On behalf of the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha of T&T Inc,
I was invited by the Government of India to make a presentation
at the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas 2006 in Hyderbad (Global Indian
Diaspora Days), on the Role of social/cultural organisations
in promoting Indian culture in the diaspora and linking the
diaspora with India.
Jaipal Reddy, Minister of Culture and Urban Development, India,
was chairman of the fourth plenary session. Included in this
panel with me was Dr Karan Singh, maharajah of Jamu and Kashmir
and president of the Indian Council for Cultural Relations:
Culture is expressed in every area of life. But the
most important aspects of a culture are not heard or seen.
It is the way of thinking. It is the way of looking at the
universe. It refers to elements such as values, norms, beliefs,
attitudes, folkways, behaviour styles and traditions that
are linked together to form an integrated whole.
In his History of Indian Culture, Prof N Jayapalan writes:
Culture is that complex whole which includes knowledge,
belief, art, moral, law, custom and any other capabilities
and habits acquired by man as a member of society.
Aleena Ali, in an essay, India came to the Caribbean, wrote:
One evening in February 1845, the sailing ship Fath
Al Razak departed the Calcutta harbours on the Hoogly River
and moved slowly into the Bay of Bengal, leaving behind a
low green outline of the Indian mainland. Aboard were 232
men and women bound for Trinidad, a British sugar colony,
some 14,000 km away. They came from all walks of lifevictims
of farming, paupers, landless, indebted tenants, and even
On the evening of May 30, 1845, after 103 days, the
Fath Al Razak, the first ship ever to bring Indian immigrants
in Trinidad, docked just outside the old lighthouse at South
Quay in Port-of-Spain.
For more than 100 years our community remained isolated, ignored
and uneducated. The pass law confined them to
specific plantations. The first major break occurred in 1952
when my organisation, the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha, was incorporated
by Parliaments Act #41 in 1952. We were then given the
right to establish schools and in the process hundreds of
mandirs and to create a national Hindu structure.
Our chief purpose was to bring a western-type education via
the national school curriculum to our community that was more
than 65 per cent illiterate. And to anchor our people in our
ancient Hindu traditions was a prime purpose of our creation.
To date, my organisation has established 60 colleges and schools
in which the teachers are Hindus. With joint arrangements,
their salaries and all expenses are borne by the State.
The national curriculum permits the first period of every
school day to be used for the propagation of the Hindu religion,
Hindi, the playing of musical instruments and promotion of
other Indian traditions. We have created our own syllabus
that teaches the Ramayan, Bhagwat Gita and other Hindu texts.
At a national level we have been able to influence the general
population and bring India not only to the diaspora but to
all our citizens as the culture is not confined to Divali,
Phagwa, Ramleela and Shiva Ratri.
The food we eat has been influenced by India. Bara, kuchela,
chutney, dhal, phoulorie and the dhalpourie roti is regarded
as a national dish of my country. Curry and massala are the
preferred condiments. Through the palate of the population,
India influences T&T on a daily basis.
Carried in their bundles, our indentured immigrant foreparents
transported seeds of many of the Indian vegetables we eat
today. Aadi (ginger), urdi, baigan (eggplant), carailli, chalta,
elichi, hardi, jhingi, lauki, karapule, katahar and scores
of plants and vegetables ensure an eternal link with India.
Trees like the neem, paan, peepal, ashoka, saijan, tulsi,
dhatur, chameli, madar, chandan, bael and the mango can be
found in all parts of my country. A living dynamic presence
Even the language links my country to India on a daily basis.
We communicate through Hindi words like political pundits,
mantra, khoorchar, jhanjat,
neemakaram. Greetings of sita ram,
namaskar and namaste could be heard
on the radio and TV stations and on streets. In politics,
the cry of apna jaat is a call to racial voting.
Indian dance, music and drama are now an established part
of the cultural landscape of T&T. Every one of our 60
schools and 160 mandirs have musical instruments, like the
harmonium, sitar, santoor, dholak, tabla and brass cymbals
like the jhal. J&R Overseas, based in Delhi, are producers
of Bina instruments and they supply these instruments
Many of our Indian songs and music creations have been exported
to Canada, USA, Guyana, Suriname and even India. Some years
ago a local songster by the name of Sundar Popo created a
song that vibrated across the Indian diaspora. Phoulorie Bena
Chutney Kaisa Bena was a monster hit.
In this area of culture, India can assist my country by
completing the Indian Cultural Centre. Apart from turning
the sod twice, no work has been done.
MAHARAJ is the Secretary General of the Sanatan Dharma Maha