Fiji’s skies lit up in bright fireworks and many streets and houses were awash in an array of colours from electrical lights, earthen lamps and candles, as the nation came together once again to celebrate Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, Saturday night.
Introduced to Fiji by indentured labourers from India more than a century ago, the festival has over the years evolved into a multicultural and multiracial event, and is one of Fiji’s most eagerly awaited festivals.
Beautiful displays of lights, fireworks, rangoli (colorful designs), delicious Indian sweets and striking Indian outfits become the order of the day.
This year, Diwali was celebrated yesterday (Saturday) although preparations usually begin more than a week ago and the public holiday to mark the festival is on Monday giving people more time for merry making and coming together in what is seen as a time of harmony and nation-building.
Diwali being the festival of lights signifies the lighting of the lamp of knowledge within us and is a time of understanding and reflecting upon the significance of each of the five days of festivities.
The history of Diwali is replete with legends, captured in the stories of Hindu religious scriptures, mostly the Puranas.
Although the central themes of all legends point out to the central truth of the victory of good over evil, the way the stories are presented, and the characters, differ.
Perhaps the best known of these stories is that of the warrior king, the Lord Rama, and his wife Sita.
Exiled by his father Dashratha, the king of Ayodhya, Rama was joined by Sita and his younger brother Lakshman and returned triumphant after 14 years, slaying the nine-headed demon Ravana of Lanka. The people of his kingdom of Ayodhya welcomed Rama, Sita and Lakshman by lighting rows of clay lamps, in the same way that Diwali has since been celebrated – an association with the theme of light winning over darkness.
In Sikh tradition, Diwali marks the return of the sixth Guru, Guru Hargobind Ji from captivity in the city of Gwalior. To commemorate his undying love for Sikhism, the towns folk lit the way to Harmandhir Sahib (referred to as the Golden Temple), in his honor.
Diwali is also a time of remembering the less fortunate, and in keeping with the multicultural dimensions that the festival has gained over the decades in Fiji, as it has elsewhere, charitable and corporate organisations took the time to help those in need.
In one such gesture, the staff of local tour operator Tours Managers joined hands with members of the Sabeto Assembly of God...