Trinidad is culturally unusual among Caribbean islands in that it has a very large East Indian population. In May 1845 the first ship carrying indentured servants from India arrived. The wave of laborers continued until 1917 and ultimately over 140,000 Indians were brought to Trinidad. Today the population of Trinidad is just over 1 million, 40% of whom are Indian. Their presence has had considerable influence on the culture of the island. No matter the ethnic background, every Trini enjoys curry and roti (Indian flat bread used as a utensil). The intense spiciness of many Trini creole dishes is the direct influence of Indian cuisine. Musical, artistic and fashion forms have also been shaped by Indo-trinidadians.
The Trini love of liming extends to holidays. Any holiday is a reason for a 'fete' or party. Any fete is opportunity to lime. With the Indian arrival came a whole new set of holdiays, both Hindu and Muslim, to add to the good times in Trinidad. It doesn't matter what religion anyone adheres to, a holiday is a holiday, and everyone celebrates to some extent even if they do not partake in the religious aspect.
During the end of October or beginning of November is the Hindu Festival of Lights, Divali, honoring the goddess Lakshmi. It celebrates the triumph of good over evil, light over darkenss, love over hatred, truth over untruth.
Observant Hindus make offerings of food, flowers and money to the goddess by leaving them in sacred trees, before images of the goddess or by burning them in fire during special pujas (prayer services). Small, flat clay pots called deyas are filled with ghee (clarified butter) into which a wick is placed and lit. The deyas may be arranged on special 'trees' or in special designs on the ground. Another way of displaying the deyas is to split a trunk of bamboo, bend it into an arc and set a deya on each of the sections within the bamboo. Hindu or not, Trinis enjoy walking around the neighborhood or driving through to see the light displays, much the way we enjoy seeing displays of Christmas lights. It's always fun to see where the most elaborate displays can be found.
Often a neighborhood will host a local Divali fete in order to enjoy the lights, music, and seasonal foods that are such a treat. Observant Muslims or Christians may not be able to eat foods prepared for a puja because of the sacrifice being made to the Hindu goddess, but the neighborhood parties allow everyone to partake in the same tasty treats and enables neighbors of different faiths to share goodwill. There is a sense of respect and accomodation for differences that allows the celebrations to brighten spirits as the deyas brighten the night.
As an aside, Goody and I have worked out his prize. I hope to have it posted by the end of the week. Ariella, yes, a fine performance. I am considering a bone for you.