The ancient festival of Divali has survived, intact and sacred through the ages, because of its core message- good over evil; light over darkness. Hindus worldwide are motivated to keep this holy tradition of prayers, lights, cuisine, song and dance alive, because, the ultimate goal is a timeless manifestation of doing good and bringing light to even the darkest corners of our world. That is the true essence of Divali- its ability to transcend all religions because of that universal message of the triumph and supremacy of good; of self-knowledge and moderation over self-indulgence and profligacy.
The world needs calm in the chaos of incessant natural and man-made disasters. Trinidad and Tobago, this beautiful Republic of ours, needs a robust resurgence of values and equanimity; community over individualism or segregation. Divali, this grand Hindu festival, brings with it,inspirational lessons, philosophies and practices to regenerate our society with the values, ethics and morals, which are not only entrenched in the Hindu faith, but innate in every Trinbagonian. We have always been highly regarded on the Regional and international stage; we are full of potential and yet, individually and as a Nation, we can do with an infusion of dharmic conduct, that is, ethical conduct that accords with the right way of living.
That transcendental story of Lord Rama, Mother Sita and King Ravan ought to inspire us all. Lord Rama destroyed the demon King Ravan after he kidnapped Mother Sita and when Lord Rama and Mother Sitatriumphantly returned to Ayodhya, the citizens lit up the city of Rama to celebrate the ascendency of good. In like manner, we too, can and must destroy the negatives in our lives, supporting at all times what is right and rejecting the wrongs. Divali is a time of great spirituality and brotherhood, family gatherings, fasting, prayer, deep community bonding and celebration. It is reflected in the Pujas, the lighted Deeyas, the offering of Aarti for parents and elders with acts of reverence, respect and humility. Divali encourages bonding, the creation of greater harmony, peace, order and stability in homes, communities and by extension the Nation.
These positives must not be allowed to diminish as the last flames of theDeeyas dim. I urge us all to do our equal parts in ensuring that this wonderful harmony at Divali time continues beyond thefestivities.We must do good and be good to each other, always. Kindness, care, compassion and mutual respect must not only be our guiding philosophies but become a way of life. The Republic of Trinidad and Tobago is in desperate need of a renewed sense of hope and regeneration in almost every facet of national life. Hindu scripture and philosophy describe this period or age in the world as ‘Kali Yuga’ " or the age of Kali (age of vice). We can all transcend this period of proverbial darkness by the spiritual illumination that Divali fosters ina de-emphasis on self and rather, a focus on good at all times, philanthropy and helping hands to those in need.
Indeed, it is a wonderful andenthrallingexperience to observe persons of all backgrounds lighting up Deeyas together in the homes, yards, playgrounds and savannahs of Trinidad and Tobago. It is an emphatic symbol of our national strength as a people and glorifies and perpetuates our racial diversity, harmony and tolerance. Our greatest heights are yet to be reached, outside this age of ‘Kali Yuga’.
The Hindu community must be congratulated for its relentless efforts at propagating the dynamic and unique array of culture, dance and song, cuisine and festivities for which Hinduism and the celebration of Divali are renowned. With fervently hope the traditions of Ramleela- perhaps the oldest living form of outdoor folk theatre in the Caribbean- and the long standing Divali Nagar continue to abound in our Nation’s rich cultural tapestry.
The world celebrated World Food Day on Monday, 16 October, and as we all enjoy the tasty and delicious foods and delicacies shared atDivali, we must also hold near and dear to our hearts, that philosophy of food sustainability and food security by engendering and returning to that once vibrant planting culture in our homes and communities. We mustalsospare a thought-and a plate- for those among us who may not have a meal on this very day.Divali teaches us to share our resources and gifts with the hungry, the marginalised, the vulnerable and that is our human responsibility to do. We can all be carriers of light, love and hope.
At this time of festivities, we must also heed the call of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), in particular, Goal number two, Zero Poverty, by encouraging improved nutrition and promoting sustainable agricultural practices. This philosophy of food sustainability and security is revered and sacred in Hindu households and in the very religion of Hinduism. Adherence to this way of life can lead to viablewealth and sustainable health, individually and collectively.Food security and sustainability require that Mother Earth be treated with the requisite respect and care for She is the ultimate Provider. We must therefore protect our ecosystems and guard against Climate Change and environmental degradation.
On behalf of my wife Reema, my children Christian and Anuraand on my own behalf, I wish the Hindu community and the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago,ShubhDivali. The light in me, bows to the light in each of you, my fellow citizens.