After months of intense preparation, devout fasting and eager anticipation, members of the Hindu community, along with the rest of the country, will today celebrate Divali, the festival of lights.
Divali celebrates the victory of light over darkness, and of good over evil. It commemorates the triumphant return of Lord Rama and Mother Sita to Ayodhya, after fourteen years of exile. Upon Lord Rama’s return, the jubilant inhabitants of Ayodhya lit rows of clay lamps to welcome him home and celebrate his defeat of the evil king Ravana.
Tonight hundreds of thousands of deyas—stunningly arrayed atop bamboo frames, windows and driveways—will illuminate homes, communities and public spaces. This year, the jubilation has been palpable in the days leading up to Divali, with thousands of people attending re-enactments of Ramleela and attending the Divali Nagar for their fill of religious and non-religious activities.
The celebration of Divali brings together people of all ages, races and beliefs. It reminds us of how lucky and of how blessed we all are to live in a nation in which people of all creeds participate freely in outward expressions of each other’s religious beliefs. Our inclusive and progressive approach to religious and cultural diversity distinguishes us among nations, and enables us to overcome the division and polarization that often bedevil other countries.
But Divali is more—much more—than an opportunity for us to engage in self-congratulation at our religious and cultural inclusiveness. Divali is a serious challenge, to every single citizen, for us all to strive for spiritual enlightenment and self-improvement. For, just as the light from the deyas banishes the surrounding darkness, so too are we called to each become lights in our families, communities and workplaces and dispel ignorance, injustice and wrongdoing. Many homes have been meticulously cleaned and prepared for the visit and blessings of Mother Lakshmi. Divali is a call to us all to place similar emphasis and effort on improving our attitudes, words and deeds.
May the joy and peace of Divali fill all homes throughout the nation. On behalf of Her Excellency Paula-Mae Weekes, O.R.T.T., and on my own behalf, I extend to the Hindu community and all citizens of Trinidad and Tobago heartfelt wishes for an auspicious Divali celebration.