Considered as the land of the Humming Bird, Trinidad and Tobago has a good number of Indian populations. For that reason, Hindu festivals, customs, traditions and observances forms an integral part of the society, which comprises the unique beauty of the twin island state. The Diwali celebration has a unique flavor here in the Caribbean island nation. Here 43 per cent of the 1.3 million populations are ethnic Indians.
The festival day is regarded as a national holiday. The festival is also marked by scores of functions besides the usual rituals of the festivity. The functions and celebrations during Diwali Festival also have an official imprint as the Ministers of the Government also participate in the celebrations sometimes. The celebrations continue for over a week and the headquarters of the National Council of Indian Culture at Diwali Nagar becomes the focal point.
Diwali, otherwise known as the Festival of Lights, is one of the most anticipated events in Trinidad. Although it is a Hindu festival, in the island's multicultural and multi-religious society it is a national holiday observed by people of all denominations. The day is marked by prayers, feasts and the lighting of thousands of diyas (small clay pots filled with oil in which a wick is immersed and lit) all over the country.
In the Hindu community, there are two stories of the origin of Diwali, and in the weeks leading up to the festival they are acted out in full costume in open-air theaters in villages all over Trinidad. Employees and even government ministers dress in East Indian garb and variety shows featuring aspects of Indian and Hindu culture are staged.
The climax of Diwali however, is the lighting of diyas after sundown - a delightful experience that should never be missed. In yards, open spaces, staircases, roundabouts and porches, diya s are lit by the thousands. They are usually placed on bamboo stalks bent into fantastic shapes and designs. In villages where there is a strong Hindu presence it is common to see whole streets decorated in this manner.
If visiting Trinidad during Diwali, it helps to have a vehicle to travel to many of the areas where the glittering displays can be seen. In some villages, one may have to join the throngs of people walking through the streets in order to get a first-hand view of the lights and to receive sweets which are handed out.