The recent controversy regarding the portrayal by a particular section of a Carnival band signals the need for greater awareness of the sensitivities of our population. The wave of reaction that has been created amongst members of the Hindu community since the appearance on stage of masqueraders in the ‘ApnaDesh‘ section of Cazabon – The Art of Living is an indication that there is need for deeper insight and appreciation for each other’s culture. Consultation and communication should be the route to avert such unfavourable consequences.
SWAHA recommends that bandleaders acknowledge the prevailing emotions of our multi-religious and multi-cultural population and recognize the need for careful deliberation when conceptualizing and realizing their artistic manifestations. In this regard, we suggest that wherever such presentations feature symbols or articles of religious significance, the likely impact on the sensitivities of the religious community to which these are of importance must be considered in order to clarify doubts and misconstrued concepts.
This will indeed help to safeguard freedom of expression and enhance the creative nature of the depictions,while preventing potentially deleterious effects to a particular religious grouping. Consultation brings enlightenment and fosters greater harmony within society. We can eliminate the confusion and reduce the divisiveness that already exists in our nation.
Paramacharya Pt. HardeoPersad
One morning as Priya was drinking her morning tea she looked back at her childhood and thought of how different her life would have turned out had her parents been around to support her. In that moment she instantly went back to her past.
When Priya was sixteen years old she decided to join her school’s dance club. After a couple of months she became a star when it came to dance and she shone just as bright in her academics. Priya was an ideal student with the perfect life, or so everyone thought. Priya’s parents, Sanjeev Sonja, were very successful people. Her mother being extraordinary lawyer and her father, one of the most cited author’s in the world. Even though her parents gave her all she could ask for material wise, they never paid attention to Priya’s emotions.
On December 16th, Priya had the biggest dance recital of her life. She had been selected by her teacher to perform and she was thrilled. She invited her parents to see her dance her heart out and they promised to be there, especially since in the last eight months they hadn’t shown up to any of her performances. Priya loved her parents but they never took the time to share in Priya’s life, but she always tried to get their attention, not that it made a difference, as they were always too busy.
Time approached in haste and pretty soon the seats of the auditorium were filled with eager beings waiting to for the show to begin. As Priya scoped the crowd, she came to the realization that neither of her parents was going to show up. She was devastated but had no time to reflect on her sadness as the show was about to begin. Her dance number was exquisite, she danced like never before. Gliding through the air as if she was weightless with grace and poise, she was beautiful. Everyone applauded and complimented her afterwards but the people she wanted to praise her were nowhere to be found.
Later that night, when Priya got home her mind was busy but her body sore. She saw her parents in the den doing work and decided to address them. Priya asked why they didn’t come to the show and her mother claimed she was too busy and her father had simply forgotten. Tears welled up not only in her eyes but in her heart, as Priya realized that her parents didn’t care for her. That night she cried herself to sleep. The next day Priya went to her dance teacher and left the dance club. Her teacher was stunned but said nothing.
Priya usually had practice on Monday and Friday afternoons but since she left she started going out with a new crowd of friends on those evenings. Drinking and smoking, Priya became an unruly adolescent. Her grades began to slip and her attitude completely changed but still her parents never noticed a difference until that fateful evening. While Priya was out with her friends they took her to this gambling bar in a bad neighbourhood. While trying to be cool she decided to play and ended up losing all of her money and a little bit more. Violence broke out when she couldn’t pay her debt and one thing led to another. All Priya could see was the gloomy skies becoming darker as she realised she had been shot.
Priya had been paralyzed from the waist down after the shooting incident and was never able to walk again, far less dance. Years passed and she eventually moved out of her parent’s house and became a book keeper in a little store nearby. Her parents now understood how their negligence had a part to play in their daughter’s misfortune and regretted it every day but made a promise to never let her feel as though she was alone ever again by showing her all the love and attention she needed.
As the light of the morning sun glistened upon Priya’s face she was zapped back to reality where she sat in her wheelchair and sipped her tea. It was then and there she thought if only she had tried to talk to her parents she may not have been in the situation she was in today, because she now realised that in a parent-child relationship, as in all relationships, communication works both ways.
Swaha Hindu College
|Khelay masaanay mayn hori, digambar khelay masaanay mayn hori
Bhuta pisaach batori,digambar khelay masaanay may hori
|Lord Shiva is celebrating Holi on the cremation ground.
