Some Barbadian school children have been enjoying a taste of the Caribbean’s varied culture by delving into the Indian celebration of Diwali, the festival of light representing the triumph of good over evil, or light over darkness.
Today, Guyana observes Diwali or Deepvali with a national holiday and the same occasion will be celebrated in Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago tomorrow.
Unlike with other CARICOM nations, persons of East Indian descent comprise a significant percentage of the populations of these three territories. Indians make up almost 30 per cent of the Suriname population while that figure reaches the mid-40s percentage point in Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago.
The Consulate of Guyana in Barbados invited children of St Paul’s Primary and St Winifred’s Primary schools to share the experience of CARICOM neighbours by designing the Rangoli that features as a greeting to visitors of homes, temples and other buildings during the festival celebrations.
Rangolis, which are believed to carry a spiritual meaning, are an Indian traditional art form practised by Hindus in which decorative designs are created on the floor usually with coloured rice, dry flour, sand and petals and are a popular activity during Diwali celebrations.
Said to be one of the most widespread festivals in India, Diwali is considered an auspicious occasion that brings joy, laughter and fun to persons of all ages.
According to Hindu mythology, on this day Lord Ram defeated the evil Ravana and brought back goddess Sita to Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh where everyone celebrated with lights.
As is done in India, people in Guyana, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago celebrate by coming together and lighting up their houses with Diyas which are miniature oil lamps made of clay with a cotton wick dipped in ghee or vegetable oils that serve as fuel for the flame.
Another feature of the celebration is the making and exchanging of sweetmeats.
Given a variety of coloured rice, the pupils transformed a room in the Consulate’s Upper Collymore Rock office into a hive of frenzied activity as they devised intricately designed Rangolis with the guidance of teachers.
In this activity, they joined children across Guyana who reportedly had been taking time off from school work to produce Rangolis.