A burning lantern is held aloft from a set of steps on the La Caleta shoreline, the waves lap gently as 2,000 people gather around candles burning in small hollows in the sand as the hot Tenerife sun slowly sets out to sea. That was my introduction to the Hindu faith in Tenerife in May 2009 and this years Ceremony of Divine Light on 22 August, promises to be even more inspiring after a day’s Festival of Yoga at the El Galeon sports centre, also in Costa Adeje.
The Hindu Association of Tenerife South has reached out to the other Tenerife faiths and communities over the last few years and the response has been warm and encouraging. I met with Rajesh Pursnani known locally as Rocky, in the Safari Centre. The Indian involvement in local commerce has mirrored and driven the growth of Tenerife South over the last 35 years. So what does the association do?
“We formed our group back in 1975 and have nearly 300 active members and many more that contribute in different ways. Then in 2008 we decided to get more involved with our neighbours and staged an Intercultural Feria (above) in the streets of El Galeon, Adeje. Mayor Fraga and the Adeje Ayuntamiento (council) were very helpful from the start and have supported all our events. We had 10,000 people turn up for the feria and it was a wonderful meeting of people from different backgrounds. Then we had another earlier this year and raised 24,000 euros for the Haiti appeal.”
The Ceremony of Divine Light in 2009 was a celebration of music and dance telling many of the stories that form the backbone of the Hindu faith. Children played a big part, many already mingle daily with other cultures in local schools, and the buzz of them chatting and playing in groups across the sand reflected the open, friendly mood of the evening. Mayor Fraga and other local dignitaries shared the stage and the ceremonies with honoured guest Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji , a revered spiritual leader from Rishikesh in India. This year the Swami will again lead the prayers and wishes for peace in Indian, Spanish and English.
Earlier in the day the free Festival of Yoga takes place in the El Galeon sports hall from 9am to 6.30pm. Yoga plays an important role in the Hindu faith as Rocky explained. “It’s very much a union of body, spirit and mind and helps to put you at ease with yourself and the world. We are looking to attract people who haven’t tried yoga before, we have local teachers and monitors will look after groups of around 25 so they get a good introduction. There will also be talks about the history and meaning of yoga, the Swami will be leading one of them.”
After the day of yoga all roads will lead down to Playa de la Enramada at La Caleta for the Ceremony of Divine Light, the Aarti is the climax of the event and best described in the words of the faith.
Aarti is the beautiful ceremony in which deepas (the oil lamps) are offered to God. Aarti can be done to a deity in the temple, it can be done on the banks of the Ganges to Mother Ganga, or it can be done to a saint. It is performed to God, in any manifestation, any form, by any name. The essence of the aarti ceremony is that all day long God offers us light – the light of the sun, the light of life, the light of His (Her) blessings. Aarti is a time when we say “thank you,” and we offer back the light of our thanks, the light of our love and the light of our devotion. We realize that the small deepa is nothing compared to the divine light which shines on us all day. So, aarti is a ceremony of humility, a time in which we acknowledge that “God, you are everything. I am nothing. All day you shine upon the world. All I can offer you is this small deepa, a flame which will be blown out by the passing wind. But, I offer it with devotion and with love. Please accept my offering.”
One of the meanings of Aarti literally is “remover of pain.” This is beautiful, because there is nothing inherent in the name of the ceremony that says which form or name of God it should be performed to. It should be performed to the Divine Remover of Pain in our life.
The aarti takes place as the sun goes down at around 8.20pm, that’s when everyone heads down to the shoreline as a forest of flames flicker brightly and prayers are said for future peace and healing.
Everyone is welcome at the yoga and the beach ceremony, and will be again for the biggest Hindu event of the year, Ganesh on 19 September. That will start at 11am at the Hindu Cultural Centre at La Pineda, Torviscas Alto before heading to the beach in the evening. For more information on the Hindu religion go to www.parmarth.com or the Hindu Association of Tenerife South site , you can also find them at Facebook.