Tradition reloaded: Celebration of the Festival of Lights in Guyana
Guyana, a country boasting of a diversity which springs from a troubled past, celebrates Diwali in grandeur. Traditionally a religious occasion observed and celebrated by Hindus, the Festival of Lights has grown into a national event with all Guyanese participating in one way or another.
During the week before Diwali, there are several countrywide motorcades, which include people living in the remote areas of the Low Coastal Plain in the celebrations. These motorcades feature vehicles decorated in a variety of lights along with children and young adults dressed as Hindu Gods and Goddesses as the variety of legendary tales associated with Diwali are depicted.
On the first day of Diwali, some temples host events in their various communities. One such example is the Cummings Lodge-Industry Hindu Society, which creates a wonderland of fairy lights for all to visit for the duration of the festival. This activity is combined with a cultural programme on the lawns of the mandir, the lighting of earthen diyas (earthen lamps) and decoration of the yard, and the sharing of tasty dishes supplied via a pot-luck
The second day of Diwali boasts of the largest motorcade in the country. It commences in the capital city of Georgetown, goes through part of the town and then onto the Rupert Craig Highway, which is bordered by the sea-wall. This motorcade, which takes hours from start to finish and covers miles of road, is a feast for the eyes and attracts thousands of Guyanese along the route.
The third day of Diwali is the main event where Hindu homes celebrating the occasion will light thousands of dias and decorate their homes, yards and streets. Children, regardless of race or religion, will help with placing the dias and keeping them lit until the oil supply is finished. Normally, Hindus will treat their communities to prasad and various sweetmeats. For the more adventurous households, ‘seven curry’, a literally named dish, is cooked and distributed.
The final two days are quieter and do not attract much attention from the wider community. Hindus will continue to keep the fast until the period ends. In addition, a few dias will be lit at doorways, altars and gates for the remaining nights.
Overall, Diwali truly is a period filled with light and love.
Taijrani Rampersaud - The writer is from Guyana and is pursuing a PhD at the University of Hyderabad. She is a photographer and enjoys the cultures of the world.