During the three weeks preceding the Divali celebrations,
which will take place on Saturday, a public holiday, the pundits
of T&T performed thousands of Lakshmi pujas in Hindu homes
across the country.
Lakshmi is a female manifestation of the one Supreme Being
that Hindus call Brahman. And since Hinduism recognise both
the male and female aspect of the incarnated God, Lakshmi
is often described as the consort of the male aspect Vishnu.
The word puja means to worship or to pay homage.
And in performing Lakshmi puja the Hindu households are worshipping
and offering homage to this female manifestation. But worship
is not confined to Hindu households, families or even individuals.
The worship of the gods of Hinduism (deva puja) is also performed
in public for the well being of the world. When the masses
gather they chant invocation mantras and receive and entertain
God as a royal guest.
In Hindu Trinidad, hundreds of public Lakshmi pujas or Divali
celebrations take place during the days proceeding Divali.
Every Hindu school, hundreds of Hindu mandirs and open savannahs
are specially prepared for the Lakshmi pujas and the religious
entertainment that follow.
In recent developments, we witness large Divali celebrations
over a period of seven to nine days. This activity was started
by the late president general of the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha,
Bhadase Sagan Maraj, who orgainsed mass nine-day celebrations
on the rolling grounds of HV Gopaul in Marabella.
In recent times the Divali Nagar in Chaguanas has orgainsed
week-long displays of Indian culture and artifacts, together
with other commercial activities related to Divali. It is
an event that attracts thousands of Hindus and non-Hindus
But the most pleasing development is from the people themselves
who decorate and light up entire villages. The most impressive
display of Divali decorations and peoples co-operation
takes place at Pierre Road and Cacandee Road in Felicity.
Over two miles of roadway are decorated by jhandis (Hindu
prayer flags), buntings across the road and thousands of coloured
electric light bulbs.
At Pierre Road and Cacandee Road, miles of bamboo are spilt
and formed into intricate designs upon which lighted deyas
are placed. It is no wonder that on Divali night thousands
of cars with families visit this area in Central Trinidad.
Palmiste Village, also in Central Trinidad on the way to Tabaquite,
is another area where Hindus and other villagers come together
to decorate the main road. Divali is the one time of the year
when our people will not rely on the Inter-Religious Orgainsation
(IRO) to promote inter-religious co-operation.
During the three weeks leading up to Divali there is a marked
decline in the sale of poultry and other meats, fish and alcohol.
We note that even our Christian brothers and sisters also
abstain and many even purchase deyas, oil and cotton wicks
and light up their homes on Diavli night.
Because Hindus and Muslims rely on lunar calculations to arrive
at their religious days and festivals, it will be noted that
the Divali and Eid-ul-Fitr festivals come very close to each
other. And while the Hindus are now undertaking a vegetarian
fast, our Muslim brothers and sisters undertake daylight fast.
T&T is fortunate to be the host to such diversity because
no sooner than these two great festivals come to an end we
move straight into the Christmas activities with parang music
filling the airwaves. Our diversity is our greatest strength
and we must make every effort to understand and embrace each
others view of the world.
As Hinduism expands in the West, the emerging forms of this
ancient tradition are naturally being reflected through the
medium of western languages, most prominent of which is English.
But the meanings of words are not easily moved from one language
to the next. The more distant two languages are separated
by geography, latitude and climate, the more the meanings
of words shift.
While this is a natural thing, it does present the danger
that the merging Hindu religious culture in the West may drift
too far afield. The differences between the Hindu religious
language Sanskrit and English and other western languages
could create misinterpretations and a misunderstanding of
With this problem in mind, the great difficulty in understanding
Hinduism in the West, whether from the perspective of conversion
or from later generations of Hindus, is that it is all too
easy to approach Hinduism with foreign concepts of religion
It is natural to unknowingly approach Hinduism with Christian,
Jewish and Islamic notions of God, soul, heaven, hell and
sin in mind. We translate Brahman as God, atman as soul, papa
as sin, dharma as religion.
But Brahman is not the same as God, atman is not equivalent
to soul, papa is not sin and dharma is much more than mere
MAHARAJ is the Secretary General of the Sanatan Dharma Maha