East Indians brought the Hindu festival of Divali, which we affectionately call the Festival of Lights, to our shores before the turn of the 20th Century.
This is the largest Hindu festival in our islands, taking place in the month of Karthik (October-November) on the Hindu calendar. This national holiday is celebrated on what is said to be the darkest night of the year.
Divali pays homage to the Goddess Lakshmi, the Goddess of Light, Wealth and Prosperity. Followers believe that on this day, Mother Lakshmi emerged from the Ocean of Milk called the Ksheer Sagar to endow mankind with wealth and prosperity. In recognition of her blessings, Poojas or prayers are performed in her honour on this special day.
The other popular Divali story is the return of Lord Rama from exile in the forest. Since Divali is celebrated on the darkest night of the year, inhabitants of the holy city of Ayodya filled the city with lit Deyas so that Lord Rama could find his way home. Deyas (small clay pots with cotton wicks filled with Ghee or clarified butter) are still lit to this day in celebration of his homecoming.
Hindus always celebrate Divali day on a grand scale and in grand style - first by conducting a Lakshmi Pooja. Celebrants often invite family and friends to share a sumptuous vegetarian meal and at dusk, everyone joins in lighting and placing the Deyas around the home and yard. The hundreds of gaily-flickering lights placed in different positions and patterns are indeed a sight to behold!
You can view public Divali celebrations in the weeks just before the actual day, since many Hindu temples and community groups throughout our islands host their own celebrations. This is a festival that will touch your heart since, at its deepest level, it is really the story of good triumphing over evil, of light conquering the darkness.
Citizens in Trinidad and Tobago celebrate Divali as one!