Thursday, August 09, 2007

Devotion and Destruction

I don't know anything in T & T that is like the Temple in the Sea. Temples are synonymous with devotion ... and indeed, when you think of how Sewdass Sadhu (an indentured labourer who came to Trinidad in 1907) built the Temple single-handedly in the sea (because he was forbidden to build it on land), it is clear that devotion went into the Temple even before devotees did. (I will copy and paste the Guardian article at the end of this post, for those of you who don't know what Sewdass went through to build this holy landmark). Now to think that vandals recently desecrated the Temple and destroyed the murtis really raises more than the question: Is anything sacred?
You may remember my recent collaboration (THE WIND) with Gary and his wife, Susanne. The video footage was shot at the Temple.


Treasure in the sea

The Temple-in-the-Sea evokes an image of wonder and awe, not so much for its architectural uniqueness but always for the sacrifice that went into the building effort.

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.

Community and Social Development Minister Joan Yuille-Williams, at a function last Saturday to help Sadhu’s widow repair her house, remembered the struggle to build the temple as she described the man as “a national icon to be emulated as an example of persistence and struggle”.

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.

Even then, at the 1995 consecration ceremony of the newly rebuilt temple, Pundit Maharaj had noted that the temple has opened up “a treasure box for the country as a whole as, apart from serving Hindus, it could very well be used as a potential for attracting tourists to the country”.

Still others have remarked on the significance of the Temple-in-the Sea, with at least one visiting swami commenting that it must remain a landmark in T&T’s history, and that visitors should have the chance to see it.

It is heartening, therefore, even as we wonder why it took so long, to learn that Government, through Tidco, has decided the site will be a major tourist attraction in central Trinidad.

If nothing else, this decision could help generate the income to maintain the Temple-in-the-Sea so that it endures as strongly as does the story of a man’s faith and determination to fulfill a dream.

(Source: The Guardian Newspaper).

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