Fellow citizens, members of the Hindu community today celebrate Divali, the festival of lights. After weeks of fasting and preparation, believers will joyously welcome the arrival of Sri Lakshmi into their homes and receive her blessings of wealth and prosperity. Lakshmi puja will be performed and deyas lit to celebrate the third and most important day of the five-day Divali festival, commemorating the victorious return of Lord Rama and Mother Sita to Ajodhya after fourteen years of exile. Delectable sweets and traditional foods will be distributed to family and friends and gifts will be exchanged.

This year, Covid-19 restrictions curtailed many popular and well-loved traditions that usually feature in the lead-up to Divali, but the Hindu faithful have found inventive and engaging ways of keeping alive the spirit of this sacred season. Ramleela, usually staged over the course of 10 days, was condensed into one event, with spectators looking on from the safety of their vehicles, while the Divali Nagar, a highly-anticipated exposition of Indo-Trinbagonian religion, culture and history, was presented on an entirely virtual platform.

The essential message of Divali is a triumphal one; it is a celebration of good overcoming evil and light extinguishing the darkness. Despite the disruption and dislocation caused by the novel coronavirus pandemic, the inspirational message of Divali remains undiluted, unwavering and relevant and even as our Hindu community makes the necessary adjustments to its mode of celebration, it remains steadfast in its devotion and commitment to the values of this auspicious period.

The essence of Divali is universal and in the normal course of things, non-Hindus join unrestrainedly in the celebration of Divali, visiting their Hindu friends, enjoying fellowship and creating their own mini displays of deyas. All of this will be much scaled down for this year, but I encourage every household to light a symbolic deya to represent the light that awaits us at the end of this Covid-19 tunnel.

I extend to the Hindu community and all citizens of Trinidad and Tobago, warmest wishes for a safe, healthy and peaceful Divali.

Shubh Divali!