In photo:The youth on stage, following a cultural performance at an evening of glitz and glamour during the Diwali Ball last year, organised by the Indian Merchants Association. Rajesh Chintaman photo

Hindus of all cultural backgrounds in St. Maarten and all over the world are celebrating Diwali, with tomorrow, Sunday, being the most important day. Also known as the festival of lights, Diwali sees people share in prayers, give gifts, decorate homes and businesses, and open doors to host and feast with loved ones. The holiday celebrates spiritual victory, triumph of good over evil and knowledge over ignorance.

The post-harvest festival, which coincides with the Hindu New Year, lasts five days, with each day focusing on different aspects: shopping (especially for gold and silver), decorating and cleaning the home, feasting with family and friends, the exchange of gifts between spouses, and spending time amongst siblings.

The exact dates of the festivities change each year, as they are based on the Hindu calendar, but it’s celebrated between October and November.

The return of deities Rama and Sita to Ayodhya, after a 14-year exile, is celebrated during the holiday, as is the destruction of a demon called Mahisha by Mother Goddess Durga.

Lakshmi, the Hindu goddess of wealth, is worshipped as the bringer of blessings for the New Year. Wealth is not only about money or material possessions of course, but also encompasses prosperity, good health, knowledge, strength, progeny, courage, success and power.

This year, besides private and family celebrations, there will be formal celebrations organised by both the Indian Merchants Association, and the St. Maarten Hindu Organisation.

The Indian Merchants Association (IMA) will once again be celebrating Diwali in grand style, with two separate events. The first, focused on the youth, will see more than 80 youngsters perform both classic/traditional and contemporary dances and songs. The Diwali Kids Ball is set to be a spectacular night, hosted at Princess Port de Plaisance on Friday, November 8.

In December, another gala will be held, this time for the adults: The IMA’s annual Grand Ball. Attendees can look forward to another stunning night, full of entertainment, dancing, food, and a special sense of community. A surprise celebrity guest from India, yet to be announced, will be gracing the stage. Further event details are yet to be announced. To keep up to date, visit Facebook.com/IMASXM

IMA members and their families have been organising formal Diwali events in St. Maarten since the 1980s. The successful celebrations often attract over 300 attendees.

The St. Maarten Hindu Organisation is also looking forward to once again hosting its annual Diwali event, which is set for Saturday, November 2, at Belair Community Centre in Cay Hill. The cultural evening starts at 8:00pm, and will include a great line-up of classic and contemporary music, singing, traditional and modern dancing, and skits depicting the stories of how Diwali came to be.

The event is expected to be a hit, after a two-year hiatus starting with the 2017 hurricanes, and is also expected to attract some 300 celebrants. To stay up to date, visit Facebook.com/SXMHinduOrganization.

Happy Diwali!