Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, connotes the victory of good over evil. The word ‘Diwali’ (or ‘Divali’) is from the Sanskrit word ‘dīpāvali’ meaning ‘row’ or ‘series of lights’. Homes are thoroughly cleaned and decorated with many lamps, candles and traditional Diwali diyas. Hindus believe that on the eve of the Lakshmi Puja, the Divali evening dominated by this goddess, the goddess Lakshmi will visit their home and fill it with wealth and prosperity.
The small earthen lamps that are lit especially at Diwali are called diyas. In Suriname high quality yellow clay from the Saramacca district is used to make these lamps. The clay is mixed with sand to get a firm consistency. On a turntable it is then shaped into little bowls. After the diyas are dried on racks under a roof they are placed in a stone kiln that is heated by wood where they are baked twice. In the first round the oven is fired up to 300°C and in the second round the diyas are baked 900°C.
The earthen lamps are filled with ghee (clarified butter) for fuel and cotton wool as a wick. Though people have become modern nowadays and have started using electric lamps to illuminate their homes, baked-mud diyas are still considered more holy and auspicious.
In 2020 Diwali will be observed on November 14.
Text: based on a previously published text by Claudett de Bruin for the Rotary Diary 2010
Photos diyas: Benito Ong A Swie