Diwali: A celebration of history, culture and hope
Festivals like Deepavali serve to rekindle hopes and expectation. They influence society in a positive direction. Diwali also renews the spirit of optimism from which a new beginning can be constructed, based on equity and noble intentions.
Deepavali came to be observed in Guyana because large numbers of Indian laborers arrived during colonial times to fill the void left after slavery was outlawed in the British Empire. Hindus today make up a third of Guyana’s nearly eight million people, and Deepavali is an official public holiday and a major tourist attraction year after year.
Guyana’s Indian community celebrates Diwali with floats lit with hundreds of thousands of twinkling lights of all colour. Festival organizers believe that in doing so, Indian culture can be preserved.
Since 1974, thousands of Guyanese have crowded along their main thoroughfare, the Campbellsville Mandir, near the shoreline to celebrate the Indian festival of lights, Diwali. The annual Guyana Hindu Dharmic Sabha’s festivities include some 20 ornate floats, lit with hundreds of thousands of twinkling lights of all colour, that depict the various gods and goddesses that make up the Hindu pantheon.
While the procession of floats is the high point of the celebration, festival attendees also have the opportunity to experience parts of Indian cultural life in Guyana. The cultural program features a diverse line-up of Indian singing and dancing from all parts of the Indian subcontinent. It is an effort to prevent Hindu traditions and cultures from being eroded.
Other Guyanese Deepavali traditions include; giving out traditional Indian sweets which highlight the importance of sharing good things with others and exchanging greeting cards to express good will towards others.
However, of all the activities held to observe the Festival of Lights, the motorcade parade by far, is the most bedazzling occasion which is undoubtedly a kaleidoscope of creativity, originality and beauty. The event which has been around for over 80 years, is one of those spectacles which normally attracts thousands of people regardless of where is being held.
Furthermore, the Diwali motorcade is one which sees a number of vehicular floats that are quite often; elaborate depictions of the history of Diwali. But one thing is most common among all those participating in the parade; their vehicular floats are always brightly lit and showcase an array of beautiful colours.
Furthermore, the Diwali floats are usually gorgeously bedecked representations of Mother Lakshmi and other depictions from the Hindu Scriptures. In most cases, the floats are blasting with traditional Hindu music which aids in setting the tone for the event.
The most popular depiction during the motorcade is that of mother Lakshmi. In this regard, a young, beautiful girl is adorned with stunning and elaborate jewellery and traditional Indian wear. The damsel is often seen sitting in the middle of a huge, construction of a water lily perched perfectly in the center of the back opening of a vehicular float.
In some instances, the young woman is surrounded by other beautiful girls in smaller lilies surrounding her while in other cases , she is guarded by strong men decked out in traditional Hindu armour and clothing.
Then, there are some participants who take their floats to extravagant levels by creating 10 to 20 constructions of mother Lakshmi in an Indian temple with mighty stallions attached to the front of the float.
Depending on the side of the float, different materials are used during the construction of the float. If the participant is going for something small, he usually opts for light materials such as sponges for crafting his water lily for mother Lakshmi and flexible wires to hold the petals in place.
But for elaborate constructions, a larger vehicle is used to facilitate the addition of wooden, carved horses and water lilies.
But regardless of the size of the float, the culmination of them really serves to create a sight that is unlike any other. It is one to be cherished and undoubtedly adds the pizzazz, cultural flare and flamboyance to Diwali, one of the world’s most striking holidays in history and beauty.
Visiting Guyana any time of year is an amazing experience, but touring this unique land during Deepavali will acquaint you with its Hindu heritage as well as give you a chance to explore other attractions.