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East Indians’ respect for womanhood

Published: 
Saturday, May 19, 2018

Last week I ended by characterising the East Indian way of life as one being filled with devotion to country. This devotion is akin to the love and affection that one would have for his/her own mother.

On that note, Hindu East Indians who first arrived in Trinidad on 30th May 1845 aboard the SS Fatal Razack and ships that followed, also brought with them an entrenched penchant to worship the Supreme Lord as the Divine Mother. The famous “Gayatri” mantra is testimony of early Vedic hymns in the worship of “Shakti” or the female aspect of God.

East Indian Hindu traditions include daily offerings of “Jal” or water to the sun at sunrise. Of all the natural wonders we revere, the most striking is the exact moment when the sun comes over the horizon.

Hindus believe that this period of dawn is the blessing of the Divine Mother herself, where the light rays shower the earth and mankind with “Prana” or positive spiritual energy.

The belief in this significant physical display of the Divine Mother is analogised in Hindu scriptures where “Shakti”, in the various forms of ‘Goddess Saraswati’, ‘Goddess Durga’, ‘Goddess Lakshmi’, ‘Goddess Kali’ and many other Goddesses are enshrined and revered even above the male form of Godhood.

In East Indian culture, the system is not totally patriarchal. For example, we speak of our Motherland (not Fatherland), we refer in our conversations to ‘matribhasha’, our mother language not ‘pitribhasha’ our father language.

Again, in Hindu scriptures sons were addressed by their mother’s name and belonged to the mother, not the father. Lord Krishna was called ‘Yashodananda’ (son of Yashoda) after his mother’s name Yashoda.

In the Mahabharata, the famed archer Arjuna was called Kaunteya, meaning ‘son of ‘Kunti’, his mother’s name.

The Great poet Tulsidas, in his composition of the Hanuman Chalisa, refers to the Great Lord Hanuman as “Anjani putra” or son of Anjani.

In Hindu scriptures, the women had an important role in society and included all fields of life, whether warfare, governance, literature and even spiritual quest. In the Brihadaranaka Upanishad (Hindu religious text), reference is made to ‘Gargya’, a great female sage (rishi).

The ‘Ramayan’ (Hindu scripture) referred to in my last article speaks of Lord Ram performing Navaratri worship of the Devi (female) before going to war. In the Mahabharata, Arjuna invokes the Divine Mother before entering the battlefield. In this present period of time, called ‘Kali-Yuga’, Adi Gura Shankaracharya (one of our great Sages) worshipped the Devi or Devi Mother with the famous Sanskrit composition, ‘Soundarya Lahari’.

Our ancestors/forefathers from India used the highest title of “Devi” when addressing mothers and women.

Nowadays, we use ‘Devi’ in referring to our mothers, sisters, daughters and wives. The East Indian way of life is to regard them as Goddesses. The festivals which East Indian Hindus traditionally upkeep such as ‘Nau Ratam’ or ‘Navaratri’ have as their central theme, the worship of the female form. East Indian marriages actually promote the Hindu ideal that a bride is the personification of Goddess Lakshmi.

For all those critics who continue to bash the East Indian way of life, it is an undeniable fact that the East Indians have maintained as part of their inherent nature, an appreciation for the women in our society.

Everyday teachings in Maha Sabha schools include the daily obligation to honour mothers by bowing at their feet. Whenever a religious ceremony is performed, there is circumambulation of our mothers with light (Aarti), the highest form of worship in Hindu rites.

The East Indian way of life is not to drink rum and beat women, as is portrayed by certain local media streams and entertainers, but to literally honour our women in society! Hindus’ normal mode of worship mandates that this type of honour is accorded to mothers, wives and girls. Last Sunday, we celebrated Mother’s Day, a highly westernised concept of honouring mothers. The East Indians have been doing this on a daily basis since time began.

It is unfortunate that our society is deteriorating from the point of view that there is a substantial rise in crimes against women. This cannot and should not continue as it would spell the inevitable destruction of all moral and religious values. In celebration of Indian Arrival Day, it is suggested that a special effort be made by all to recommit to respecting and honouring our women in society.

Happy Indian Arrival month!

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