Confusion still surrounds national Diwali celebration – two organisations offer different dates
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IN mere weeks, Hindus from all across Guyana are slated to celebrate the festival of lights, or as it is more popularly known, Diwali, but confusion still surrounds the date for its celebration.In any case, the Minister of Public Security Khemraj Ramjattan, has declared November 10 as the national holiday, going against the advice of the Guyana Hindu Dharmic Sabha, which has provided the date for the last 40 years.
Two dominant Hindu groups in the country – the Viraat Sabhaa and the Dharmic Sabha – proposed different dates.
According to the Viraat Sabhaa, based on their convictions November 10 should be declared as Diwali, based on calculations they say is premised on the knowledge of renowned astrologists Kaushik, Kaashi and Bhaskaar.
The Dharmic Sabha has said the celebration should be held on November 11.
The Viraat Sabhaa is arguing that what is explicit, as contained in the Kaashi Panchang/Patra – an annual publication on astrology and Hinduism – is that Pradosh Kaal, Nisheet and Mahaa Nischeet Kaal (all being auspicious times), are present on November 10.
With Amawasya (dark night) ending on 13:47 hrs on Wednesday, November 11, after which, automatically, a new moon begins, Viraat Sabhaa is arguing that this further confirms November 10 as the official day, since the festival cannot be observed in the new moon but must on the darkest night of the year.
To further support their point, the body noted that the Panchangs/Patras also allude to world zones for these dates. The zone for Trinidad and Tobago and Suriname, according to them, shows the festival to be observed on November 10. Trinidad’s Swaha calendar confirms this, they say.
As such, after realising that calendars published by the Dharmic Sabha showed the observance of the festival for Wednesday, November 11, and which is reflected on national calendars, they submitted a petition to the government. This petition, the Viraat Sabhaa said, was for consideration of an intervention to have the true date reflected as Tuesday, November 10.
Boasting of their composition, the body explained that the petition was signed by their affiliates, some 70 signatures which are reflective of a vast majority of Hindu representatives in Guyana. The petition, they said, contained detailed calculations and supporting documents for the November 10 date.
Some of the supporting groups of the Viraat Sabhaa include the Sanatan Vaidic Dharma Pandits’ Sabhaa of Region 3 headed by Pandit Balbadar who is a Hindu Philosopher, Sanskrit Teacher and Author; Pandit Chowbay, an academic, from the Par Upkaric Sabha in Esequibo; Pandit Rudranauth Sharma and associates from the Guyana Pandits’ Council; the Maha Sabha; Gandhi Youth Organisation; Cove & John Ashram; and Pandit Prabhu Deo Sharma and others from the Corentyne.
According to the Dharmic Sabha, which is headed by Dr Vindhya Persaud, Diwali which occurs annually on Amawasya or the new moon day of the Hindu month of Kartik, is the 15th Tithi in the dark half of Kartik and the darkest night of the year.
And according to the Panchang/ Patra, this occurs on November 11.
“This coincides exactly with the western astronomers’ calculation of the new moon which is listed for Guyana as occurring on November 11 at 13:47 hrs. The new moon effect will be experience as darkness falls, the Dharmic Sabha said, adding that performing Maha Lakshmi Puja on November 11 would, therefore, be on new moon day as prescribed.”
The Dharmic Sabha, maintaining that to celebrate on November 10th would be premature as that would be before the new moon even occurs, further explained that November 10th is Chaturdasi or the 14th day of the month and not Amawasya.
They highlighted too that it has been noted that some of the local Hindu organisations have been citing South Indian astrologers as the basis for their contention that Diwali should be the 10th. However, according to the Dharmic Sabha, South Indian states such as Chennai and Kerala celebrate Diwali on Chaturdasi, whereas Guyana has always followed the North Indian Tradition, which is also India’s national position of celebrating on Amawasya.
“It is further noted that Diwali is celebrated over a period of five consecutive days. The five-day festival begins on the 13th day in the dark half of Kartik, and ends on the 2nd day in the bright half of Kartik with each day being a specific observance.
Arguing that they have been calculating Hindu festival dates for more than 40 years, and provided the Government of Guyana with same, the Dharmic Sabha noted that this is done on the basis of the Bhavani Shankar Panchang and the 100- year Panchang – India’s most renowned and reputable Panchangs.
Additionally, the Hindu body revealed that it has always, including in relation to the 2015 calendar, collaborated with the Pandits’ Council and other organisations on its dates, and this year was no different.
According to them, they even convened a meeting to discuss next year’s calendar with all the Hindu organisation, and the only organisation that refused to attend was the Viraat Sabha. “Interestingly, even though the Viraat Sabha has been in the forefront on the date change issue, the dates on Viraat Sabha’s calendar coincide exactly with Dharmic Sabha’s” the Dharmic Sabha stated.
But the Viraat Sabhaa is refuting the claim that they were the only Hindu body absent from the meeting alluded to by the Dharmic Sabha. In fact, they said no other organisation attended the meeting.
Additionally, in relation to their date reflecting that proposed by the Dharmic Sabha, the Viraat Sabhaa reiterated that this was a mistake, and having recognised this, apologised on various occasions and informed that the true date for this year’s Deepavali celebration is November 10.
“The Viraat Sabhaa wishes to state without any ambiguity that its position on the 2015 date for Deepawali is guided by religious sentiments and not by commercial motives. Despite this being the first occasion where Hindus are publicly disagreeing over the date of one of its sacred festivals, the Viraat Sabhaa urges devotees to be guided by the truth and hopes that this will result in the desired unity that always appeared to be elusive in the past” they said.

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