The Festival of Lights, Diwali, was on Sunday night kick-started at Rahaman’s Park, Greater Georgetown with the annual lighting of the National Diya.
The lighting up of the 21-foot Diya is a spectacle being hosted for the fourth consecutive year by the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh-Hindus for Selfless Service (HSS).
Themed “Atma Deepo Bhava” (you become the light), this auspicious event aims to represent the Hindu community’s continuous message of oneness and national unity.
Showcasing white and purple lights, the structure comprises five smaller diyas to signify five days of Diwali celebrations as is customary in India where the celebration originated.
The red, black, gold, white and green of the five diyas represent the colours of Guyana’s flag and like they do on the flag represent – endurance, zeal, wealth, the many waters of our beautiful country, and agriculture.
The concept behind the Diya’s design is oil being poured into the Diya by the calasha as is the custom on Diwali night.
In attendance at the event were heads of leading Hindu and other religious organisations; the Indian High Commissioner to Guyana, Venkatachalam Mahalingam; Indian rights activist and former ROAR parliamentarian Ravi Dev; Public Security Minister Khemraj Ramjattan, young leaders and the general public.
High Commissioner Mahalingam reflected on the celebration in his homeland and gave a little insight on how Diwali was celebrated there.
The Commissioner thanked HSS for not allowing the celebration to be forgotten and further wished the Guyanese community a happy Diwali.
Delivering remarks on behalf of HSS, Karamchand Seenanan, a senior member, applauded the event, but in the same breath called for it to be larger in years to come.
“I’m calling on all of you to be the light of good intentions and selfless service; we did achieve our purpose, but we want it to continue to grow in years to come,” Seenanan said in his brief remarks.
Guest speaker at the event, Dhanrajie Haimraj of HSS, who was recently awarded a Medal of Service for her voluntary work in Guyana, asked for the concept of purity to be observed.
“Purity that we talk about is referring to cleansing the outsides as well as the insides…we pray to God as creator of this universe to take away the greed and to replace it with everything that is auspicious in us as humans,” Haimraj said.
She encouraged getting rid of all impure practices and cautioned against corruption in Guyana.
“If we should do this daily, then Diwali will become a daily festival for us … we have weaknesses as human beings that will lead us to corrupt our values, but let Diwali remind all of us to let virtues triumph in all of us … you and I,” Haimraj added.
The festival ‘Diwali’ in Sanskrit has a literal meaning of ‘a row of lamps’. This festival usually falls between the middle of October and the middle of November, although this is decided upon by the Hindu lunar calendar.
The most popular tradition of celebrating Diwali is filling little clay lamps (diyas) with oil and wick and lighting them in rows all over the house; this reflects the rich and glorious past of culture and teaching to uphold the true values of life.
Lights and diyas are lit to signify the driving away of darkness and ignorance, as well as the awakening of the light within one’s self. Diwali is viewed as a time for family gatherings and food as well as a celebration that reminds us of our original virtues; the light of which brings joy and hope.
Diwali celebrates victory over evil or darkness and the coming of a new year. The light refers to following a path of virtue such that our thoughts are always pure in heart, and the darkness refers to negative thoughts which bring about hurts and sorrow.
Additionally, apart from the spectacular display of the National Diya Light-up, there was a cultural evening of dances, skits and music to portray the significance of the national holiday.