March 2015 \ Diaspora News \ Trinidad and Tobago
Celebrating Lord Shiva’s great night

Lord Shiva’s great night celebrations showcase the rich culture and diversity of the island.

By Dr Kumar Mahabir

 Just like Carnival, the festival of Shivaratri should be promoted as a significant event on the cultural and tourism calendar of Trinidad and Tobago. In addition to the regular Carnival attractions, tour operators should take tourists to Shivaratri celebrations to showcase the rich cultural diversity of the island. The sacred festival of Shivaratri often coincides with the secular celebration of Carnival in the twin-island republic. The dates for both events were calculated by the lunar calendar with Carnival climaxing at mid-night February 17, 2015 and Shivaratri ending about the same time. This year, the Hindu festival of Shivaratri fell on the final day of Carnival, which was originally a Roman Catholic “last-hurrah” celebration bidding “farewell to the flesh.”

Carnival ended before Ash Wednesday which is dedicated to the confession of one’s sins. It is expected that many Catholics who participated in Carnival would go to mass to place ash on their forehead as a symbol of repentance. Ash Wednesday begins the fasting period known as Lent. It also marks the Seventh Wednesday before Easter which celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ. While Hindus fast and pray in congregation during Shivaratri, Roman Catholics observe pious or penitential practices after Carnival. For Hindus who participate in Carnival, this year’s Carnival presents a challenge because they are free to indulge in the senses when Carnival is finished.

While Hindu devotees worship Lord Shiva for Shivaratri, as the Divine Dancer, Roman Catholics celebrate King Carnival as the Supreme Being of Bacchanal. It must be emphasized that expiatory figures, as well as the ceremonies and imagery associated with them, are oppositional. Shivaratri means the Great Night of Lord Shiva. The festival is observed in the over 300 public temples in Trinidad on the fourteenth lunar night of the dark, moonless fortnight in the Hindu month of Phalgun, which corresponds to late February or early March in the Western Gregorian calendar.