East Bank Demerara residents celebrate Diwali in ‘fine style’

In the communities of Alexander Village, Herstelling, and Diamond, residents set out their diyas and arranged them in rows on benches outside their front yards, along verandah railings, on fences, down the pathways to the gates, and even along the roads to celebrate Diwali, on Monday night.

Diyas are lit on the evening of the festival of Diwali. Diyas are little clay lamps that have wicks attached.

Diwali is referred to as the ‘Festival of Lights’.

Family posing with their diyas

Festivals like Diwali help to reignite expectations and hopes while influencing society positively. The celebration, which has been observed for decades.

Residents expressed their joy in being able to celebrate with their loved ones, neighbours, and friends.

Reshaun Khallamadeen stated eagerly that he mostly enjoys “spending this time with close friends and family and just being together.”

Resident lighting the diyas

A Resident of Alexander Village, Mark Sampson expressed, “We know that Diwali is considered as the festival of lights. But more than that, it is a time when even though you may not be a Hindu, you come together and you celebrate in that unique way that Guyanese normally celebrates.”

He noted that his family looks forward to the Diwali festivities and visits the motorcade each year.

A beautifully lit house in Alexander Village

“We all celebrate Diwali. You know Guyana is a multicultural country and we all embrace our brothers and sisters, Muslim, Hindu, and Christian… And tonight, is the festival of lights of Mother Lakshmi and it’s bringing a lot of prosperity and light… Every year we look forward to that [Diwali], because it’s a very important holiday for the Hindus,” Hemraj Pramdeo said.

Sudesh Ramkawall said that leading up to Diwali, his family usually cleans their home and surroundings.

“It’s very important, it is part of our religion. And we try to upkeep it every year. And as much as we can, we try our best to make it as beautiful as possible,” she said.

He emphasised that the lighting of the diyas is significant because it helps “to light up the world, to light up the life, light over evil.”

Mandir in Alexander Village

“There’s a lot of preparations days before the celebration with the cleaning and the tidying and the dressing up. Then, on the day of Diwali, we usually cook sweet meats. We cook our food and then, in the evenings, we light up our diyas,” Malika Persaud said excitedly.

She described the motorcade as ‘spontaneous’ and stated it is one of the things she enjoyed the most about the festival, “everybody, the whole family, looks forward to that. It’s the coming together of all Guyanese.”

Another resident, Barbara Khan voiced, “we thank everyone for celebrating Diwali with us, this year, after a very long time. And we’re enjoying it so far.”

Khan added that her family prepares many dishes as part of the celebrations, “on Diwali day, we make a lot of sweets and also, some salty things like potato balls, pholourie, biganee, channa, parsad, and vermicelli cake.”

Resident of Herstelling spinning steel wool

Peter expressed that Diwali is usually a grand celebration in Herstelling where the residents would adorn their residences, “I do enjoy Diwali and I love it, and I love all of the sweet meats. And I love all of the colourful lights.”

He noted that lighting diyas during Diwali is a custom that brings people together.

Meanwhile, Ramesh Sookram said, “Growing up as a Hindu, we always look forward to this. We normally celebrate it with family and friends, very close family and friends.”

Andrew Khellawan said that his family visits the mandir to celebrate with others, “we does come here and we does enjoy ourselves.”

Diwali revives the optimism from which a fresh start based on justice and good intentions may be built.

The Hindu custom of burning diyas and exchanging sweets on the day of Diwali commemorates Ram and Seeta’s return to the kingdom after a 14-year exile in the forest, but it also serves to celebrate the triumph of good over evil and light over darkness.

In order to bring money and success into households, lights are lit in honour of Mother Lakshmi, a Hindu goddess.

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