Celebrating the triumph of light over darkness, good over evil, and the importance of knowledge over ignorance, Diwali is an annual festival celebrated across the world in accordance with the lunar calendar. This year, Diwali falls on November 12. There are quite a few countries in the Caribbean — especially countries with a large South Asian diaspora — that partake in Diwali celebrations, with national holidays observed in Jamaica, Suriname, Guyana, and Trinidad and Tobago. While Diwali is mostly worshipped by Hindus, it is also celebrated by Sikhs, some Buddhists, and those who believe in Jainism — an ancient Indian religion considered to be one of the country’s oldest religious practices, worshipped by approximately 0.4% of India’s population.
Celebrating Diwali, or Divali, in the Caribbean
After all, Caribbean countries went through layers of colonization. When slavery was outlawed in the British Empire, British colonies imported over half a million indentured servants from India to work in the Caribbean sugar cane plantations. In Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, and Suriname, home to Indo-Caribbeans as a plurality (the biggest group, but not a majority), the festival is usually marked with a national holiday. Across the Caribbean, celebrants will fast to eat only sweets and vegan foods, before the lighting of divas—small clay lamps filled with oil and a cotton wick—later in the evening.
Guyana’s President Irfaan Ali has called it “a happy and momentous time for Hindus who observe this festival through worship, the sharing of sweets, outward expressions of kindness and the cleaning, decorating and the illumination of their homes.”
The simple ‘Diya, so conspicuous in the observance of this sacred festival, is a powerful symbol. It reminds us of the divine spark that exists within all of us and which, when properly directed, can lead us towards enlightenment and prosperity.
-Guyana President Irfaan Ali
On behalf of the Caribbean Culture & Lifestyle team, Happy Diwali! Or as we in the Caribbean spell it, Happy Divali!
Celebrate at home with these 3 traditional Diwali desserts!
Motichur Laddu is a sugary concoction that melts in your mouth. Start with gram flour batter and fry it into tiny balls. Then drizzle it with sugary syrup and mix in nuts and spices for the perfect bite-sized treat. Find the full recipe here.
Jalebi is a spiral-shaped sweet made of all-purpose flour, gram flour, and sugar syrup. Boil sugar and water to make the syrup, and mix maida, cornflour, turmeric, and curd to make the batter. Using a sauce bottle, draw spirals of the batter onto a frying pan, then drizzle the sugar syrup on top. Find the full recipe here.
Gulab jamun is a dessert made of small balls (like the size of donut holes) dipped in a pool of rose-flavored sugar syrup. You can make the syrup with a combination of cardamom, sugar, and water. The dough for the balls is made up of flour, yogurt, milk, and milk powder. Once the dough is shaped into balls, fry them and drown them in syrup. The full recipe can be found here.