TRINIDAD, November, 2012, (by Paras Ramoutar): This oil-rich nation with 44% of its 1.3 million of East Indian stock celebrated its 167th Divali, a public holiday since 1966. Divali celebrations climaxed as more than 300,000 Hindus lit diyas, burst fire-crackers and recited special prayers and benediction to Mother Lakshmi, the Goddess of Wealth and Beauty. Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, in her Divali message, prayed, "Ma Lakshmi, Bless Our Land." She continued: "Wherever there is darkness in this land, whether in the form of perceived threats to fundamental freedoms, whether it is the darkness of poverty, the violation of the person, especially the rape and abuse of our women and children, I will work to eradicate these forms of darkness and bring light and healing to those affected."
The President of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, Prof. Maxwell Richards, noted that Divali had come to Trinidad and Tobago with East Indian immigrants, but the Hindu Festival was now celebrated by persons of different cultural and religious background. "Divali serves as a visual as a visual representation of the Divali theme of the triumph of light over darkness, of good over evil, of truth over falsehood and knowledge over ignorance," he said. Minister of Foreign Affairs, Winston Dookeran hailed the interpretation of Divali as, "a human outlet to seek the spiritual enrichment and to transfer this element to the total transformation of the society and mankind." He praised the teachings embedded in Hinduism as, "an eternal message of hope, of promoting the concept total love, truth and human understanding. Prakash Ramadhar, Minister of Legal Affairs, said that there is an eternal message of Divali which must be practiced in our daily lives.
One of the highlights of Divali in Trinidad and Tobago is the annual Divali Nagar which attracts over 130,000 patrons during its nine-day programme, and it featured religious, spiritual and cultural programs reflecting the true nature and strength of Indian culture. Visitors from as far as India, England, Canada, Holland, USA, South Africa attend. Indian High Commissioner, Shri Malay Mishra, in an address, noted that, no part of India ever hosts a Divali Nagar, and commended Dr Deokienanan Sharma, president of the National Council of Indian Culture(NCIC) for holding it. Sharma said: "Divali Nagar, through its cultural presentations, food and dress, exposure to all the different sects of Hinduism and it theme presentations have all combined to showcase Indo-Trinidadian culture in all its glory."
The Indian Diaspora here was originally sourced from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar between 1845 and 1917, when over 148,000 East Indians were brought here by the then British colonial government to work on the sugar and cocoa plantations.