Mauritius has a very large Hindu population which means that Diwali is celebrated. The festival is celebrated in October/November at the time of the new moon, when the night is darkest. I sensed, a few days before new moon, in the activities of the local population that something important was going to happen soon. Vendors began selling little bags and fold up boxes with pictures of rows of sparkling lamps and the markets became very busy with women buying food and families buying new clothes. On the beach young boys began throwing firecrackers at the feet of passing tourists (ME!), scaring them (and strangely not the feral dogs) witless.
I understand Diwali to be “The Festival of Light”, a celebration of a new year and an opportunity to leave the negativities of the past year behind and to begin again, afresh. It is also seen as a celebration of the triumph of good over evil and hope over despair.
Hindus celebrate the goddess Lakshmi who represents abundance and wealth, as well as the elephant deity Ganesha, the remover of obstacles and a symbol of wisdom. Homes are traditionally lit up with lights and “Rangoli” patterns are drawn in brightly coloured vegetable powders on living room floors or in courtyards.
I took a stroll into town, in the early evening of Diwali and found the local temple ablaze with light and a group of people chanting and singing in accompaniment to indian musical instruments. At first, I stood outside, my Western “Abrahamic” upbringing imposing a hesitancy to intrude. I remembered that the Hindu tradition embraces all systems of belief, so I joined the group in the temple for some chanting and singing which involves one person singing a phrase and the group replying in answer while clapping and ringing “Kartal” (Indian cymbals) to the rhythm set by the drummers on their hand drums. I loved the companionable atmosphere of chanting with the group and afterwards made a donation to the goddess Lakshmi, thanking her for my privileged life. I felt humbled as I was presented with a generous handful of blessed Indian sweets (prasaad).
Happy Diwali to anyone reading this, may any darkness you may carry at present become illuminated with the light of knowledge that . . . like the phases of the moon, change is inevitable and that light follows dark and dark follows light and all is as it should be, even in the world of certain ungrateful and mildly discontented cruising “Yotties”.
There is a Vedic Chant in Sanskrit which goes like this . . .
“Asato Ma sat gamaya
Tamaso ma jyoti gamaya
Mrtyor Ma amratam gamaya”
Lead us from the unreal to the real
From darkness to the light (of understanding)
From (the fear of) death to (the knowledge of) immortality