Holidays BROUGHT BY OUR EAST INDIAN ANCESTORS

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East Indian Guyanese are not only followers of the Hindu faith. Many of them are also Muslims. Hence, in this series, we will examine the background of religious observances that are widely
respected and celebrated by each group in Guyana.

YOUMAN NABI
This holiday is based on the birth of the Prophet Muhammad. It is done in a celebration titled Mawlid al- Nabi, or Youman Nabi. Muslims recognise that Youman Nabi also represents the struggles for justice, peace and equality. The Prophet Muhammad, On Whom Be Peace (OWBP), lived and
established a global and universal religious movement now embraced by millions of mankind.
Prophet Muhammad, as the final messenger of God to mankind, brought a message of total inoculation against the evil of society. He liberated women and provided a system to maintain stability in the home, in society and in the world. He taught mankind how to preserve their honour and property and infused in them the understanding of respect, compassion, love and concern for each other. It is also believed that he changed mankind’s way of thinking towards the recognition of God and His commandments. He influenced people’s behaviour and altered their evil inclinations. He came as a Mercy unto Mankind and was emulated in his character and disposition that helped transform brutal men into sacred personalities.
Most Masjids (Mosques) will organise Youman Nabi functions and deliberate on the relevance of the Prophet’s message. This includes his moral teachings. The Prophet’s message of peace is particularly relevant today as humility and kindness are needed within society. The primary message of Prophet Muhammad encapsulates all that is necessary to become a good human being; as unless one is a good human being, they cannot belong to  the community of Islam, because the Prophet exemplifies
and characterizes the way a good human being should live. Today, most Muslims try to follow the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad; but it is only the true followers of Prophet Muhammad who will heed the lessons he imparted and treat their fellow humans the way he instructed. This year (2018), Youman Nabi will be celebrated on November 21.

EID AL-ADHA
At the end of the Hajj (annual pilgrimage to Makkah), Muslims throughout the world celebrate the holiday of Eid al-Adha, the Festival of Sacrifice. During the celebration of Eid al-Adha, Muslims commemorate and remember Abraham’s trials, by themselves slaughtering an animal such as a sheep, camel or goat. This action is very often misunderstood by those outside the faith. Allah gave mankind the power over animals and allowed him to eat meat but only if he pronounces His name at
the solemn act of taking life. Muslims slaughter animals in the same way throughout the year. By saying the name of Allah at the time of slaughter, they are reminded that life is sacred.
The meat from the sacrifice of Eid al-Adha is mostly given away to others. One-third is eaten by
immediate family and relatives, one-third is given away to friends, and one-third is donated to the
poor. The act symbolizes willingness to give up things that are of benefit to us or close to our hearts
in order to follow Allah’s commands. It also symbolizes a willingness to give up some of one’s
own bounties in order to strengthen ties of friendship and help those who are in need.

RAMADAN
Ramadan, which this year (2018) began on May 16 and ended on June 14, is the most important period of the Islamic calendar. It is a tremendous gift from Allah as it provides a glorious opportunity to uplift, empower, and change the daunting circumstances of an individual. The most important message of Ramadan is that our value, as human beings, is the soul and not the body. As such, during Ramadan, the body is required to go through a stage of deprivation in order to uplift the soul. It is a period that requires a break from the pop culture and saying goodbye to the endless and futile pursuit of happiness in sensory pleasures. It calls on the believers of the faith to rediscover and reorient themselves. Muslims are expected to devote much of their time to the reading of the Qur’an, to
voluntary worship, to prayers and conversations with Allah. They are expected to reflect on the direction of their life and priorities therein.

PHAGWAH
Phagwah, also known as Holi, is one of Guyana’s most joyous and colourful holidays. In Guyana, on the morning of Holi, it is customary to see citizens wishing each other Happy Holi and dousing each other with buckets full of water and spraying abeer (coloured powder mixed with water) from their water guns. The men from the Hindu communities will walk around their villages singing
chowtaal (Hindustani classical music) while the women are usually at home busy preparing Indian
delicacies such as gulaab jamoon, gojha, gul-gula, pholourie, etc. In the afternoon, everyone is usually dressed in white and carrying with them containers or bags filled with powder and water guns filled with abeer. These are used to engage in a playful exchange of colourful powder and liquids.

DIWALI
Diwali is derived from the Sanskrit word “Deepavali,” meaning the Festival of Lights. For most
Hindus in Guyana, Diwali marks the return of deities, Rama and Sita, after 14 years of exile. To
commemorate their return, devotees light oil lamps, called ‘diyas’, that illuminate the path in the
darkness. The festival is also linked to Mother Lakshmi – the Goddess of wealth and prosperity –
and her birth on the first day of the five day-long event.The festival is an important occasion that marks the  victory of light over darkness, knowledge over ignorance, and good over evil.

NAVRATRI
The word ‘Navaratri’ literally means ‘Nine nights in Sanskrit’, ‘Nava’ meaning nine and ‘ratri’ meaning
nights. During these nine nights and ten days, nine forms of Shakti/Devi are worshipped.
The seeds of inner renewal are sown, watched and worshipped by devotees during Navratri and on the
8th, 9th and 10th days, Goddess Durga, Mahanavami and Vijayashtami are worshipped. The
tenth day that is commonly referred to as Vijayadashami or ‘Dussehra’, celebrates victory of
Shakti over Mahishasura, of Lord Rama over Ravana, and of Durga over demons like Madhu-Kaitav,
Chanda-Munda and Shumbha-Nishumbha; that is victory of good over evil. The last three days of Navratri are called Durgashtami (8th day), Mahanavami (9th day) and Vijayadasami (10th day). On the morning of the tenth day, there is a fire ceremony dedicated to Shiva, where the Navaratri participants have a chance to receive Shiva’s blessing. The dates of the festival are determined according to the lunar calendar.

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