Guyanese celebrate Diwali in New York

Dear Editor,

Traditional Diwali celebrations were held in Queens among the large Guyanese population on Friday evening in their homes and at the mandirs. Although it was a cold, windy rainy evening, Guyanese celebrated the festival with gusto with electronic lights flickering in front of their homes and diyas on their lawns and outdoor steps. Later in the evening, many trekked to the mandirs for Diwali prayers and concerts.

Diwali is not a public holiday as in Guyana, but it is rapidly becoming a mainstream celebration in parts of New York, especially in areas where large numbers of Guyanese are settled. The large Guyanese presence provides an opportunity to celebrate something uniquely their own.

To mark the occasion, a number of activities ranging from cultural variety concerts to beauty pageants to prayers to motorcade parades were held last weekend among the Guyanese community and more are planned for this coming weekend in New York. Also, several American politicians, including President George Bush, Governor Spitzer, and Mayor Bloomberg have issued Diwali greetings and messages to the large Hindu community.

An aura of celebration was in the air in areas where Guyanese live with Diwali related decorations. Also, the stores on Liberty Avenue as well as the avenue itself were well decorated comparable to the traditional Christmas season. The air wafts with the aroma of burning incense in areas where Guyanese live. Religious music at full blast emanates from many of the stores. In Richmond Hill, homes were decorated on the outside with multi-coloured electronic lights. Also, garlands of fresh and artificial flowers, similar to decorations observed during the Christmas season, bedeck many doors and windows.

The Guyanese radio station, ICR, aired special Diwali songs. In addition, it carried live broadcasts of the religious proceedings from the Trimurthi Mandir where Guyanese Nandani Sharon and her husband, Hari Om, both from Bollywood, entertained the hundreds of worshippers with special Lakshmi songs. Separately, all the other Guyanese radio and TV programmes aired Diwali over the last week. Also, Guyanese and other Caribbean weekly newspapers carried paid advertisements with Diwali greetings from several businesses. Even several American businesses ran Diwali greetings in the Caribbean ethnic newspapers.

Yours faithfully,

Vishnu Bisram

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