Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Divali: Hindu Festival of Lights

Entrance to the Divali fair
Not only for sale, but many women were wearing similarly gorgeous outfits

Some of the Hindu gods

 The population majority here in Trinidad is of East-Indian descent, and many are Hindus. Divali (pronounced Diwali) occurs in October on the new moon. We went to two events associated with the festival. First was a fair, which was much like the state fairs you might visit in the states, except with lots of statues of Hindu gods, and pepper rotis instead of elephant ears. There were booths selling all manner of goods, a long row of food booths, but no alcohol. And unlike many state fairs, where casual is the name of the game, here everyone was in their finest Indian clothing. Women wore saris and other traditional outfits glittering with sequins, and the men wore beautiful long brocade coats. Absolutely gorgeous. In the main tent, we watched dancers and singers (OK, Indian singing isn’t really to my taste), and listened to the Trinidadian president give a speech (typical politician chatter). The second event was the actual night of the new moon. Jesse James, tour guide extraordinaire, took us to a Hindu village in the west-central area of the country. There we had a traditional Indian vegetarian meal, then, as dusk fell, we wandered the village streets to look at the lights. The streets and many houses were decorated with electrical lights, but the highlight was the lighting of the deeyas (clay bowls of oil and wicks). Long shelves made of bamboo stalks cut in half lined the streets, with dozens of deeyas on them. Other deeyas were positioned in various shapes and designs. We walked all around, exchanging Happy Diwali greetings with the many residents who sat outside their homes offering traditional sweets to passersby. What an intriguing look at a different religion and culture.

Friendly boy in traditional Indian garb
Lighted deeya

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