extended an invitation to the people of the Trinidad and Tobago to visit Guyana for its annual Divali motorcade.
Speaking with the Express after the event, Persaud said that the Divali motorcade is a tradition over 40 years old in Guyana which is synonymous to Divali Nagar, which is celebrated countrywide.
“I find it very beautiful and I think that Trinidad should be very proud especially NCIC as they have managed to maintain this for 30 consecutive years and it has not been confined to what is was originally and it has been expanded and has achieved so much more by including so many more people from not at home but from across the world and bringing so many people together. Divali is a very unifying festival and I think to have traditions like these definitely brings out that unity that the festival illustrates,” said Persaud.
She also said that the idea of having a Divali Nagar event in Guyana has been pitched by NCIC’s public relations officer Surujdeo Mangaroo and may be a consideration for it.
Tokens of appreciation were given to Gadsby-Dolly and Persuad by NCIC.
In attendance at the opening of Divali Nagar included House Speaker Bridgid Annisette George, Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh, US Ambassador John Estrada, Indian High Commissioner Bishwasdip Dey, and Members of Parliament Suruj Rambachan, Rudy Indarsingh, Bhoe Tewarie and Chaguanas Mayor Gopaul Boodan.
The evening’s entertainment also included bhajans by Terance Taran Sookdeo, tassa by the Trinidad and Tobago Sweet Tassa Academy and a dances by the Shiv Shakti Dance Group and the Khalnayak Dance Academy.
The festivities will be held for nine nights ending on Divali morning (October 29). There will be nightly entertainment of dances, tassa playing and singing.