Divali is derived from the Sanskrit word Deepavali which means “rows of lighted lamps” that are all connected to each other by the little earthen clay vessels known as diyas. How are diyas with lights all connected? For the past 20 years (2002-2022), the constituency of Oropouche East has come together as one multiethnic community to celebrate the Festival of Lights under the astute leadership of their Member of Parliament, Dr. The Honourable Roodal Moonilal..Even the Covid pandemic brought people together virtually to reflect the splendor of diversity and inclusion in celebrating lights for peace and unity. Every year the Oropouche East Constituency Office arranges a series of celebrations in collaboration with temples, schools, community leaders,non-profit organisations, villagers, youths and children to commemorate the Festival of Lights with religious activities and cultural performances. Pujas are conducted to pay obeisance to Goddess Lakshmi who represents the universal message of light to transform spiritual darkness into self-illumination.
A pervasive theme has emerged from Dr. Moonilal’s Divali speeches (2022) – the symbol of light in Hindu religion that deepens knowledge and consciousness is of relevance to all peoples. Celebrated on the thirteenth – fourteenth day in the dark night of the lunar month of Kartika Masa (October-November), Divali symbolises the realisation of inner light amidst the darkest night of the darkest period.Dr. Moonilal has underscored that the true essence of Divali lies in purity of thoughts and sincere devotion to eradicate many of the impurities and social ills plaguing our society as comprehensively demonstrated through the triumph of Lord Rama’s return to Ayodhya and defeat of Ravana (the symbol of evil and darkness).Hence, Hindus incorporate light into Divali by lighting the wicks of diyas to awaken the inner light which has the power to conquer darkness and remove all obstacles.The kindling of the inner light reminds us that life is quest for truth and knowledge which must begin with the education of young children at the early childhood and primary education levels.
MR. JOE SIRJU AND DR. ROODAL MOONILAL
For over two decades, Dr. Moonilal and his team have been supporting Divali celebrations in schools throughout the Constituency of Oropouche East for children to fully understand and appreciate the relevance of the festival. Manager of the Constituency Office, Mr. Joe Sirju, renowned as an educator par excellence, has actively supported school morning assemblies for the conduct of pujas, guest presentations, cultural performances, art exhibitions of diyas and decorative paintings, dramatisations, debates and other innovative activities of ingenuity that have known no bounds.Through Dr. Moonilal’s interactive speech presentations, students have always been inspired to excel with a sense of the triumph of knowledge over ignorance, hope over dejection, and inner light over darkness.
With profound faith that education illuminates children with the lights of knowledge, Dr. Moonilal has stood resolute in his support of parents, teachers and students and his call to the government to rebuild the Ramai Trace Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha (SDMS) Primary School in Debe. The school was renamed in Dr. Moonilal’s honour in 2013 – Dr. Roodal Moonilal: Ramai Trace SDMS Primary School.Construction of the new school began in 2015 under the Kamla Persad-Bissessar-led People’s Partnership government and had been 95 percent completed.Yet today, its doors remain closed while students struggle to attain an education housed in a temple approximately 45 minutes away,
I conclude with a few brief words from Dr. Moonilal on the occasion of Divali 2022 as follows:
Divali is a festival when our twin island Republic of Trinidad and Tobago transcends into a land with myriads of diyas and lamps of light.This divine light burns all around us but more significantly, let us remember that it burns within us. May we light the wick of our diyas with the knowledge of our eternal religion (Sanatan Dharma) to uphold righteousness and dispel the darkness of unrighteousness that brings suffering and deprivation to our people.
The Festival of Lights can illuminate our minds to promote the much needed fairness and betterment of lives especially for our young children. Education is imperative to eliminate poverty and give people a fair chance to better their lives. Let us seek to discover the knowledge of our infinite potential to do good for the benefit of all.
Divali is an occasion for us to celebrate our diversity and to strengthen our bonds as a people.Together let us build a safer and more peaceful society. In doing so, let us be open minded and respectful to people from all countries and regions that have their own unique cultures.In a world that is becoming increasingly fragmented, we must resist the forces of division to create a more sustainable global future.
The essence of Divali is found in the prayer “ Tamaso ma jyotirgamaya” – “Lead me from darkness to light.” As a people we can kindle light within ourselves and extend that light to many others just like the wick of one diya can light many diyas. May Divali instill within us knowledge through the inner light that leads to peace, happiness and prosperity. Shubh Divali.
BIODATA OF AUTHOR
Vashti Singh was awarded a research scholarship by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations
(ICCR), Government of India and graduated with a Ph.D in Sociology of Education from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India in 2006. She currently fills the position of a Senior Lecturer in the Departments of Research and Graduate Studies and Curriculum and Instruction in the Faculty of Education and Humanities, University of Guyana. Vashti Singh has presented her research on the theme of comparative perspectives in education in several diasporic countries including Trinidad, Suriname, Mauritius, South Africa and India.She currently serves as Chairperson of the Education Committee of the Constituency of Oropouche East,Trinidad and Tobago.