Photo: Guyana Government Information Service.

GEORGETOWN, Guyana–November 14th, 2020–Mohamed Irfaan Ali and First Lady, Arya Ali have celebrated their first Diwali at State House.

Prime Minister Mark Phillips and his wife Mignon; Vice President, Dr. Bharrat Jagdeo; Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Hugh Todd and Minister of Tourism, Industry and Commerce, Oneidge Walrond also showed up for the celebrations.

Diwali is one of the most colorful Hindu festivals.  It symbolizes the spiritual victory of light over darkness, good over evil and knowledge over ignorance.

The day of the Diwali festival is declared as a national holiday in the official calendar of Guyana. The tradition of celebrating the Diwali festival is believed to have been brought to Guyana in the year 1853 by the first indentured people from India.

The legends related to the festival are similar to that of India.

Celebrating the holiday with motorcades first started in 1974 after the Sabha’s President, the late Pandit Reepu Daman Persaud, thought that the festival of Diwali was too significant an occasion to just be restricted to the lighting of diyas on Diwali night. A diva lamp is an oil lamp that is typically associated with the Divali Festival of Lights. The word Divali means “row of lamps.”

Photo: Guyana Chronicle. A well-lit Diwali motorcade in an earlier year.

This year, however, the current COVID-19 pandemic and the need to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus have changed the Diwali celebrations. There is no live Diwali Utsav nor is there Guyana’s highly anticipated Diwali motorcade.

Instead, like many events in 2020, the motorcade and cultural show will be virtual events. But that has not been enough to ‘out’ the Diwali flame.

“I’d be lying if I said that (this year’s Diwali celebrations) does not pale in comparison,” Chairman of the Dharmic Naujawan, Rishiram Dubraj, told the Guyana Chronicle in a recent interview.

“If we were to really get down to it, the only thing that was really taken away from us was the Diwali Utsav and the motorcade, where we really can’t congregate in those large groups but maybe it is an opportunity to reflect on what Diwali really is,” reasoned Dubraj.