Religious festivals and observances are important to the growth and sustainability of Trinidad and Tobago’s multi-cultural society, according to Minister of Tourism, Culture and the Arts, Randall Mitchell.
He told the opening ceremony of the 35th annual Divali Nagar festival on Friday night. Speaking on the theme of Dharti Maataa (Mother Earth), he said the theme teaches us valuable lessons about everyday living, while emphasizing, “the importance of caring for our planet through sustainable practices… solidifying the need for our nation to work together in preserving our rich-built and intangible heritage”.
Minister Mitchell continued: “The recent challenges faced by religious organizations have not gone unnoticed. Let us be reminded that these institutions and observances encourage communities to join forces in the fight against present evils and promote greater cross- cultural dialogue that can win the battle against ignorance, discrimination, and violence. We stand in solidarity with our religious bodies during this time and encourage the public to let light prevail in the form of brotherly love, peace and respect”.
President of the National Council of Indian Culture (NCIC), organizers of this annual religious-cultural presentation, Senator Deoroop Teemal, in his opening address that Divali Nagar continues to be an integral part of the national cultural landscape. “Without doubt. It has played a pivotal role in the acceptance of the Hindu Festival of Lights, Divali, and the expectations are quite high every year.
Senator Teemal said that Divali offers all citizens and visitors a ready avenue to participate in the “festival of lights” through the many programs and activities. “This festival of east Indian culture showcases the rich and meaningful traditions inherent in the culture with the objectives of informing and educating the public. It highlights not only traditional folk and contemporary song, music and dance include an annual yajna, booths hosted Hindu religious organizations and groups, and a thematic exhibition>”
He added that choosing a theme for every Divali Nagar is now a tradition and this year the theme is, “Dharti Maataa” =Mother Earth. “Hindus as well as followers of the non-Abrahamic faiths, revere the Earth as mother, and believe that as a mother, she deserves our respect, devotion, and protection.
“We cannot survive without her and through her loving nurturing, she feeds, shelters and clothes us. If as her children, we do not take care of her we diminish her ability to take care of us. Unfortunately, the Earth herself is now being undermined by our scientific and industrial achievements that are being abused by human and corporate greed, as well as the greed of some nations for continued world dominance, or those seeking to topple them”.
Senator Teemal noted that the reverence for Mother Earth is touchingly described in the following mantra that Hindus are urged to recite every morning when they are about to step on the Earth: “Oh Mother Earth, who has the oceans as her abode and the mountains as her breast. The Divine Partner of Lord Vishnu, I bow to you with all sincerity. Please forgive me for touching you with my feet”.
Chaguanas Mayor Councilor Faaiq Mohammed, in his address, touched on the war between Israel and the Palestinians, complained about the dark shadows that loom over our world—the unimaginable acts of war, conflicts and violence which continue to inflict unprecedented harm on our planet. ‘Wars create orphans, environmental destructions, they shatter communities, and they leave scares on our planet that take generations to heal”.
Mayor Mohammed pointed out that this year’s theme, Dharti Maataa, is significant in the context of the world we live in today, adding that the NCIC, “brought cultural traditions of our ancestors, allowing our multi-cultural and multi-religious and multi-ethnic society to embrace Divali and what it represents as a national festival.”
Surujdeo Managaroo, First Vice-President, pontificates at over 200,000 patrons will throng the nine-day festival at Chaguanas, Central Trinidad, adding that Divali Nagar has captured the national imagination of not only, Trinidad and Tobago, but throughout the Indian diaspora and England, Canada and America. “This year’s focus on Planet Earth is well-acknowledged and timed with the total abuse of it”.
He added that, “it is the duty and responsibility of all mankind to protect and honour the Earth”.
Newly appointed Indian High Commissioner, Dr P.S, Rajpurohit also addressed the to this country also addressed the Nagar.