November 1, 2015: The following is the feature address by the Minister of Community Development, Culture and the Arts, Dr. the Honourable Nyan Gadsby-Dolly on the occasion of Opening Night of Divali Nagar 2015 hosted by the National Council of Indian Culture(NCIC). The event took place at NCIC Nagar in Chaguanas.
Namaste. Good Evening.
It is an honour to address you this evening on this auspicious occasion – the Opening Night of Divali Nagar 2015.
The Festival of Lights is much more than an annual ritual. The idea at the foundation of this Festival is as valuable today as it was several centuries ago. It goes beyond the ordinary messages and stories to communicate powerful and extraordinary lessons that are applicable to our daily lives, reassuring us that our adversities and challenges can be overcome. It symbolises the victory of hope and the victory of perseverance.
It is one of those great religious occasions that encourages us to reassess our lives, our contributions to society and those less fortunate. Divali places emphasis on some of the core values that were brought across the waters by our predecessors – the values of tolerance, the importance of family, and harmony in diversity.
Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, our ancestors demonstrated unwavering faith and endurance in the preservation of our rituals. Through their efforts, all our various religious customs have survived to contribute to the great tapestry that is now multicultural Trinidad and Tobago.
To honour the efforts of our forefathers and to ensure that the diverse customs of Trinidad and Tobago are preserved, the Ministry of Community Development, Culture and the Arts provides multiple forms of financial assistance to Non-Governmental, Community, Cultural, Artistic and Faith Based organisations which engage in positive, uplifting activities.
In this regard, the Ministry is pleased to support this initiative which encompasses our religious, cultural and artistic traditions. The annual Divali Nagar festival provides a dynamic platform for the deepening of the appreciation of our cultural multiplicity.
In fact, next week Tuesday, the Ministry will present cheques of support to over twenty (20) cultural interest groups, including the National Council of Indian Culture, which participate in the Hosay, Ramleela or Divali festivities. Each year, these organisations volunteer their time and resources to produce magnificent displays of creativity that also communicate spiritual themes and commemorate important religious events and manifestations.
I must particularly commend Mr. Deokinanan Sharma, and the executive of the National Council of Indian Culture for their continued commitment to themaintenance, promotion and advancement of Indian Culture in the Caribbean.
We, at the Ministry of Community Development, Culture and the Arts, are aware of the many accomplishments of the NCIC. One such achievement is the fact this year’s Divali Nagar celebrations will be featured on the popular Indian television station ZeeTV. In addition, we will be exposed to the performances of local theatre arts group such as the “Strolling Players”, as part of the Folk Theatre segment of this year’s Divali Nagar.
These initiatives are effective ways to increase opportunities for cultural practitioners, encourage public participation in the arts and facilitate cultural commerce. The NCIC is actively playing its role in developing progressive approaches to the management of cultural and community activities. These initiatives align well with the developmental strategy of the Ministry and we look forward to future partnerships with other like-minded organisations.
As I conclude my presentation tonight, though, I would like to speak about the most important element of this event – its spiritual message.
The Divali Nagar experience comprises a thematic section which serves to educate the public on the religious aspects of Divali. This year, the theme focuses on Mother Lakshmi, the Goddess of Light and Wealth. Her four arms are symbolic of the four goals of humanity that are considered good in Hinduism – the pursuit of an ethical and moral life, the pursuit of wealth, the pursuit of self-knowledge and the pursuit of love and emotional fulfillment.
Thus, as the deyas are lit for Divali, they spread a light that resonates with morality, prosperity, knowledge and love throughout the length and breadth of our blessed nation.
My hope is that we remember, that as we engage in the enjoyable activities that surround our national holidays like, Eid-ul-Fitr, Spiritual Shouter Baptist Liberation Day, Easter and of course Divali, we are, in reality, celebrating our diversity and our identity. I thank you.