How Divali became a public holiday
Ladies and gentlemen, once again the very revered fwatival -- Divali or Deepavali, the Festival of Lights -- is being celebrated, and we do puja to Lakshmi Mata (the Goddess Lakshmi) giving thanks for her blessings in the past and craving her continued guidance and blessings in the future.
This year's celebration, however, is perhaps very significant in that our Maha-Sabha celebrated, its fifteenth anniversary and we mark the second occasion since the day was declared a national holiday by our Government.
The origin of the festival is as old as Hinduism itself, for in our sacred books we read that Lakshmi Puja was observed even during the Sata Yuga (golden age).
But whatever the original significance of the festival -- whether it is to commemorate "the coming of light into the universe" or Lakshmi Puja or the return of Lord Rama -- from his 14 years of exile from Ayodhya -- Divali should have a practical significance to us in this age.
Apart from its sacredness and festivities, it is a day for stock-taking. A day to be reminded that we must endeavour to shed that true "Light -- the embodiment of the Supreme Being -- wisdom, knowledge, truth, honesty and forgiveness, virtues that truly make man the ideal being and consequently the world a better place for all.
Divali is, therefore, unique in that it provides us with the opportunity to check our journey along the road of time.
The year 1952 was a very eventful one, as far as Hindus are concerned. The bitter controversy between the "Board of Control" and the "Association" came to an end, when on the 8th of May that year, the then Minister of Education and Social Services, Mr. Roy A. Joseph, introduced a Bill in the Legislative Council for the merging of the two bodies, which gave birth to our present organisation.
The names of the late Sir Courtney Hannays and Mr. Alan Storey, with who I had the honour of serving on the committee, must not be forgotten. The new organisation -- Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha of Trinidad and Tobago Inc. -- was recognised as a school building authority on July 25 of the same year.
Permission was granted to us to build state assisted schools on August 21 of the very year, and the first six schools, with Government's blessing, opened their doors to the children of the country on September 2, of the eventful year. Two months later, another six schools were established and all these buildings at no cost to the Government then.
During the 15 years (1952-1967) 40 primary and three secondary schools were established. Our schools carry a total enrolment of approximately 17,000 pupils and nearly 700 teachers. In addition to this, I am pleased to record that many new temples were established as centers for worship, and numerous study groups in the form of Ramayan goals and Kirtan Mandalis (Puja groups). Lakshmee Sabhas have been organised. The community spirit has developed much more and community yags, such as Bhagwats, Ramayan and Sandhias, are widespread.
With all the "achievements", however, many problems remain to be solved, and it is with concerned efforts on your part that we could shed the "light to make life more meaningful.
I am pleased to record
I wish, also, to pay my
To the teachers of our schools and other dedicated workers of the Maha Sabha, I say:
On this great day, you the people along with your children, will join in family prayer -(puja) and spiritual festivities.
It is my sincere prayer and fervent hope that you will keep the sacredness of the festival where it belongs; that Lakshmi Mata will bestow her richest blessings on all of us and on all peoples of the world, so that light will dispel darkness, and the present world tension will be removed, and all peoples, instead of fighting with each other, will join hands to fight ignorance, poverty, disease and dirt.