Special Celebrations in Guyana
Guyana is a Caribbean country that was integrated into the British Empire in the year 1836 as British Guiana. Indian workers were brought into this country under the system of contract labor. The country was declared independent in the year 1966.
The Indo Guyanese strive to maintain their cultural heritage as they celebrate festivals like Deepavali and Holi. A large number of temples have been built by them to practice their religious beliefs.
Deepavali is anxiously awaited with great enthusiasm by the Guyanese people. The differences in race and religion are forgotten and people turn up in large numbers to join the festivities.
The Lamps and Decorations
Some families in Berbice and Wakenaam have been making the traditional lamps for Deepavali for years. These lamps are lit in the evenings during the festival. Rangoli competitions are held between various departments in the Guyanese university system every year. Bamboo frames are put up in the streets for the lamps to be placed on. The houses and streets are lit with these lamps so that goddess Lakshmy can find her way to the houses to grant the boon of prosperity. The soot from the lamps is collected to make kajal, which is applied to babies to ward off evil eye.
Hindus abstain from meat, sex and alcohol days before Deepavali. People whitewash the tree trunks and clean their houses. On the day Deepavali begins, Lakshmy puja is performed. Flowers are used to decorate the front door of houses and people wear new clothes and visit temples to pray. It is quite the special occasion.
The East Indians or the Indo Guyanese prepare sweets like phulorie, goja, gulgula, kheer, mithai, pera and burfi. Children are able to eat a variety of sweets without restriction on Deepavali day. They visit houses of neighbors and friends to gift sweets.
The Parade of Floats
The spectacular event associated with the Guyanese Deepavali is the motorcade show (float parade). It is conducted by the Guyana Hindu Dharmic Sabha. Steel and wood materials are used to make huge floats which are decorated with fabrics, jewelry and lights and are usually sponsored by corporate houses. The parade of floats is one of the competitions held during this occasion as various temples take part in it. Many people travel to Guyana just to watch this extravagant parade.
The Fireworks and Competitions
Depavali is a festival that is enjoyed by all children. They are allowed to light firecrackers, play games and wear new clothes as well. Fireworks like the hand-held (cone crackers, sparklers) and rockets are set off in the evening. Greeting cards are exchanged to symbolize goodwill. Children also compete, unofficially, to make the best rangoli patterns and decorations for their houses. Various competitions like the best dressed, best firecracker display, musical chairs and antakshari (Hindi film song competition) are held every year to add to the festivities.
The Deepavali celebration is also known as Depawali, Dewali, Dipavali, Diwali, Divali, Dipotsavi and Dipapratipad. Deepavali spreads the message of love and friendship and is celebrated to usher prosperity and dispel gloom for the year to come.