Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Govt moving Divali date raises questions


INDIA, the country with the largest Hindu population in the world, will be celebrating Divali this year on Sunday November 3.

Trinidad and Tobago however will be observing the official holiday for the festival of lights on Saturday, November 2.

This disparity in the date of celebration has caused some concerns among members of the Hindu community in this country, especially in light of the fact that the St Joseph by-election will be held on Monday, November 4.

SWAHA president Pundit Jaidath Maharaj, with the guidance of SWAHA spiritual head, Paramacharya Pundit Hardeo Persad, sought to clarify the issue on Tuesday.

According to Maharaj, Divali is a five-day celebration.

The main celebration takes place on the third day known as the “Lakshmi Puja”, which is the appearance of Mother Lakshmi.

The Hindu calendar is calculated by the moon, as opposed to the sun which is used in the calculation of Western calendars, Maharaj said.

A day in the lunar calendar is known as a “Tithi”.

“Because of the differences between the lunar and solar calendars sometimes a Tithi can shadow two days and that is what is happening with Divali this year,” Maharaj said.

“The actual Divali day (Lakshmi Puja) or the new moon what we call the Amawas, is straddling both Saturday (November 2) and Sunday (November 3),” he said.

Maharaj said Divali must be celebrated within the Amawas period.

This year the Amawas starts at 10.45 a.m. on November 2 and ends at 8.50 a.m. on November 3.

“If we want to celebrate it during the Amawas period then we have to celebrate it on Saturday. If we were to celebrate it Sunday night we would be celebrating it out of the Amawas period,” he said.

Maharaj said deyas are lit at night and therefore it would make more sense to celebrate Divali on November 2.

Lighting deyas on the Sunday evening would be considered out of the Amawas period.

The Express understands that concerns about the date of November 2 chosen for Divali was raised at the level of the Inter-Religious Organisation (IRO).

Maharaj is the SWAHA representative on the IRO.

IRO president Brother Harrypersad Maharaj when contacted by the Express on Tuesday said, “Hinduism is very, very systematic in determining whether it is Divali or any of the other festivals”.

He said Divali is November 3.

Maharaj (H) said he did not want to get embroiled in the debate about the date and that was all he was willing to say on the issue.

A Hindu spiritual head who requested anonymity told the Express this country would be making itself look like fools on the international stage because of our choice to celebrate Divali on the wrong day.

When the date of the St Joseph by-election was announced, the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha (SDMS) stated that Cabinet was informed of the date to declare the Divali holiday and the organisation has no problem with the date of November 2 being chosen.