Minister Rambachan visits Widow of Siewdass Sadhu
HISTORY OF SIEWDASS SADHU
By constructing a Mandir five hundred feet off the shore into the sea at Waterloo Bay, Central Trinidad almost single-handedly with “Hanumanian” effort, steadfastness and indomitable courage, even suffering colonial persecution, a poor and devout Sadhu has forever challenged and propelled the collective will and psyche of Hindu Trinidadians and indeed Hindus worldwide to infinite possibilities. The very name SEWDASS SADHU (1903 – 1970) evokes rousing feelings of unique admiration and awe and embodies the dreams and aspirations of the Hindu Samaj yet to burst forth into unified glory.
A legend! A National Hero! The indefatigable Sewdass Sadhu will forever continue to shine brilliantly in our hearts. His BIRTH CENTENARY will be observed from January 1st, 2002 – January 1st, 2003.
We owe a debt of pious obligation and gratitude to Sadhuji and our Pitris (PITRI RINA) to commemorate this momentous Centenary with all the pomp and pageantry it richly deserves yet promoting the deep spirituality espoused by Sewdass Sadhu.
Several spiritual and intellectual as well as cultural and social programmes can be planned with some being effectively incorporated within our exciting Utsavs, religious and cultural festivals for maximum effect.
DHARMA DHURANDHAR (Defender of Dharma) Sewdass Sadhu is ours: to cherish with pride and dignity; to present to the world as our Caribbean Hindu Hero befitting our adoration and for us to be inspired by his brilliance and forthrightness into assertive and noble action.
The Legendary Sewdass Sadhu
“When a man is born, whoever he may be, there is born simultaneously a debt to the devas, to the sages, to the ancestors, and to men.” – Yajur Veda
One century ago, Bhaarat (India) witnessed the birth of a son whose name today evokes rousing sentiments of awe and admiration among Hindus in Trinidad and Tobago. Sewdass was born on January 1, 1903 to Boodhram and Bissoondayia. At the tender age of four, he came aboard the SS Mutlah bound for a new land. He was accompanied by his parents and two younger brothers. Along with his parents, young Sewdass toiled under the Indentureship scheme at the Waterloo Estates in Central Trinidad.
Sewdass dwelled in a small village named Barrancore, known today as Brickfield, for a number of years. After the death of his parents and having served the period of his indenture, Sewdass returned to Bhaarat for the first time in 1926. He first journeyed back to Bhaarat on a Dutch ship. The First World War was just ending. The voyage was perilous. Whilst in Bhaarat, he received benediction from a pandit who was 120 years of age. Sewdass was moved to pledge to construct a mandir on his safe return to Trinidad. He subsequently visited Bhaarat on four more occasions – 1940, 1946, 1963 and 1970.
Unable to bear the separation from the country he had come to love and respect as his own home, Sewdass returned and settled among the residents at Waterloo Village in Central Trinidad. During this time, he established and managed a small grocery at his home. He held firm to his strong moral beliefs and spiritual practices. He was, hence, nicknamed Sadhu, or religious one, by the villagers.
As time passed, Sewdass Sadhu continued to nurture the dream of one day building a mandir through which he could impart the spiritual doctrines and millennia-old traditions and customs of his ancestors to the children of his village.
The realization of this long cherished dream commenced in October 1947. Sewdass Sadhu purchased a small parcel of land from Caroni (1975) Ltd. at the edge of the Waterloo Bay and began the Herculean task of clearing the land, constructing the mandir and installing the murtis (icons) for worship. For four years, residents of the village and neighbouring villages came and performed poojas at the mandir.
Then in 1952, Sewdass Sadhu was ordered by Caroni (1975) Ltd. to demolish the mandir. With a heavy heart and tearful eyes, he refused to destroy this abode of God. His refusal to comply landed him in jail for 14 days with a fine of $400 for trespassing on State land. While held captive in jail, the company employees tore down the mandir and cleared the land of all evidence of its existence.
Immediately on his release, Sewdass Sadhu declared, “You broke the mandir on the land. Then I will build my mandir on nobody’s land. I will build a mandir in the sea.”
For 17 years after, Sewdass Sadhu continued the construction of his “Temple in the Sea”. His tools were simple – two buckets and a bicycle with a carrier at the back. In the buckets, he placed rocks, sand and cement. Balancing the buckets on the two handles of the bicycle, Sewdass Sadhu would push the bicycle out to the mandir site located some 500 feet off the shore into the sea at Waterloo Bay. Sometimes family and villagers assisted him, but largely, it was an almost single handed “Hanumanian” effort.
The “Temple in the Sea” today stands out as a lasting legacy of Dharmaveer Sewdass Sadhu.
Sewdass Sadhu passed away in 1971. In 1995, a concrete statue of him clad in traditional dhoti, kurta and mala standing with his hands clasped in the reverential pranaam posture was unveiled before the 5,000 Hindus present.
For Hindus in Trinidad and the world over, this Dharma Dhurandhar (Defender of Dharma) stands as an embodiment of indomitable courage, strength and determination – in fact, the quintessence of the fulfilment of the jahaajis’ mission to the Caribbean. A poor and devout Sadhu has forever challenged and propelled the collective will and psyche of Hindu Trinidadians and, indeed, Hindus worldwide to infinite possibilities. Sewdass Sadhu is ours to cherish with pride and dignity, to present to the world as our Hindu Hero befitting our adoration and for us to be inspired by his brilliance and forthrightness into assertive and noble action.
The Temple in the Sea
Over 300 mandirs are sprinkled throughout the landscape of the islands of Trinidad and Tobago. Undoubtedly, one stands out above the rest for its innate exceptionality of history, design and location. It is known worldwide as the famous “Temple in the Sea”. Dharmaveer Sewdass Sadhu commenced the initial construction of the original mandir in 1952. Located some 500 feet off the shore into the sea at Waterloo Bay in Central Trinidad, the mandir was built when the sea tide was low.
Every day, for almost five years, Sewdass Sadhu transported stone boulders, gravel, sand and cement in two buckets hanging from the handlebars of his old bicycle. Steel oil drums, filled with concrete, formed the foundation of the structure. Eventually the mandir began to take shape. The area of the original structure was 1,200 square feet.
The mandir consisted of three sections – a pooja area, a kitchen and an unfinished room which was intended to accommodate guests. Murtis were installed and an OM symbol stood atop the roof. The mandir was dedicated to Lord Shesha Naaraayana – the one who dwells in the sea. For 17 years, Sewdass Sadhu laboured continuously on the construction of the mandir….READ MORE
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