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Divali and Ethnocentrism
Posted: Sunday, November 3, 2002

By Stephen Kangal MOM

Mother Lakshmi is definitely not the source of our problems. Mataji, however, has certainly blessed and rewarded T&T with enormous bounty. Maha Lakshmi, the Goddess of wealth and prosperity can also provide solutions to our national ills and adversities.

Accordingly the Holy Hindu Festival of Divali being celebrated on November 3 during which devotees will worship Lakshmi Mata has arrived at a very propitious and opportune time having regard to the intensity of our ethno-social problems. We must invoke the blessings of Lakshmi Mata to restore rainbow T&T to its traditional cosmopolitan harmony by progressively dismantling the tentacles of ethnic polarisation that are suffocating us. After all calling upon the Goddess Lakshmi in T&T is a local call.

The religious significance of Divali transcends and neutralizes the artificial boundaries erected by political and social institutions. Divali transmits a powerful message of peace and brotherhood to all Trinbagonians. The Festival establishes a strategic and sustainable platform for promoting national unity out of our ethnic diversity. Divali is an occasion for all of us to reach out to each other in brotherhood; to dwell together in plural and diverse mother T&T; for all of us to feel that we have a stake in this Dharti Mai (Mother Earth) of T&T forged from the sweat and tears of our forefathers who toiled in the sugar, rice, cocoa and oil-fields after crossing the same ocean space to reach same paradisiac T&T.

The richness and strength inherent in our cosmopolitanism, of which we Trinbagonians are understandably so proud, has never been hitherto more challenged than it is today. But we are a resilient people. We must draw upon our attributes of tolerance and understanding to negotiate our problems and restore T&T to a veritable fairy land- a colourful rainbow. The colours of our skins must constitute and form equitably the inseparable and integral colourful bands of the rainbow that straddles the T&T sky.

We are all aware of the events, as recorded in Tulsidas' Ramcharitarmanas that culminated in the people of Ayodhakhand illuminating the way to celebrate the return of Ram and Sita to their homeland after vanquishing the evils of ignorance and darkness symbolised by the demonic King Rawana of Lanka. The women of Ayodha scattered their path with rich offerings and lit diyas as we do today in this part of the 20m Indian diaspora.

T&T is now our Ayodha. It is here in this rainbow country abundantly blessed by Mother Lakshmi with enormous human and physical wealth that we have to forge our national destiny- to achieve nirvana- to fulfill our lives and those of our children. It is here that we must practice and seek to nourish and develop the noble attributes of bhakti (devotion) and dharma (righteousness) that will lead eventually to the realization of Ramraaj- the goal of the ideal state. Here we shall and must dwell together in harmonious unity and where every creed and race must and should be accorded in word followed by deed an equitable if not an equal place.

This year Divali comes at a most critical conjuncture in our development as a nation. It is being celebrated against the backdrop of three major challenges, inter alia, that will test our resilience and value system as a cosmopolitan, multicultural community. The message of Divali provides all of us, Hindus and non-Hindus alike, with the appropriate guiding principles to equip us to navigate our way through the tempestuous times that lie ahead in the emerging global village. We cannot afford to succumb to these challenges. We will not.

These challenges are:

a.. The ethnic cleavages/polarisation of our society in the political sphere with the potential to encroach into other spheres of our national life and diminish the strength of our God-given human resource endowment.

b.. The second mega- oil bonanza and its potential for exacerbating the lust for the relentless pursuit of materialism in our society that may cause us to abandon or weaken the spiritual/ethical/moral bases of our society.

c.. The critical and compelling mandate to socialise all our young in the fundamentals of enlightened and responsible citizenship as well as to insulate them via interventionist social policies from deviance and a life driven by crime and law-breaking.

The Festival of Divali that celebrates and reinforces the eternal values of truth, knowledge, reconciliation and brotherhood can strengthen us to mediate and resolve these differences; to live as one happy Trini-family by transcending the political, ethnic and geographic divides.

This must be the mantra/ dua /sermon to be broadcast and repeated in the mandirs, mosques and churches by all to restore our Caribbean Ayodha to peace and harmony. It cannot be left to chance or the politicians. We the people, civic society, collectively and individually, must now intervene and stop the slide into disharmony and the darkness of ethnic and geographic polarisation.

The lights of the thousands of diyas that will be lit on Sunday 3 November must help to dissipate this darkness, ignorance and falsehood that preside over our cosmopolitan cultural landscape.

Asato Ma Sad


Tamaso Ma Jyotir Gamaya

O! Lord from the unreal lead us to the real;

O Mother Lakshmi lead us from Darkness and Despair to Enlightenment and Prosperity.

May Lakshmi Mata as she has done previously come to the rescue of Mother T&T in this her hour of greatest need.

The spirituality symbolised in the rows of diyas must inspire us to negotiate and respond in a humane manner to distribute the windfall wealth that will soon gush as manna from the offshore marine platforms thanks to Lakshmi Mata. The message of Divali must deepen and strengthen our spiritual foundations and energise us to reject the relentless desire for amassing materialism and abandoning our spiritual moorings. All must participate equitably.

We must induct and expose our young to the values systems fundamental to Divali. We must socialise our young so that our core values continue to be handed down to sustain and direct national development and progress.

As we charharway (offer) jaals (water) during Lakshmi Puja on Sunday 3rd November more than ever before the welfare of our country T&T must figure prominently in our invocations to Mother Lakshmi. We must now conduct hawan and aarti to Mother Lakshmi not only on behalf of our friends, families and loved ones but also for the peace and sustainable prosperity of Dharti Mai (Mother Earth) T&T.

May Lakshmi Ma continue to richly bless T&T. May the diyas enlighten our lives, broaden our visions and enrich and expand our horizons to include all of us in our rainbow country. Let us leave no one behind. Let us include all! Let us dismantle the pockets of rural marginalisation and rampant alienation!

Shubh (Happy) Divali and bahoot khushiya (great happiness) to all Trinbagonians on this auspicious occasion.

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