The Spice Necklace Blog

Ann's Blog

Chaguaramas, Trinidad:
November 1, 2010
Diwali week

Steve is in Trinidad, scrambling to get Receta ready to go back in the water on Wednesday. He would have preferred to launch at the end of the week, to give himself a little more time for pre-launch chores. (I arrive in Trinidad on Saturday, and the game plan is to have the boat in the water when I get there, so we can start living aboard right away.) But an end-of-the-week launch date was out of the question: Friday is Diwali, the Hindu Festival of Lights. There will be no work done in Trinidad that day; in this multicultural country, where 22.5% of the population is Hindu (the second largest religious group, after Roman Catholicism, which claims 26%), Diwali (also spelled Divali) is a national holiday.

Although Diwali is officially November 5th (the date varies from year to year, since it’s tied to the lunar calendar), the celebrations spread out over a week. The festival symbolizes the lifting of spiritual darkness and spiritual renewal, and is marked by prayers, feasts, and the lighting of diyas, small clay oil lamps. (The word “Diwali” means an array of lamps.)

Lighting the cotton wick of a diya on a bamboo stalk
Thousands of these lamps are lit after sundown along streets, outside houses, and in public areas, symbolizing the triumph of light over darkness, good over evil. In Trinidad, the diyas are fueled by coconut oil, and many are mounted on bamboo stalks bent into various shapes, and people (Hindu and non-Hindu alike) go to tour the lights, as we do with Christmas lights.
The town of Felicity, Trinidad -- aglow during Diwali
As you walk through the streets admiring this amazing spectacle, you may be handed a small bag: Hindus share sweets and snacks with family and friends as part of the celebrations – and strangers are not left out.

Steve took these snaps in the town of Felicity, Trinidad, during Diwali last year.

The small clay oil lamps signify the lifting of spiritual darkness

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