Guyanese Hindus celebrated the cultural festival of Vijaya Dashami on Friday evening with great vigor and excitement at mandirs and at the Indian Cultural Center in Bel Air, Georgetown. The celebration concluded the observance of Navratri, nine days of fasting and spiritual uplifting, which actually ended Thursday evening. The fasting period was followed by relaxation and entertainment and classical dancing the next day known as Vijaya Dashami more popularly called Dussehra among Indians in the diaspora. Hindu Guyanese also celebrate dussehra in the Guyanese diaspora and in Guyana at the conclusion of Ram Leela plays when the effigy of Ravan is burnt. During this period, Ramleela plays are staged nightly during Navratri.
The Indian High Commission, under the esteemed leadership of Dr. K.J Srinivasa, a Bio-Chemist and doctor, hosted Dussehra celebrations on Friday evening at Swami Vivekanand’s Indian Cultural Center in Bel Air. There was the traditional lighting of the lamp to inaugurate the festivities, cultural dances, and singing laced with speeches. Dr. Vindya was the Chief Guest of Honor with Attorney General Anil Nandlall as the Keynote Speaker and UG Vice Chancellor Dr. Paloma Mohammed as a Guest of Honor. There were also several other distinguished guests including Haji Dr. Roshan Khan. Guests were decked out in traditional Indian outfits.
Attendees joined in the traditional Garba Dance (also known as the stick dance that is very popular in India and among Indians worldwide) which is performed at Dussehra. Dr. Paloma was honored at the festivities by the High Commissioner for her outstanding leadership and educational linkage with India. India has been very supportive of UG, inking several agreements beneficial to the institution including scholarships to Guyanese students for advanced degrees and technical training.
Dr. Vindya, Attorney General Nandlall, and High Commissioner Srinivasa spoke eloquently about the meaning and significance of the lovely festival. Following the formal program, a hot traditional Indian vegetarian meal was served to the guests. There was much excitement and folk dancing following and during dinner. Local Guyanese as well Indian nationals displayed their talent at the cultural presentation and during the garba folk dance.
Navratri is the annual Hindu festival that pays obeisance to the universal mother during the Fall and early Spring. The festival was observed from October 6 thru the 16 with fasting and intense devotion by Hindus globally. Navratri commenced at the end of Pitri Paksh, praying for the souls of the departed ancestors and paying tribute to their contributions to society. Navratri is associated with the Universal Mother (Durga and her two feminine aspects Goddesses Laxmi and Saraswati) and it celebrates womanhood – an unique feature of religious faiths. As pundits explained, it is the mother who provide her children with sustenance and as such as pandits explained Goddesses and women must be propitiated, respected, honored, and celebrated.
The end of Navratri is Dussehra during which an effigy of the evil Ravan is burnt to signify the triumph of good over evil. The destruction of evil must also be in thoughts, deeds, and actions. As Pandit Ravi of Alexander Village Temple explained at his katha or discourse on Friday evening, “Dussehra is much more than about Lord Rama slaying Ravan. It is also about overcoming so many challenges, problems, adversities by Shri Ram. More relevantly, it is about destroying the demons within our selves and our communities”. Pandit Ravi also appealed to worshippers to take the vaccine. He said life is worth living. He urged them to be safe , to mask up, social distance, and disinfect.
There were traditional Guyanese Dussehra celebrations in the diaspora including in New York where there were packed temples.
Dussehra is a holiday in India and Mauritius, setting the stage for the Diwali festival which falls on November 5 or 6 depending on location. Diwali is a public holiday in several countries.