National Trust observes Divali with educational presentations
The Siewdass Sadhu Temple in the Sea. You can visit the National Trust's Facebook page for more information on temples around Trinidad and Tobago. Photo: Kevin Ousman
The National Trust will observe this year's Divali celebrations with a look at the history of Divali and an overview of some of the well-known temples in Trinidad and Tobago.
Dr Radica Mahase, Senior Lecturer at COSTAATT, will do a presentation on the History of Divali from the time it was introduced by Indian Indentured Labourers to contemporary celebrations in Trinidad and Tobago.
This can be viewed on the National Trust Youtube channel on Friday, November 13.
Dr. Visham Bhimull, founder of Caribbean Hindustani, will also share an interesting history of Hindustani language and Divali.
This presentation will take the form of a pre-recorded video immediately followed by a virtual meeting with Dr. Bhimull for further remarks and questions on Thursday, November 12.
The Trust is also sharing the history behind the presence of some of the many temples that have come to form an integral part of the cultural, religious and built landscape that uniquely defines Trinidad and Tobago. here are the temples you can read more about on the Trust's website: Temple in the Sea, Exchange Village Shiv Mandir (Mud Mandir), Moose Bhagat Temple and Reform Village Shiva Mandir.
The public can look forward to opportunities to visit these when the Trust resumes tours.
The Reform Shiva Mandir
Temple In The Sea
Off the coast at Waterloo, this temple is regarded as a sacred pilgrimage destination for worshippers. Originally built in 1947 on land, Siewdass Sadhu’s first construction had to be removed as it was in McMillan Park, which was private land belonging to Tate and Lyle Limited. He was even charged and arrested after legal proceedings surrounding the construction of this structure. Nonetheless, determined to have the temple built, he turned to the sea and spent over 25 years “toting” material on his bicycle, from land to waters of the Gulf of Paria. His hard work is testimony to the strength of the human spirit. It is an essential ingredient when one considers that Divali is all about spiritual enlightenment. Our interpretation is that he was unwavering in his beliefs, which saw him through to the end of this project, allowing or members of his community to have a safe place of worship, to practice and carry on their beliefs. This temple is on a man-made island and is connected to the mainland by a pedestrian causeway. Images and murtis of Hindu deities are displayed in an exquisite manner. The temple was rebuilt in 1995 under a committee of which Randal Rampersad was Chairman.
Exchange Village Shiv Mandir (Mud Mandir)
This temple was built of mud and cow dung at the hands of indentured labourers who resided in the barracks adjoining the estate. Located in Couva, this is one of the oldest standing temples in T&T. The walls of this structure are termite resistant and feature large, raised-relief sculptures portraying several deities, making it unique to Caribbean vernacular architecture. The sole alteration to the original structure is the addition of an aluminum roof was installed in 1985. This Mandir is now a protected monument as it was listed as a property of interest in 2019.
Moose Bhagat Hindu Temple
Located in Tableland, it is believed to be the second oldest temple built in the Western hemisphere. Manhant Moose Bhagat Dass was allotted land along the Naparima/Mayaro Road after his indentureship. While clearing the land, his blade struck a rock and blood flowed from it. In a dream that night Lord Shiva appeared to him, instructed that a temple be constructed on the site of the bleeding rock- as this was actually Shiva’s resting place and therefore a sacred place. Work began in 1902 and was completed in 1904, with this temple being done in honour of Shiva. The stone that inspires this holy building resides with the temple.
Reform Village Shiva Mandir
Located in Gasparillo, this gem on Railway Road is an original historical building that was completed in 1945 but opened in 1946 on the night of “Maha Shivratri” (Great Night of Lord Shiva). The entire temple was constructed by hand, using sand and stone materials collected in buckets from the Guaracara River. The walls were hand plastered, featuring representations of Ganesh, Vishnu and Parvati. Without the use of modern tools and being compelled by faith to build their own place of worship, the Hindu forbearers, put in commendable work in creating this sacred site. In 2019 this Mandir became a listed property of interest protected under the National Trust Act.
The public is invited to visit the National Trust's Facebook page to share experiences on how they are celebrating Divali this year.