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Suruj talks of Hindu ‘miracles’; calls for temple in the Sea to be UNESCO heritage site

seatemple copyForeign Minister Dr Surujrattan Rambachan spoke on Wednesday about places of worship in Trinidad and Tobago where miracles have taken place and wondered about the transformation that would take place in the country if each home were to become a place of pilgrimage.

He was speaking at the opening of Divali Nagar 2010 in Chaguanas, where he was honoured with the title of Chief Guest. In his speech Rambachan devoted some time to speaking about local places of worship. He also called on UNESCO to declare the Siewdass Temple in the sea a World Heritage Site.

Here’s Dr Rambahcan, verbatim:

“The name Gheerahoo Trace, I am told by MP Chandresh Sharma was the first place in T&T where miracles were recorded as a result of worship of the lingam.

“The story goes that a villager was stung by a scorpion. Being alone, and at a time where cell phones were non-existent, he crawled to the lingam and touched it. He was miraculously healed.

“The story of Patiram Trace, perhaps one of the earliest places of pilgrimage is the story of the Nancoo family, of a cutlass that struck a stone from which milk flowed, a stone that has grown and is worshipped as a lingam, worship which has blessed many a life, caused many a miracle, created much happiness.

Patiram Trace Shiva Temple at Penal is famous for a Swayabhu (self manifested) Shivling. The Shivalingam in Patiram Trace Shiva Mandir is still growing according to devotees who are regular visitors to the temple.

According to local people about a century ago, a man was hired to clean the bush on top of the hill on the outskirts of Penal. After clearing some bush, he tried to sharpen his sword on a stone protruding on hill.

Suddenly, the stone chipped and milk flowed from the stone. Some people also say that blood flowed from it. After the incident the man lost his eyesight.

But he realized the power existing there and soon a small Shiva shrine was erected and he took care of the divine Shivling. Being blind he could not take care of the lingam properly and the man prayed to Shiva to have his eyes restored.

It is said that soon he got back his sight and devoted his entire life to the care of temple. Now, his family members are the custodians of the temple.

Surprisingly most Trinidadians have never heard about the small Hindu temple (mandir) nestled amongst the lush greenery at Chacachacare.

The Mandir was opened in 1945/6, built solely by the efforts of Doon Pandit (1900-1958) a Hindu priest and community leader from the Las Lomas/Arima/Tacarigua area who was known for his guru-like qualities in administering healing miracles.

Touched by the plight of the lepers who were regular visitors at the Mandirs at Las Lomas and Arima seeking his healing powers, he felt compelled to provide a place of worship for them at Chacachacare which to that point was run by the Dominican sisters of the catholic church.

Once per week, Pandit would organize a pilgrimage to the island. The pilgrims would take along food, offerings, musical instruments and other articles of worship and embark on the boat journey to Chacachacare visits which the lepers enthusiastically looked forward to.

Such was the authenticity and high esteem of this Hindu holy man that His Majesty King George VI in 1949 conferred upon him the title of MBE (Member of the British Empire).

His reputation as a healer had spread to as far as India, England, Venezuela and other Caribbean islands. Perhaps his most recognized act was in curing Josephine Shaw, wife of the then-Governor of Trinidad.

People seeking him came from diverse racial, religious, age, class and gender backgrounds. As I said before the places of pilgrimage are stories by themselves of our peoples.

A well known site of worship for Hindus and a tourist attraction, the Waterloo temple was built by Sewdass Sadhu, an indentured labourer who came to Trinidad in 1907.

The story is well-known: Sadhu built his first temple in 1947 on lands owned by the sugar cane company, Tate and Lyle. It was broken down and Sadhu was charged with trespassing and fined £100 or 14 days in prison.

Declaring that if he couldn’t build his temple on the land then he would build it in the sea, Sadhu began the work that would realise his dream. With two buckets and an old lady’s bicycle with a carrier at the back, Sadhu began the laborious and painstaking task of building the temple in the sea.

Five hundred feet into the quiet waters of the Gulf of Paria, it today continues to stand on the very spot Sadhu first built it, if not in the same condition since repair works were carried out with help from the State and private business in 1994.

Over the years, Hindu devotees and tourists alike have made the journey to the Temple-in-the-Sea, once described as the first of its kind in the western world by Dharmacharya Pundit Krishna Maharaj.

Siewdass Sadhu site should become a UNESCO heritage site for what it represents.As we speak of places of pilgrimage I want to invite you to make a pilgrimage to the Triveni Mandir and experience the life ambition of Ramoonsingh; make a pilgrimage to Calcutta Road and experience the Chinmaya Mission and the vision of Swami Prakashananda.

This year’s theme has suggested that we can make every home a place of pilgrimage.

Can you imagine if every home in this country were to be given a name, what will be the impact on that home and by extension the community?

Can you imagine going home on an afternoon and seeing a sign Shanti Bhavan or Sukh Bhavan? Can you imagine if each place of work can be seen as a place of pilgrimage what will be the impact upon interpersonal relationships, innovation, productivity?

Can you imagine what will happen to our competitiveness as a nation if each person instead of seeing himself/herself as a worker would begin to see themselves as devotees going to work where all work becomes an act of service and worship?

This is what the theme of this 2010 Divali Nagar implies. Our religion and cultural ideals must be integrated into our daily lives if impactful social change is to be realized.

We must come to the realization that the very religion and cultural traditions that inspire us at our places of worship are what we need to inspire us to higher levels of achievement ant the realization of our best potential.

Let us think as to how we can make all of life a grand pilgrimage not only to secular success but to satiating the hunger of the spirit for fulfilment that can only come from how we choose to work and to serve.

This is the essence of the light of the deya at this Divali celebration.

Happy Divali.

Dr Surujrattan Rambachan | 27 October 2010.
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