With Him are the ghosts and goblins, all shabbily dressed.
|Lakhee sundar phaagunee chataa kee, man say rang gulaal hataakay
Chitaa bhasma bharee jholee, digambar, khelay masaanay mayn hori
|In the brilliance of the Phalgun air, which purifies the mind,
The ashes adorn Lord Shiva as he celebrates Holi on the cremation ground.
|Gopana gopi shyaam na radha, na koie roka na kauno baadhaa
Na saajan na gori, digambar khelay masaanay may hori
|There’s no sight of Lord Krishna, Radha, the cow herds or cow herdesses.
No distractions are there at the cremation ground where Lord Shiva is celebrating.
|Naachat gaavat damaru dhaari, chhoray sarpa garala pichakaari
Peetay pretathapori, digambar khelay masaanay may hori.
|He is singing, dancing and playing the damaru with the serpent as the spray-pump, and for the abeer, the poison;
This destroys the negativities on the cremation ground as he dances.
|Bhutanaath ki mangal hori, dekhay sihaayayn birija kay chhori
Dhandhana-naath aghori, digambar khelay masaanay may hori
|All are enchanted on witnessing this auspicious Holi celebrated by Lord Shiva.
The aghoris, the dwellers of the cremation ground, are blessed as the Lord dances.
Culture is defined as a way of life. Different cultures are characterised by their customs and beliefs. A landmark of Hinduism is its rich culture of traditions, food, dress, festivals, religion, etc. How vibrant a culture is depends on the intensity of its practice. So, how vibrant is Hinduism in our homes? Do we light a deeya, offer jal, chant mantras and use the greeting ‘Sitaram’ on a daily basis? Do we fast f orthe required length of time before performing puja or observing religious festivals? Do we keep the Thursday fast even if that Thursday falls on Christmas Day or some other festive occasion? Do our children know how to respond correctly when asked why their God has many hands, wears snakes as garlands, or has a monkey or elephant face?
A society cannot exist without culture. Culture gives society its identity. Society has established that the family is responsible for teaching cultural practices to its members. Therefore patriarchs and matriarchs of Hindu homes have a crucial role to play in this regard. Authentic foods must be cooked, the art of cooking must be taught (such as how to ‘chonkay a good dhal’), traditional clothes must be worn, festivals must be observed and young family members must be introduced to the various art forms of dance, music, etc. Since children are the biggest mimics, they will follow whatever is practised by the adults. Soon enough their playful shouts of ‘swaha’, ‘sitaram’, ‘kirtan’ singing and performing ‘aarti’ will blossom into meaningful living. Therefore parents must immerse their world with Hindu culture. We must introduce children to the real superheroes like Hanuman who can fly and ‘beat up any bad person’; Lord Shiva who destroys evil by burning them to ashes with his eyes; Durga Maa who can tame a tiger and destroy demons.
The practice of our Hindu culture affords us so many merits. The gaiety and splendour of Phagwa fills us with fun; the sanctity of Divali brings experiences of spirituality and unity; Raksha Bandhan enhances bonding and the close-knit relationship we traditionally share with our siblings. Grandparents, other elders and the family pundit provide us with on-the-spot mentors, counsellors and advisors. More importantly, the practice of our culture provides us with our identity, a sense of who we are. According to psychologist, Abraham Maslow, identity fulfils our psychological and social needs for a sense of belonging, self worth and good self-esteem, all necessary tools for healthy growth and development. This sense of identity may provide good defence mechanisms for our children against assimilation into other cultures.
We raise our hands in unity and proclaim, “Hum Hindu hain,” when called upon to do so by our pundits. However, our pride must go beyond words. We must become publicly proud as the Hare Krishna devotees (usually white in ethnicity), who will walk through Florida’s crowded, modern South Beach dressed in dhoti and sari, chanting God’s name and dancing to the beat of the dholak and the chimes of majeera. We must wear our kurta as proudly as Brad Pitt did on his visit to India. We should publicly glorify our culture like the non-Hindu yoga instructors who willingly use the terms vinyasa, aasanas and who, at the end of their demonstration, will clasp their hands, bow and say, ‘Namaste’.
Hindu families can ensure the preservation of their culture by simply passing on the baton of dharma to their children. They can do so by transmitting the traditions, way of life, customs and belief from one generation to another to continue the links with our forefathers and so keep our cultural heritage alive.
By Mrs. Mala Persad
Hindu festivals, often steeped in historical and mythological background, are rich in significance and continue to provide benefits in every sphere of life. These observances are so all-embracing that everything, from the ants to the atmosphere, gains from them. The festival of Holi or Phagwa, celebrated in the Hindu month of Phalgun (February-March), continues to attract growing numbers of celebrants throughout the world, holding great significance from the religious, cultural, medical and environmental standpoints.
