“Talk Politics in the Mandir”-Dr Tara Singh

“Talk Politics in the Mandir”-Dr Tara Singh
Photo : Dr Tara Singh speaking at HMCTT 2018.

“Politics and social issues need to be discussed in the mandirs and our Hindu leaders need to welcome the politicians in the mandirs,”said Dr Tara Singh. A former lecturer at the University of Guyana, Dr Singh argued that “the Black Community in the USA is powerful because there is a marriage between the Church and the black political leadership.”

Dr Singh was among several speakers at the 1st Hindu Mandirs Conference (HMCTT 2018) that was held at the Bisram Gopie Bhavan, Divali Nagar, Chaguanas last weekend. The event, which began Friday night with an Inaugural Dinner, featured an address by Paramacharya Hardeo Persad of SWAHA followed with presentation of papers on Saturday and Sunday by scholars and community workers. Paramarcharya Persad lamented the plague of division in the society.  He shared an episode:  “I was told of a prison in Bombay, India, with no walls and yet no one was escaping. I enquired: Was there laser?  No. Then I was told that no one was escaping because each time someone attempted to, he was always pulled back by another.”

The aim of the HMCTT 2018 was “to create a local platform” for individuals and groups to discuss “needs, challenges and issues faced by mandirs in T&T and to come up with plans, actions and methods to address them.”

Chaired by Independent Senator and Chairman of Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh, the theme of the Conference was “Sharing the Past, Informing the Present, Shaping the Future.” Other members of the Planning Committee included Pandita Indrani Rampersad, Lalchan Dookie of Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh, Dr Primnath Gooptar and Geeta Vahini of Hindu Prachaar Kendra.

Dr Taradath Singh informed that social issues are not talked about. The founder of one of the largest humanitarian organization in New York that serves the Caribbean Diaspora Dr Singh is worried about the many social challenges in the society. “Drug addiction and alcoholism are ravaging the community and not being addressed,” he lamented. “Everyone talks about these social issue but does nothing.”

Dr Siingh called on Hindus to learn from the Mormons and take the mandir to the streets. “The Mormons go about helping…we need to reach out,” he appealed to his listeners.

Conservation and Health Issues were one of the topics discussed. This was most relevant in light of the recent flooding that devastated several parts of the country. Papers were presented by Dr Primnath Gooptar who called on Hindus to “address environmental challenges.” Dr Gooptar felt that that the indiscriminate cutting of bamboos for jhandis and the extravagant offering of milk, fruits and other offerings are impacting negatively on the environment and made an appeal to Hindus to be more conservative. Concerns were expressed about the hygienic practices in the preparation of meals and wondered if the meals served at poojas contribute to good health.

Dr Sharda Mahabir of “Adopt a River” spoke of giving students a “more hands-on experience to developing a passion for preserving our watersheds.” Recycling is a major part of Adopt a River program and she called upont the mandirs to get involved in recycling. Young and vibrant, Dr Sharda Mahabir pointed out that her work as an environmentalist is performed as pooja.

Photo : Raviji addressing delgates at HMCTT2018

Raviji addressed the participants before the beginning of presentation of papers on Sunday and asked: “Is the all-murti concept good for Hindus?”  Raviji said that the mandir is a community project that should unite Hindu but unfortunately “it is dividing us.” Raviji also called on the interpretation of the shastras to be relevant to the age. He pointed to a verse in the Bhagavad Gita where Sri Krishna said: “My knowledge is like the ocean while the Vedas are like a pond.” He went on to stress that “Sanatan Dharma always courted the time, space and condition” and added that “the mandir must not only support the pandit with dakshina but other personnel who are engaged in providing services.”  Raviji called for activities of the mandir to be more diversified and concluded that “seva is equivalent to bhakti” and cited Mahatma Gandhi as one who dedicated his entire life to service to the people.

Dr Kumar Mahabir presented a paper on Hindu Mandirs as National Heritage Sites. An anthropologist and former lecturer at University of Trinidad and Tobago, Dr Mahabir hinged his presentation on a dossier he developed for the Chacachacare Temple to be declared a national heritage site. The Chacachacare Mandir was built by Doon Pandit to attend to victims of Hansen diseases (leprosy).

Dr Mahabir informed his audience that when a temple is registered as a heritage site “it will be protected and preserved by the State.” He shared with his audience that according to the National Trust Act, if a person alters, damages, injures or defaces a protected property such as the Chacachacare Temple without the written permission of the Trust, he/she is liable on summary conviction to a fine and the Court may order him/her to pay to the Trust by way of compensation.