THE DIVALI NAGAR began its 32nd year of celebrations on Sunday.
The evening began with the symbolic lighting of the deeya and prayers officiated by Pundit Abhedanand Persad Sharma. There were various performances, including singing, dance and tassa playing as part of the evening’s entertainment.
President of the National Council of Indian Culture (NCIC) Dr Deokienanan Sharma delivered welcoming remarks and called upon the Government to have Divali Nagar considered a national festival.
“The time has come now for the powers that be, to declare Divali Nagar a national festival. It deserves no less and I make this appeal to our Minister of culture to assist us in achieving this goal,” he said.
The NCIC has selected the theme, “Hindu reformers” which is dedicated to those people who dedicated their lives trying to reform aspects of Hinduism, while sticking to the basic beliefs and tenets of Sanatan Dharma, said Sharma.
The theme was established and researched by Satyanarayan Mourya from India and an exhibition at the Bisram Gopee auditorium displays the many researched items and articles which can inspire and educate many about those Hindu reformers.
Sharma said the Divali Nagar had humble beginnings, where the Indian culture had to be “reenergized from the lethargy seeping into our people” and one goal of preserving and promoting the Indian culture.
He said there have been many sacrifices to making the festival what it has become to this date.
He said Divali Nagar has influenced many other Caribbean and foreign Indian diaspora to create their own means of celebrating the Indian culture and traditions.
He added that it gives worldwide exposure to local artists during the nine days and has attracted many entertainers and contestants worldwide from the Indian diaspora.
Sharma said the NCIC has also contributed to flooding relief through providing 400 meals and intends to continue. He said in collaboration with Sawya TT, a post-Divali flood relief will be initiated where some 2,000 homes will be given food hampers. There will also be a clothing drive for flood victims.
In attendance at the main stage of Divali Nagar were Culture Minister Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly, High Commissioner to India to Trinidad and Tobago Bishwadip Dey, former Prime Minister Basdeo Panday, Chaguanas Mayor Gopaul Boodhan and Caroni Central Member of Parliament Bhoe Tewarie.
The Culture Minister brought greetings to the audience and extended Divali wishes to the Hindu community.
She said the festival of Divali is one where citizens celebrate the triumph good over evil, light over darkness and knowledge over ignorance and that the message of Divali is the victory of self-knowledge over self-indulgence.
The Minister also spoke about the devastating impact of the recent flooding to many in north and east Trinidad and said there are many families who are “in need of items that many of us take for granted.”
She said she was heartened to see the flood of response coming from citizens which has shown that regardless of religion, “the message and ethos of Divali is alive and well in Trinidad and Tobago.”
During the opening night, the NCIC honoured its chief guest, Queen’s Cousel Anand Beharrylal.
Beharrylal recalled his experience as a child growing up with the influence of the Divali Nagar.