Port of Spain, Nov 11: The oil-rich republic of Trinidad and Tobago celebrated Diwali -- a Festival of Lights, in grandeur and fine style as the entire nation joined with the celebrations of the Hindu community on Tuesday.
Trinidad and Tobago could be described as a national shrine with the network of celebrations across the country. The celebrations started some two weeks ago with special programmes in private and public places.
President of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, Justice Anthony Carmona, in his special message noted that Diwali is an open window into the rich, ornate culture and heritage of the Hindu community that has proudly transcended generations since indentureship.
The President said that he hoped Diwali would drive away the violence, crime, abuse and racial and political discrimination.
Prime Minister Keith Rowley, while delivering his Diwali message since becoming prime minister last September, pointed out that Diwali is not merely about material possessions, but also of spiritual enlightenment. He called on the populace to engage themselves in, "mindful introspection and that w must look deep within ourselves".
Winston Dookeran, former Minister of Foreign Affairs, hailed the annual Diwali Nagar as, "a serious manifestation of the presence of the Indian diaspora in Trinidad and Tobago, and by extension the Caribbean.
"The Indian diaspora remains well-committed to the socio-economic and cultural development ot Trinidad and Tobago."
The annual Diwali Nagar which closed off on Monday night after a nine-day run attracted over 125,000 patrons, according to Surujdeo Mangaroo, public relations officer of the National Council of Indian Culture (NCIC) which has been oragnizing the Nagar for 29 years now.
"Diwali Nagar has now become an integral part of the national calendar and it has helped a great deal to alert the national community about the religious, cultural and social thoughts of the Indian diaspora since the arrival of East Indians here between 1845 and 1917," Mangaroo said.
One of the highlights of this year's Diwali Nagar was the live broadcast nightly by India's Zee TV, which was well-received by the nation at large.
Dr Deokienanan Sharma, president of NCIC, said Diwali Nagar has given, "an impetus to the Hindu Thought, Hindu Religion and Hindu Traditions, and it is no secret that, "although Diwali came from the east to the west, it is now vice-versa, that is the west can teach the east about the planning and celebrations of Diwali along with other festivals."
Celebrations of Diwali in Trinidad and Tobago are both a religious and a social tradition whereby relatives and friends visit and share gifts with one another. Several US fast food outlets have added vegetarian meals during the period leading up to Diwali.
Diwali is now being touted as a tourist project as hundreds of visitors from India, England, Canada, the US and the Caribbean come here to observe and join in the occasion.