When the British abolished slavery in 1833, there was a significant lack of laborers in the Caribbean. Between 1833-1920, over 143,000 Indian workers were sent to Trinidad as indentured laborers to meet the demands. Consequently, there is a high percentage of Indian population on the island and nearly a quarter million of them are Hindus. It only makes sense then that there would be some elaborate Hindu temples on the island. We find Hindu temples to be fascinating. In fact, there are two in particular of note in Waterloo, just south of Port of Spain, and we decided to pay them a visit.
We knew we were getting close when we started seeing Hindu prayer flags and tiny temples in each yard. We threaded our way (read that … David maneuvered adeptly) through narrow, crowded streets towards the sea and finally came to the Hindu Temple in the Sea.
This temple has an interesting history. The indentured laborer, Sewdass Sadhu, came to Trinidad in 1907. He was a devout Hindu and wished to build a temple. He built his first temple in 1947 on land owned by the sugar cane company for which he worked. The company ordered it torn down, charged Sadhu with trespassing, fined him $500 (2 year's wages) and jailed him for 14 days. A determined man, he figured if he couldn’t build his temple on the land, then he would build it in the sea, and thus Sadhu's dream to rebuild his temple began to take shape.
With two buckets and an old lady’s bicycle with a carrier on the back, Sadhu began the laborious task of building the temple in the sea … 500 feet into the swamp land of the Gulf of Paria. For 25 years, he worked at building his temple and with the help of local people, businesses and a government grant, it continues today to be a place of worship and serenity. A great testament to the devotion and tenacity of the human spirit.
A prayer ceremony was in progress when we arrived which we did not want to disturb. We quietly removed our shoes and walked around the outside of the temple, peeking in discreetly for a look at the elaborate decoration within.
We headed back inland to find Lord Hanuman, the Monkey King. We were familiar with several Hindu gods, but not Hanuman. It seems that he is regarded as a perfect symbol of selflessness and loyalty. The 85' murti (statue) of Lord Hanuman is reputed to be the largest outside of India.
Lord Hanuman towers over the Dattatreya Temple and Yoga Centre, “built according to the Dravidian style of architecture of South India”. It's an elaborate building, guarded by two large elephants at the entrance. Photos were not allowed inside the temple, but after removing our shoes, we walked quietly inside, admiring the intricate and colorful individual temples to various Hindu deities. Fruit and other small offerings were placed in front of each temple.
A small store sold souvenirs of the temple, but mostly provided incense and candles for prayer ceremonies.
We had a leisurely lunch in the small town of Carapichaima, then headed north to meet our guide for a late afternoon boat tour of the Caroni Swamp and a look at the scarlet ibis. Wear plenty of sunscreen, insect repellent and a hat and come on along.