YESTERDAY, Guyana joined with the Hindu community– regionally and internationally– in celebrating the festival of Diwali, popularly known as the Festival of Lights.
Diwali, also spelt Divali or Deepavali, is a Sanskrit word which when translated into English means row of lights. It is a Hindu festival which is a week of celebrations observed on the darkest night of the month, usually in November of its celebration. This is said to provide the best environment for the twinkling lights of the lighted diyas that is the highpoint of this most auspicious occasion.
This festival, which primarily signifies victory of good over evil, light over darkness, and knowledge over ignorance, has as its religious centrepoint and focus, dedication to and worship of the goddess Maha Lakshmi, the goddess of light, fortune and abundance. It is an occasion that makes for the renewal of kinship among relatives; friendship, and love among friends and neighbours; as well as heralding the beautiful occasion of the entire Hindu family worshipping at dusk, before adorning their homes and immediate surroundings with lighted diyas.
Although this wonderful occasion is primarily of Hindu origin, culture, and celebration, it is one of the most popular festivals in the Hindu calendar; and in Guyana, celebrated as a national holiday, it has assumed what can be described as a truly national festival. This is best manifested by the thousands of Guyanese from all walks of life, and ethnicities that traditionally line the route along which the annual Maha Sabha – sponsored motorcade of floats, passes. Apart from the lighted diyas, it can be described as the other highpoint of this auspicious occasion, which is always well received by a largely multi-ethnic crowd.
Such a celebratory occasion that has perennially attracted Guyanese– irrespective of cultural and ethnic affiliation– illustrates a nation, which people are truly appreciative; and respectful of their fellow Guyanese individual religio-cultural leanings, without any pretence or show of intolerance. It is an acknowledgement of our maturity and understanding of each other as Guyanese.
But Diwali is being observed at a time when our world is beset by challenges of an extreme nature; where hatred of all types continue to threaten the peace and harmony which should be upheld as the beacon and guide for all mankind to live better and productive lives, and be of service to those in need. Murderous attacks, taking the lives of innocent persons and senseless in every way, are being carried out in the name of religion, whereas, religion should serve only as a moral and spiritual compass for better lives.
Rather than being used for the advancement of universal learning, whereby cultural diversity is seen as a light for enlightenment, thus deepening the bonds of international brotherhood, it is used instead, to foster ill-perceived differentiation that inevitably gives rise to daily conflict.
In Guyana, where there is much suspicion and fear among our people, the occasion of Diwali, apart from being customarily celebratory, should be used as an occasion to reflect on our personal lives, thus ushering in light to remove darkness in the form of ignorance; rejecting hate and prejudices that continue to dampen our spiritual lives, while by extension darkening our horizon; preventing the better understanding of our fellow Guyanese, which will make living of better lives, and at peace with our fellow Guyanese. Above all, let us use this occasion, which among other tenets is about showing love and compassion to those in need, strive in unison for the good of all.