Published: November 9th 2011October 31st 2011
This is the view that we first saw as we entered the Nagar Festival associated with the Festivals of Light, Divali.
According to the great Hindu epic ‘Ramayana’, Denali is believed to be the time when Lord Rama defeated and killed the evil King Ravana and after passing a period of fourteen years in exile returned to his capital Ayodhya on a new moon day of the Kartik season with wife Sita and brother Lakshman. This homecoming of Lord Rama is celebrated with lights, fireworks, and merriment. The tradition continues to this day where huge effigies of Ravana are burned symbolizing Lord Rama's vanquishing of the demon king. The idols of Goddess Lakshmi, the symbol of wealth and prosperity and Lord Ganesha, the elephant-headed god, the symbol of auspiciousness and wisdom, are worshipped in most Hindu homes on this day. “Denali or 'Deepawali',as it is known is the Festival of Lights. The people light up the whole city with deyas (small clay pots about 3 inches in diameter filled with coconut oil and a small wick) to welcome Lord Ram. It is a festival to mark the victory of good over evil. Denali falls on "Amavasya" a 'no moon night' and people light their houses to conquer the darkness. It is a five day festival.
We attended Divali Nagar at
The same entrance later that night
When we left the Nagar festival we saw that the entrance now was surrounded by lit candles. This was just a brief introduction on what the festival of lights would be like.
the town of Chaguanas on Saturday evening, Oct 22nd. It was a great way to help celebrate Janice’s birthday as well. We weren’t quite sure what it was going to be except we understood there was to be music (singing and dancing) so we were game. When we arrived, our driver oriented us to the place and then we were on our own for about 3 hours. The first building we entered had various booths explaining some of the Hindu beliefs and some vendors that were decorating women’s hands with a temporary tattoo called mendi. Talking to the vendors we found that this was only for decorative purposes and done for special occasions such as Divali or weddings. Janice was tempted to have it done for her birthday, but there was quite a line wanting, so maybe next time. Once outside this building the area started to look very much like a county fair back home with a few exceptions. They had the typical games where you win a stuffed animal, cotton candy vendors, and typical trinkets to buy, but that is where the similarity ended. Most of the tents centered around the sale of the beautiful saris, glittering shoes,
Hindu view of women
In case you can’t read the words in the photo this one states “Hindus worship God in feminine form also. Hindus believe women have the same divinity as men.”
men’s traditional Indian style jackets and pants, and jewelry for special festive occasions. We admired the beauty of them but definitely knew that they weren’t quite in keeping with the fashions needed for cruising. One purchase we did make from the show was 2 beautiful pillow covers that fit on our throw pillows on the settee. They are a nice addition to our interior (and something that we could fit on the boat easily).
After roaming around the show we went to the center stage in order to hear the music and watch the dancers. Tassa drumming is quite traditional, but also quite loud. We enjoyed the various dancing groups, singers and musicians that filled the evening’s entertainment. Even though we did not understand the words there is an appreciation of the traditional music. Although I don't believe we'll be downloading many of the selections on iTunes. The details in the traditional dress are exquisite on both the females and males.
The President of Trinidad and Tobago attended the festival and we sat only 2 rows behind him. President George Maxwell Richards gave a formal speech stating, “there needs to be increase in dialogue as the various cultures strive
Dressed for the occasion
Most of the people attending both events were dressed in their finest.
to grow within this very plural society. We must be careful to preserve the cultural characteristics that enable us to offer our nation the variety that makes us so special”. The audience obviously appreciated the president's attendance at the festival and after his speech there was a great deal of handshaking and gift giving.
All that dancing and singing made both of us quite hungry. As with all good festivals food plays an important part in the celebration. Food vendors were abundant and we were able to get excellent Trinidadian foods that we now know and love, such as doubles, aloo pie and others. One food that was somewhat different was a pepper roti. It looked more like a panini in the shape of a piece of pizza. It was filled with peppers and we're not talking sweet peppers, these babies were hot. It is a good thing both of us enjoy “hot” foods, but even with that some of these are off the scale!
On Wednesday, we traveled to the village of Felicity which is known for its celebration of the Festival of Lights. The dress code was for men to wear long trousers and the women
The stage was alive with dancing
The dance was fast paced and precise. The beauty of the dancers came through with each turn.
had to cover their shoulders and knees. Luckily we both had clothes on board to accommodate this requirement. We were first taken to a Hindu temple where we were welcomed by the Tri-Star Tassa Drummers. After removing our shoes we entered the temple and were given time to walk around and view the various statutes. Jesse James had arranged for a small program for us so we were welcomed by the Pundit of the temple and had an additional presentation by the Tassa Drummers. Typically Jesse has been able to arrange for a dancer, but she is now 7 months pregnant and would not be dancing! After the formal welcome was over we were invited to have a traditional meal at the temple. The table was set with soharee leaves and then the food was served on the leaves. Tradition has it that you do not use any utensils, but Jesse did provide plastic forks for those that desired them. We had a delicious meal of mango, breadfruit, pumpkin and chickpeas. We used fried bread (buss up shot) to scoop up the different foods. It was an excellent meal and the clean up a breeze!
Time was now given
Traditional Garb for Men as well
The traditional garb for men were seen throughout the village on this festival night.
for us to wander throughout the village. Luckily Jesse warned us that we might hear what sounds like gunshots, but in fact they are firecrackers used in the celebrations. The village was alight with the decorations that the residences have put hours into doing. The traditional way of lighting the homes and streets is by using the deya pots. They are small clay pots filled with coconut oil and a wick, then lit. Many still used this method, however, others have turned to electrified lights like those used for Christmas decorations. It was not only beautiful to see the lights, it was wonderful to meet the people. Everyone was so friendly and wished us well. Traditionally small gifts are given out to those that walk by and that continues today. We were given many gifts of homemade sweets as we passed through town. Everyone was also helpful in answering any questions we had about the celebration. As mentioned at the beginning of this entry, the villagers had built numerous effigies of Ravana in order to burn them at the end of the evening. Many of the children were enjoying sparklers while others just enjoyed sitting outside their homes visiting with
Any that you'd like for your wardrobe?
The Nagar Festival was full of vendors selling beautifully ornate dresses and outfits to the women in attendance.
neighbors. It seemed as if this celebration was a combination of Christmas and the 4th of July rolled into one.
We felt very privileged that the people of the village included us in their celebration. They were so kind and generous that we left understanding the true meaning of the Hindu Festival of Lights. This is why we have chosen the cruising life, it gives us excellent opportunities to meet people and share in their life. We have found the people of Trinidad and Tobago to be some of the most generous and open people we have met in our travels.
There are more photos below