Port-of-Spain: Pepper roti. Mehndi. Curries, Doubles. Hakka Chinese Dishes. Wontons They were an alluring waft of food delights that are available at the annual Divali Nagar from Saturday October 15 to Sunday October 23, 2022. and the Trinidad and Tobago join the world in the celebration of Divali, the Hindu Festival of Lights, October 24, a public holiday here since 1966.
And it was the opportunity for Dr Deokinanan Sharma, who held the fort for some 22 years and President of the National Council of Indian Culture (NCIC)., after Dr Hans Hanoomansingh gave up the position for business reasons. He has opted out of the Presidency of the NCIC through failing health.
Theme of this year’s Nagar was, “Hindu Panth” meaning the many denominations in Hinduism. During the nine nights festival, the Main Auditorium of Divali Nagar more than 100,000 patrons were thrilled with the superb performances of such distinguished cultural and religious groups like the Amritan Shakti Dance Group, Amba De Silva, Bollywood Dances, Shivannand Maharaj, Narendra Maharaj, Mahatma Gandhi Institute for Cultural Co-operation, Nritya Sangam Dance, Councillor Dubraj Persad, Sylvan Bharat Tassa Group, Sri Rana Mohip and Susan Mohip. The list continues as the best such groups engaged the attention of the mass crowds.
In her feature address, President of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, Paula Mae-Weekes. “It is a sensory experience, one that cannot fully and faithfully replicate through a television or computer screen, particularly for first timers, saying that the tradition and preserve the culture of the East Indian indentured laborers who first came to Trinidad and Tobago.”
She continued: “This dazzling city of lights is much more than simply a diverting family outing. It’s a medium for creating and strengthening traditions and ensuring that patrons, both young and old, are given a glimpse into the experiences and challenges of the intrepid voyages who landed on our shores some 177 years ago with their rituals and ways of life”.
“The national showcase of the Nagar is much more a tribute to them as it is reaffirmation of the religious belief that fortified and kept them going through seasons of difficulty”, adding that in Divali there was the core lesson of good triumphing over evil. President Paula Mae-Weekes with a quote from the Rig Veda: “United your resolve, united your hearts, may your spirits be at one that you may long together dwell in unity and concord’.
Pandit Dr Rampersad Parasram, the first chairman of Divali Nagar in October 1986, was the Chief Celebrant, and noted that Hinduism has always embraced the idea of one diverse family and its very democratic nature must make imposition of one set of values and practices upon others unacceptable. “Every group will understandably resist such impositions and being forced to give up its beliefs and practices in exchange for those of other groups.
“In Trinidad and Tobago, the Hindu community reflects these thousands of years of evolution of Hinduism along the lines previously mentioned, and we happily have many sects such as Sanatanists, Kabir Panths, Arya Samajists, Shiv Narayanis among others, living in relative peace and harmony. People belonging to different sects and different gurus are often members of the same extended family”
Dr Parasram added that in spite of occasional outbursts from zealous reformers and bigots, who have tried to impose their views and ways upon others, and in spite of conversion and denigration of some Hindu practices through overt and convert means, we have, by and large, maintained healthy acceptance of all Hindu sects, and together we make a strong, vibrant and diverse Hindu community that continues to grow stronger, in spite of the many challenges it as had to, and continues to face.
Outgoing President Dr Deokienanan Sharma noted that despite the non-recognition of Indo-Trinidadian culture in the early years of Independence, cultural persistence by organizations such as the NCIC, has seen to it that our beloved culture has grown and flourished and grudgingly accepted now as part of the culture of our great country.
“On a personal level, I have given very serious thought to my position in the organization, and I have come to the inevitable conclusion that this year’s Divali Nagar 2022 will be the last time I will be participating”, he said. Dr Sharma had served the organization for some 52 years.
Sahadeo Partap, chairman of the Organizing Committee, in his closing address, hailed the volunteerism which has become the hallmark of Divali Nagar over the last 34 years, and hailed it as a triumph for the Indian Diaspora as visitors come from the four corner to participate and visit.
Former Prime Minister, and now Opposition Leader, Kamla Persad Bissessar said that the country has been shrouded by darkness with the increase in crime and poverty. She said that the light of a single deya dispels darkness anywhere. “I have seen my fellow citizens throughout the country this demonstrate the patriotism, the humanity and the humility that make as Trinibagonians.” She added that when become Prime Minister she would take the initiative to promote Divali Nagar as a major tourism project.
Minister of Tourism, Culture and the Arts, Randall Mitchell said that Divali Nagar has made citizens more aware of the tradition associated with Hinduism and East Indian culture. Mayor of Chaguanas, Faaiq Mohammed hailed the presence of Divali Nagar in the Borough of Chaguanas and hoped that it would continue to grow from strength to strength as it gives an additional face to the local environment.
MP for Chaguanas West, Dinesh Rambally praised the leadership of Dr Sharma over the years. He said that Hinduism and Sanatan Dharma can never be described as a singular system of belief and practice. He said that the great religion of Hinduism caters for everyone as the pathway to God is not singular, and who can approach from any single “.
Public Relations Officer, Surujdeo Mangaroo, proclaimed that Divali Nahgar 2022 was a tremendous success, and it will always be considered, “the flagship project of the NCIC”.