This was pretty saddening to see this morning. It’s a Kali Mandir in Carli Bay, Trinidad & Tobago that was vandalized earlier in the week.
The Murti has been damaged and smeared with olive oil, and as you can see, there’s a rather prominent Biblical citation somebody’s painted over the top of the entryway. You can probably imagine what the verse says without looking it up.
Still, a positive sentiment from the presiding Pandit – who sagely observed that the Goddess was rather “more than a Murti”, and that what had occurred in his temple would not bring to a halt the #NavRatri devotions of the community there.
Needless to say, they shouldn’t have to demonstrate such resiliency – but it is a credit and an inspiration that the next night after the vandalism had occurred, Devotees were back and engaging in veneration.
Now, looking into this a bit further – I knew that Trinidad & Tobago had a reasonably sizeable Hindu population (it’s just under a fifth of the populace – and, rather intriguingly, not quite the monolithic ‘Indian’ bloc one might otherwise presume) with a fair few Mandirs as well.
But what I did not know is that there seems to have been a bit of a flurry of attacks on such sites.
A Ganesha Mandir (Lakrani Ganesh Mandir in Penal) was ransacked less than a week before this occurrence at the Kali Mandir pictured – in that case, it’s suggested to have been somebody after valuables (audio gear carried off, donation box broken into, etc.) … although when somebody breaks in half a Ganesha Murti, even if it might be because they for some reason thought there might be money inside – well, it’s still an attack on the faith. And flicking a cigarette butt into the curtains could very easily have burned down the place, whatever the motivation.
(And it is true that a number of Churches have also been hit in the country, seemingly by persons seeking a swift payday)
More infuriating was the repeated violation of the Shiv Mandir in Carapo four months ago. There, it appears the Temple was broken into twice in quick succession – with not only valuables and hardware taken (including adornments of the Murtis, cooking equipment (like, a stove, microwave, and gas cylinders), etc.) … but in what can only be a pointed act of deliberate desecration, a meal of corned beef was cooked up by the vandals in the Temple’s kitchen before being consumed inside the Temple itself.
Curious thing, you would have to say, the sort of burglar who breaks into a place and brings their own some-preparation-required night-time meal with them.
Although the most peculiar thing that I have seen in relation to all of this were some bizarre claims in some quarters of social media that these sorts of things were happening in the Caribbean due to something something ‘rising Hindu/tva sentiment’ in India and alleged appearance of Hinduism somehow being a “violent religion” as a result.
This just absolutely does not make sense. And seems to be the result of some people wanting to try and chalk anything and everything up to … well, somehow the religion’s “own fault” when anti-religious acts of this nature occur.
The only way I would even partially agree with them, is the sad observation that the mere existence (and the temerity to continue existing, even in spite of recurrent efforts to suppress or stamp out same) of the religion does seem to annoy the hell out of some people and lead to these kinds of acts of aggression taking place against it.
Yet somehow, I do not think that that is our fault.
Looking over the articles about these occurrences in Trinidad & Tobago, I am reminded that about this time a year ago, also during NavRatri, Hindu worship in Bangladesh was similarly under violent assault. Indeed, there, things were worse – Mandirs and Murtis were not the only Hindu elements assaulted : people were attacked and even killed in the process.
We are also aware of more recent occurrences in the UK – where, it would seem, even in an ostensibly first-world country the Hindu community can find itself in a fraught scenario.
All of which, I would have to say, makes me rather glad to be here in New Zealand.
I am not saying we do not have our problems (and, as applies Hindu-relevant issues, a certain peculiar campaign that turns up from time to time in the media springs instantly to mind) – but we are not having to observe NavRatri under such lingering pall of threat.
Oh, and as for those persons who’d seen fit to engage in a bit of decidedly amateur ‘redecorating’ of the Kali Mandir in Trinidad and Tobago during the course of this year’s NavRatri …
Well, we are reminded of that which happened to Mahmud of Ghazni following his raid on Somnath and the similarly motivated smashing up of the Jyotirlingam situated there.
The operative word, I should think, is ‘Yatana’ ( यातन ) – or, in English, ‘Contrapasso’.
Jai Mata Di.