Georgetown, Guyana – (October 18, 2017) President David Granger and First Lady, Mrs. Sandra Granger, this evening, hosted a Diwali Utsav at the Baridi Benab at State House in observance of the festival of lights, where he said all Guyanese must use the observance of this National Holiday to put aside their differences and work for the good of the country.

“When we were a colony we never celebrated Hindu and Islamic festivals as national holidays but this is one the gifts of Independence and I believe that this observance will help to build respect and help to build understanding among the people of Guyana. I think that this type of observance helps Guyanese to understand each other and demystifies the religious precepts and helps Guyanese to come closer to each other. Diwali is close to us because it is the festival of lights. It is the festival, which signifies the victory of light over darkness, of knowledge over ignorance, the victory of togetherness over divisiveness and it is a lesson that all Guyanese can learn that it is not a Hindu thing. It is a national thing,” he said.

Describing State House as a home for all Guyanese, the Head of State said that he will ensure that more national holidays are celebrated there as all such observances provide lessons for all citizens and should be celebrated and observed across the country. He said, “Anything that brings Guyanese closer together is good and I believe that Diwali is good for us. Every region of Guyana should hold a Diwali observance because it is a national observance. All Guyanese need to learn the lessons of coming together and overcoming poverty, overcoming illiteracy.”

Swami Aksharananda of the Saraswati Vidya Niketan Secondary School, in his remarks, said that it is unfortunate that one group of individuals have decided to use the festival of Diwali to bring segregation and promote divisiveness in the Hindu community and further afield to fulfil their own political agenda. The religious leader said that every country that falls under the longitude in which Guyana is located from Toronto to Buenos Aires, is celebrating the official day of Diwali today.

“It is quite an interesting juxtaposition that we see in our society today where this festival of Diwali is concerned. There is a kind of unspeakable monumental and stupendous ignorance that is prevailing among some sectors of the Hindu community unfortunately. It is only one single organisation in this entire hemisphere that insists that Diwali must be done at some other time. This kind of ignorance and stupidity can only be matched by the amount of disdain these people have for the people whom they claim to speak. If they know what the truth is and I am confident that they know what the truth is, what the writing is but they insist in the name of Diwali to make the Hindus and the Hindu festival an instrument of political activity and what else can it be but that?” he said.

Nevertheless, Swami Aksharananda said that Diwali, which focuses on the Goddess Lakshmi also has a message, which speaks to self-help and working towards your own destiny and this must become a prevailing message for all Guyanese at this auspicious time. “Lakshmi reminds us that our destiny is in our hands and we have to take hold of that and move forward boldly otherwise we will be subjecting ourselves to dehumanisation and that is not good for our people. At this time, we must resist all attempts to devalue to diminish our people in any way whatsoever. This festival and the light that we lit today holds for us a hope that we can transcend all and every challenge and move forward to build for this country and our people, the life that I believe we all richly deserve,” he said.

Mr. Venu Mataji from the Crane ISKCON Hare Krishna Temple, echoed these sentiments as he spoke to the significance of Diwali, which he said represents victory over darkness and evil and calls for cooperation and unity. “Diwali from a spiritual point of view marks the victory over darkness, victory over obstacles or evil in a sense that Lord Rama returned on a day like today from Lanka and the entire City of Ayodhya would have been lighted up. The significance of us celebrating this year after year is to bring light into our hearts and into our society, into our country that we can light up our country with the good will and the blessings of the Lord, which will go a far way in brining happiness, peace and love,” he said.

Meanwhile, Mr. Mataji said that it is indeed commendable that the President and the First Lady made a decision to celebrate this auspicious festival in their home with members of the Hindu community.
Mr. Malcolm Harripaul, who was tasked with responsibility for organising the event, said that when he was contacted by President Granger, the occasion was so significant to the President’s heart that he was told that all Hindu invitees must be made to feel comfortable and at home. As such, the venue was decorated to resemble a Mandir and sweet treats were prepared by members of the Hindu community.

The event was attended by Ministers of the Government, Members of the National Assembly, members of the diplomatic corps and other special invitees.

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