The celebration of Divali 2020 amidst the pandemic reminds me most forcibly of an incident in the Ramayan when Sri Ram was about to leave for the forests, and had to leave behind his grieving father. His father was concerned about Sri Ram having to go into exile. He felt guilty and pained that he cannot do otherwise but banish his son. Sri Ram, the son, turned to his father and comforted him and asked: “Why are you grieving about such a trifling matter as going into the forests? I am going to have an opportunity to experience the forests and converse with the forest dwellers including the sages. I am going to have an opportunity to experience nature and forest life. This will be a great opportunity for me,” he comforted his father. In a similar manner, COVID19 has banished us into our homes and private spaces.; is it a curse?
COVID 19 is a challenge but also an opportunity. Social distancing has affected the public celebrations of Divali and particularly Divali Nagar. Nevertheless, we must seize the opportunity that has presented itself to us as a result of COVID 19.
Firstly, we are being given the opportunity to understand how fragile life is and how much we are not in control of our existence. Secondly, we now have an opportunity to understand the power of nature, of earth rebelling against our excesses that have caused climate change and environmental degradation. Thirdly, we need to take stock of the extent we have threatened our own existence on the planet!
Divali has always reminded us through the worship of Mother Lakshmi of the importance of personal hygiene and a clean environment. We believe that if our homes and surroundings are not kept clean Mother Lakshmi will not visit our homes. We live in an interdependent relationship with nature and we need to reflect on how we have hurt the environment.
Divali this year provides an opportunity to reflect and correct our destructive environmental behaviors. The reality is that we as human beings and as gifted as we are with intelligence, have failed to appreciate our interdependence with nature and other non-human life forms.
Within recent times the commercialization of Divali like that of Xmas, has taken us away from the inner significance of this festival of lights. With the sentence of COVID 19 we are going to be away from the maddening crowd. Fortunately, we are now presented with an opportunity to reflect deeper into ourselves to appreciate the true significance of light over darkness.
We have an opportunity to spend time together as a family and to pray together, to strengthen our family and community bonds, and to appreciate each other as family members.
The production of Yaadein,-Memories of Divali across the years of Divali Nagar is also a dramatic opportunity for us to see how far we have come not only in terms of the development of the Nagar as a national cultural institution but the contribution of the Nagar to cultural persistence of the Hindu population in particular and the East Indian traditions in general.
As we look at Yaadein, we see how our artistes have developed and improved their personal presentations over the years. We see our children who have grown up on our Nagar stage now blossoming into adult performers and artistes.
We may never have had an opportunity to do this if COVID 19 did not circumscribe our celebrations. The opportunity to reflect on what we need to do and how to do it has presented itself to us.
I am sure that Divali Nagar is going to be greater, bigger and better in the future as a result of this year of reflection and thought through Yaadein.
On behalf of our beloved President Dr. Deokinanan Sharma and members of the Board of Directors of the National Council of Indian Culture, I wish you prosperity, peace, love and happiness this Divali.
Shubh Divali -Remember Masks Save Lives.
Surujdeo Mangaroo (HBM)
Public Relations Officer
National Council of Indian Culture
28-38 Narsaloo Ramaya Marg
Endeavor Road, Chaguanas, Trinidad & Tobago
Surujdeo Mangaroo (HBM)
9 Lazzari Street Mon Repos San Fernando Trinidad & Tobago