The Legend of Prahalad
Foremost among the legends associated with Phagwa, is the narrative of Prahalad and Hiranyakashipu. According to the legend, there once lived an evil and powerful king, Hiranyakashipu, who held god-like sway over the world. He wanted everybody to worship him. To his great ire, his son, Prahalad who was indoctrinated in the worship of Lord Vishnu even before birth, began to worship this aspect of Divinity. To get rid of his son, Hiranyakashipu made several attempts to kill him but each one was unsuccessful. Finally, he asked his sister, Holika to enter a blazing fire with Prahalad in her lap, as she possessed a boon to enter fire unscathed. Prahalad was saved due to his devotion to the Lord while Holika paid a price for her sinister desire. The tradition of burning Holika or the ‘Holika dahan’ comes mainly from this legend.
The celebration of this festival of Holi, the re-enactment of the legend and the atmosphere of merriment heralded by this observance all serve to reassure devotees of the power of truth, the victory of light over darkness and good over evil. The compassion and love of the Lord for His devotee inspire renewed faith and confidence in the worshipper.
Social interaction, co-operation and active intermingling flow naturally in the group-singing of the chowtaal, ulaara and other folk songs, and the spraying of abeer and powder. The camaraderie that the celebration evokes, fosters a heightened sense of community that builds the social man. Benevolence and peace for one’s fellow man encourage the strengthening of harmony, gratefulness for each other, acceptance and willing adjustments.
The festival of Holi is connected to the agricultural season in India since it marks the harvesting of the crops, evoking in the minds of the villagers a sense of completion, accomplishment and success. Indeed, a reason to celebrate.
Apart from this, the beginning of the new season induces the growth of bacteria in the atmosphere. The heat generated by the burning of the effigy of Holika kills many of the bacteria and purifies the air.
According to the Vedas, the colours of the spectrum (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet) help cure diseases. The essence of cosmic colour therapy is based on the understanding that in the human body, different organs are associated with different colours and any deficiency of colour causes ill-health. In light of this, the use of the various colours of powder during the celebration of Holi can be beneficial.
In addition, traditionally, the powders were made from neem, bale and hardi and other medicinal herbs prescribed by Ayurvedic doctors. These plants are well-known for their medicinal uses and the powders have been an integral part of the celebration, despite variations added over time.
Indeed, the celebration of this joyous festival goes far beyond the allegory and holds many benefits to all.
The purpose of spiritual fulfillment through sadhana (spiritual practices) is to attain a state of full union with the Supreme Reality of God. This Supreme Reality is beyond any attribute or conceptual understanding. It is representative of transcendental knowledge and it projects itself, according to Tantra Shastra, as divine expressions in creation. These are the ten cosmic powers and personalities of the Divine Mother. They are termed the Das Mahaa Vidyaa. Each aspect has a specific cosmic function and leads to a special realization of the one Reality.
The Das Mahaa Vidyaa are as follows:
- Kaali – She is the devourer of time and the night of eternity.
- Taaraa – She is the power of the golden embryo (Hiranyagarbha) from which the universe evolves. She represents the power of the void and the night of anger.
- Shodasi – The word literally means ‘one who is sixteen years old’. She is the personification of fullness, of perfection. She represents the power of absolute splendour.
- Bhuvaneshvari – She represents the forces of the material world and the power of space.
- Bhairavi – She stands for desires and temptations leading to destruction and death. She represents the power of death.
- Chinnamastaa – She is the naked deity holding her own severed head in hand and drinking her own blood. She represents the continued state of self-sustenance of the created world in which are seen continuous self-destruction and self-removal, in a cyclic order.
- Dhumaavati – She personifies the destruction of the world by fire. She symbolizes the power of deprivation and the might of frustration.
- Bagalaa – She represents the ugly side of living creatures like jealousy, hatred and cruelty.
- Maatangi – She is the embodiment of the power of domination and the ultimate expression of the highest intuition in speech.
- Kamalaa – She represents pure consciousness of the self, bestowing boons and allaying the fears of the supplicants. She is representative of the power of wealth, happiness and fortune.
The destructive power of Kaali, the sound force of Taaraa, the beauty and bliss of Shodasi, the vast vision of Bhuvaneshwari, the effulgent charm of Bhairavi, the striking force of Chinnamastaa, the inertness of Dhumaavati, the penalizing powers of Bagalaa, the expressive play of Maatangi and the concord and harmony of Kamalaa are the various characteristics of Supreme Consciousness that have made creation possible.
These ten Mahaa Vidyaa reflects the dynamic unity of existence in which all aspects of life, the purest, the forceful and the inert, are combined to form a whole and diverse vision of reality.