Once again our nation celebrates the most auspicious and joyous occasion of Divali. It is celebrated by Hindus around the world, and, for most Hindus, marks the beginning of a New Year and a New Life, unmarred by the shadows of a painful past.
Over time, Divali has become an event on the national calendar and has been increasingly embraced by citizens as a reason for nationwide celebration and heritage appreciation, which speaks to the diversity and pluralism that defines our nation’s character.
Divali is certainly the biggest and the brightest of all Hindu festivals. It is the festival of lights which literally illuminates the country with its brilliance, and dazzles all with its joy. All the simple rituals of Divali have significance and a story to tell.
The illumination of homes with lights and the skies with firecrackers is an expression of obeisance to the heavens for the attainment of health, wealth, knowledge, peace and prosperity.
Fellow citizens, Divali is not a festival of light in order that we may light deyas and fireworks. These are certainly wonderful ways of expressing our joy and happiness. But, they are not the only or true meaning of "light." Divali is a festival of the light which dispels the darkness of our ignorance; it is a festival of the light which shows us the way on our journey through life.
The purpose is not to glorify the light of the deya, or the light of the firecracker. The purpose is to glorify the light of God. It is He who bestows the real light, the everlasting light upon the darkness of this mundane world. A deya burns out and fireworks are momentary visual experiences. But, the light of a still mind and the fireworks of a heart filled with bhakti are divine and eternal; these are what we should be celebrating.
In each legend, myth, and story of Divali the significance of the victory of good over evil always rings through; and it is with each Divali, and the lights that illuminate our homes and hearts, that this simple truth finds new reason and hope. From darkness unto light – a light that empowers us to commit ourselves to good deeds and which brings us closer to divinity.
Dear citizens, the light of Divali should always be within us. It should symbolize a personal relationship with God, our families, and each other. We must allow the divine light to penetrate inward, for only there will it have lasting benefit. One deya, lit with a pure heart, a conscious mind and an earnest desire to be free from ignorance is far "brighter" than 1000 deyas, lit in simple unconscious revelry.
It is a time to turn inward and light the lamps of knowledge and truth in our hearts and minds so that we can dispel the forces of darkness and ignorance within us and allow our innate brilliance and goodness to shine forth. Goddess Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, is the principal deity associated with this festival. During Divali we ask her for assistance in cultivating and accumulating spiritual wealth, such as compassion, forgiveness, and loving-kindness.
Indeed, we must all ask ourselves what sort of prosperity are we praying for? All too often, we infer wealth to mean money, possessions, and material pleasures. This is NOT the true wealth in life; this is not what makes us prosperous. It is only God's presence in our lives which makes us truly rich.
Fellow citizens, Divali affords us the opportunity to acknowledge and better understand our prejudices, negative attitudes, and bad habits so that we may enhance the process of positively transforming ourselves and our beloved country.
With this in mind, I wish to reiterate my commitment to the introduction of a National Conversation – a unique dialogue between government and the people – where views and ideas can be mutually exchanged.
My government certainly looks forward to continued meaningful and constructive dialogue with our Hindu brothers and sisters, and indeed all heads of religious organizations, in this regard. It is a shared responsibility to ensure a better Trinidad and Tobago for ourselves and our children.
I am of the view that in speaking to each other across the length and breadth of Trinidad and Tobago a better understanding will emerge among all interest groups, ensuring that we can arrive at the best solutions and find common purpose for the greater good of all of us and our country. Working together is an essential ingredient to success and integral to resolution.
Now is the time not only to discover how we can be more loving, kind, and respectful towards one another, but also to foster harmony and promote the universal prerequisites of love and the light of Truth and understanding among all citizens. It is a spiritual ‘fresh start’ which should be embraced by all who understand the concept of forgiveness and re-affirmation.
God has given each and every one of us unique talents and abilities. How we use these will determine how “successful” we really are. Let us all look forward to the coming year with a renewed sense of purpose and commitment to our future aspirations. Let us, together, through collaboration and consensus, decide how we can build a better and more prosperous Trinidad and Tobago.
On behalf of my government, family, and all good citizens, I extend sincere best wishes to all who celebrate this wonderful festival.
On this auspicious festival of lights, may the glow of joy, prosperity, peace, and happiness illuminate your lives and your homes.
Honourable Kamla Persad-Bissessar, SC, MP | Prime Minister of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago