Trinidad & Tobago Hindus celebrate Shivaratri with fervour

March 7th, 2008 - 7:01 pm ICT by admin  

By Paras Ramoutar
Port-of-Spain, March 7 (IANS) Spirituality, meditation, chanting of mantras, singing of devotional songs and benediction formed the tenor of Shivaratri ibn Trinidad and Tobago. The Hindu festival is celebrated to mark the wedding of Lord Shiva and his consort Parvati. T&T’s nearly 500,000-devout Hindus, like those in India and in over 80 countries where the Indian diaspora resides, marked this auspicious and religious day of Shivaratri Thursday.

Lord Shiva is the reigning Hindu deity in oil-rich Trinidad and Tobago. Almost every temple organises elaborate prayers and thousands worship Shiva and his wife at home in private ceremonies.

This year Trinidad and Tobago’s five exclusive East Indian radio stations aired the celebrations live.

Since Wednesday morning, the temples were a flurry of activity. Devotees, mostly women with their families, thronged the premises decked up in their finery and took the lead in observing the rituals, which included pouring of water and milk on the ‘lingam’ (icon of Lord Shiva) and offering fruits and sweetmeats as ‘prasadam (divine offering).

The Edinburg Hindu Temple, led by Pundit Ramesh Tiwari at Edinburg village in Chagauanas, struggled to accommodate the crowd of the country’s large population of East Indian settlers, who filed in to pray to Lord Shiva.

The Blue Star temple, led by Sri Vasudeva, hosted the festival at the Lumsden Street Hindu Temple in Gasparillo while the Caparo Shiva Kailash Mandir, led by Pundit Seereeram Maharaj, celebrated the festival in all its traditional glory.

Priests at Edinburgh Hindu Temple sang devotional songs in praise of Lord Shiva and read aloud excerpts from the Shiva Purana. The devotees offered flowers, milk, ghee and curd to the lord.

For the past three weeks, several temples and individuals across the nation hosted the Shiva Yagna in preparation for the day. Old Hindu women with ceremonial pots of water were seen trekking through the lonely countryside on their way to temples.

Pundit Tiwari of Edinburg Temple said Lord Shiva is gaining in status in T&T and it augurs well for the future of Hinduism. “It is an annual occasion that Hindus anticipate and prepare themselves psychologically and spiritually,” the priest said.

Indeira Naipaul, board member of Blue Star, explains: “The observance of Shiva Ratri gives one an exponential spur into the realms of spirituality.”

“The Blue Star continues to incite peoples of T&T with its meditative and all-embracing approach to the dynamics of spirituality,” she said. “Our temple was overflowing with infants joining in the observance. We shut down at 7 a.m. Thursday morning. We felt the vibrations of Lord Shiva all along our meditation,” Naipaul noted.

East Indian indentured labourers brought with them Hinduism to T&T and the Caribbean between 1838 and 1917. The T&T shipment started in 1845 and continued till 1917 till indentureship ended.

Nearly the 500,000-strong Indian diaspora comprises 40 per cent of the T&T’s population, while the figures are 51 per cent and 53 per cent in neighbouring Guyana and Surinam respectively.

The Ramayana, Shiva Puran, and the Bhagvad Gita were among the several religious texts found in the bundle that the east Indians labourers carried with them. The labourers were sourced from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.

According to various religious scriptures, the festival is celebrated on “Trayodasi” or the 13th day in the month of Masi or Phalgun, usually 15 days before Holi.

It falls within the Christian period of Lent and the scale at which it is observed speaks of the cosmopolitan nature of T&T’s religious diversity and cultural heritage.

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