Diwali — the festival of lights that is celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs, and Jains across the world — falls between 13 – 16 November 2020. Every year around this time, the East Indian Community in Belize celebrates their new year. Also known also as Deepawali, it is a spectacular Indian festival where light is of key importance. The festival of lights religiously commemorates the return of King Rama from exile into the City of Iola in India. To celebrate, houses and businesses in Belize are dressed with strings of lights and colorful decorations for Diwali. The reason for so many lights is to symbolise the triumph of light over darkness and good over evil. East-Indians are a part of the wider Indo-Caribbean community, which itself is a part of the global Indian diaspora.
Originally coming to Belize as merchants, today East Indians represent a small but significant part of the Belizean population. Although small, their culture and traditions have significantly influenced the melting pot that is Belize’s culture today. Major celebrations for Diwali occur on the third day of the five-day long festival which this year falls on Nov. 14.
The name Diwali, or Deepavali, comes from a Sanskrit word meaning “rows of lighted lamps,” according to Shereen Bhalla, the director of education at the Hindu American Foundation. There are several legends connected to Diwali, according to Bhalla. Historically, Diwali was also partly a harvest festival. In particular, it is a time for family and friends to come together. Naturally, food and eating together is a large part of this festive celebration. Spicy, aromatic Indian food is popular throughout the country. Although simple, this recipe of Tandoori Chicken from Flavors of Belize is perfect for sharing to celebrate Diwali.
We don’t have to have a large celebration or go to the Hindu temple to celebrate Diwali. It is really what’s in your heart.”
Tandoori Chicken Recipe
- 2 ½ pounds chicken, legs and thighs
- 1 teaspoons salt
- 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 15 ounces plain yogurt
- ½ cup onion, quartered
- 1 clove garlic, peeled
- ¾ inch cube of fresh ginger, peeled, quartered
- 1 teaspoon each of ground cumin and ground turmeric
- 3 teaspoons garam masala
- 1 teaspoon creole pepper sauce
- 1 tablespoon sweet paprika
Cut deep slits on each side of chicken legs and on the meaty side of thighs. Arrange chicken pieces on a large platter. Sprinkle ½ teaspoon salt and pour 1 ½ tablespoons lemon juice over chicken. Lightly rub the salt and lemon juice into the slits. Repeat on the other side with the remaining salt and lemon juice. Combine yogurt, onion, garlic, ginger, garam masala and remaining spices in a blender or food processer and blend into a smooth paste. Strain into a large bowl and add food coloring if desired. Add chicken to yogurt mixture and coat. Cover and refrigerate for 6 hours or overnight. Remove chicken pieces from marinade and shake off excess. Cook on grill turning every 3 minutes until brown. Continue grilling for 20 to 30 minutes or until fully cooked.
Serves 4 to 6.
From the CC+L family, we wish all those celebrating in Belize and beyond a Happy Diwali. May all your lives be brightened by the light of today and tomorrow. Header photo by Elise Bauer.