Hindus in Trinidad and Tobago - like in many other countries in the Caribbean - celebrated Maha Shivaratri, an annual festival organized in honour of Lord Shiva, one of the Hindu Trinity, with great gusto
Hindus in Trinidad and Tobago - like in many other countries in the Caribbean - celebrated Maha Shivaratri, an annual festival organized in honour of Lord Shiva, one of the Hindu Trinity, with great gusto. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, thousands of Hindus participated in a night-long vigil on the occasion of Maha Shivaratri last week. According to a recent survey, Hindus constitute 16.6 percent of the national population of 1.4 million people of Trinidad and Tobago.
Several Indian diaspora TV and radio channels hosted night-long presentations demonstrating that Hinduism remains strong in this oil-rich Caribbean nation. Maha Shivaratri remains one of the many Hindu festivals that is celebrated here since the arrival of the East Indian diaspora between 1845 and 1917. The East Indian community here was sourced from India, principally from the states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, and these immigrants were pulled from India to salvage a decaying agricultural community.
It is estimated that approximately 148,000 East Indians settled in several parts of Trinidad, particularly Central and South Trinidad, although some found their way in places like St. James, Curepe, San Juan, and Barataria.
Though, this year several temples shortened the night vigil, while many devotees opted to do their pujas in the safety and comfort of their homes due to COVID.
Some of the temples which accommodated hundreds of devotees were the Edinburgh Hindu Temple, Chaguanas and the Shiva Kailash Temple of Caparo, where both old and young participated in great number. Hindus armed with the ingredients to perform rituals kept vigil in over 300 temples, and other public places of worship, despite strict COVID- 19 protocols in place.
As the crime rate has soared, priests in the local temples focussed on it during their sermons.
Pandit Ramesh Tiwari of the Edinburgh Hindu Temple, in his sermon, called on the people “to join forces with one another and with the police to rid the nation of the heinous crimes.”
“Let us pray to Lord Shiva to help us in this endeavor."
Pandit Seereeram Maharaj of the Shiva Kailash Temple also called on “everyone to pray from their hearts and ask Lord Shiva to end our nation’s major crisis.”
He stressed the “urgent need for a strong family life which would help a great deal to wither away the storms of crimes and lawlessness.”
Pandit Tiwari urged young Hindus “to become active in temples, which would help them to move away from the streets and into the house of God. Let us begin anew to spread the message of Hinduism to everyone.”
Hundreds of devotees also distributed clothes and sweets to the poor, the needy, and the destitute.
(The writer is an Indian-origin journalist based in Port of Spain, Trinidad)