Saturday April 21, 2018

Hindu Childbirth Ceremonies in Trinidad and Tobago

Among all ethnic groups in Trinidad and Tobago, Hindus perform the most intricate childbirth ceremony

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Diwali. Pixabay
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October 23, 2016: In the Ramayana, the Hindu scripture written in 500 BC in India, the chatti [sixth-day childbirth ceremony] of Lord Rama, the son of a king, is described lyrically:

“There was happy music of festivity in every house because the very fountain of beauty had manifested himself. All the men and women of the city were full of joy, everywhere. The city was full of flags and banners and festal arches. …Showers of flowers dropped from heaven ….”

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“Women streamed forth in troops …. carrying jars of gold and salvers full of auspicious articles. They entered the grounds of the royal palace singing as they went along, waving lights and passing offerings round and round over the child’s head as an act of exorcism. They threw themselves at the babe’s feet again and again. Bars, minstrels, panegyrists and songsters chanted solemn praises to the Lord of the Raghus [dynasty].”

Hindus in Trinidad and Tobago, and elsewhere, have been profoundly influenced by the holy Ramayana, the longest epic poem in the world. The poem is dramatised in the form of Ramleela, which has been proclaimed as a “Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity” by UNESCO in 2005. Therefore, it is not surprising that the Ramayana has also inspired participants of the chatti and barahe [12th day] celebrations in Trinidad even after the birth of Rama 7,130 years ago, and at such a great distance ((14,459 km (8,984) airplane miles)) from India.

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Among all ethnic groups in Trinidad and Tobago, Hindus perform the most intricate childbirth ceremony. The sixth-day postnatal chatti ceremony is both a cultural celebration and social proclamation of the safe return of the new mother and her newborn from the perils of childbirth. Some families prefer to observe the birth celebration on the twelfth day, in which case it is known as a barahe and is of greater magnitude than the sixth-day celebration.

Diwali
Diwali

This is one of the rare Hindu religious ceremonies in which a female [masseuse] officiates. She prepares and administers a brew made from the rhizomes of both the hardi and ginger plants. The masseuse [dhagrin or maidy] also gives the new mother and her newborn their first full-body ritualised herbal bath. The masseuse also performs other rituals such as gently tossing the baby into the air, dragging the newborn in a scoop (“soop”), applying kajal [lamp mascara] to the baby’s eyes, and dotting her forehead [tika] to protect the newborn from being infected by najar [evil eye]. For several days, the traditional masseuse massages the baby and the new mother, and she also attends to the maternal abdominal band.

On the evening of the celebration, guests arrive and are served food and drinks. A special dessert called halwa is prepared mainly with hardi [turmeric], a yellow, pungent “heating” herb which is a native of India. The evening begins a long night of noisy rejoicing when chutney and sohar songs are rendered in Hindi and English. The sohar songs, accompanied by a dholak[hand drum], majeera [cymbals] and a dhantal [metal rod], usually draw their sources from child-centred episodes in theRamayana. A sample of a stanza of a sohar is reproduced below.

ráma ke gūráwá gūngru á nīckālā gāīho

[Ráma loves the ghūngru (anklets) on his feet]

… gūngru á nīckālā gāī

… loves the ghūngru

… gūngru á nīckālā gāī

… loves the ghūngru

ráma díré díré chal á backání kausalyá rání mandilá mễi

[Ráma creeps slowly slowly with Queen Kausalyá into the palace]

The participation of relatives from both sides of the family emphasises the importance of birth in continuing family lines and cementing family bonds.

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The chatti and barahe ceremonies are observed as a triumph over infant mortality, particularly perinatal mortality. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines perinatal mortality as the number of stillbirths and deaths in the first week [7 days] of life per 1,000 total births. In 2013, about 2.6 million babies died before reaching their first month in the world.

– by Dr. Kumar Mahavir

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In Pakistan, Hindus don’t get even a ‘Crematorium:’ Will you believe that?

There are a lot of Hindu family residing all over Pakistan and still, there are very few cremation grounds where their last rites can be performed in that area

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Not having a crematorium in Peshawar is just one of the woes that the minority communities are facing since long. Wikimedia Commons
Not having a crematorium in Peshawar is just one of the woes that the minority communities are facing since long. Wikimedia Commons
  • Due to the lack of cremation grounds, some Hindus and Sikhs travel hundreds of kilometres just to perform the last rites as per their religious practices
  • As per reports, there were about 12 cremation grounds before Independence
  • Unfortunately, Hindu’s and Sikh’s have to face the same problem in the neighbouring state as well, that is Afghanistan

Death is said to be a great leveller. But the tragedy struck to some section of society in Muslim-dominated Pakistan is altogether different.

Due to the lack of cremation grounds, some Hindus and Sikhs travel hundreds of kilometres just to perform the last rites as per their religious practices. People who can’t even afford to travel, they have no option but to bury the mortal remains of their near and dear ones.

As per reports, there were about 12 cremation grounds before Independence. But with the passage of time, they vanished in the thin air of the terror-torn nation. Even in areas lying in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, where about 35,000 Hindus and Sikhs live, the cremation grounds are also rare.

Also Read: Today’s Social Issues and their Answers to Children

The law of the land is non-existent for the minorities communities like Hindu’s and Sikh’s. Without taking no-objection certificate, people from these communities can’t move an inch even. The grief-stricken families have to wait for the clearances, as they are left with no other option.

People are forced to travel long distances to cremate their relatives from the areas like Swat Bannu, Kohat, Malakand etc. The cost to travel such long distances ranges from Rs 40,000 to Rs 70,000 and on the top of it, the fear of robbery during these travels cannot be ruled out. Not all the Hindu families can afford to perform the last rites in the manner they want.

Unfortunately, Hindu’s and Sikh’s have to face the same problem in the neighbouring state as well, that is Afghanistan. The minority communities are compelled to bury the dead because cremation grounds are vanishing fast in Pakistan.

Although, Pakistan boats that the minority communities enjoy equal rights in their country, the ground reality seems to be completely different. Wikimedia Commons
Although, Pakistan boats that the minority communities enjoy equal rights in their country, the ground reality seems to be completely different. Wikimedia Commons

Although, the administration of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has allowed the minorities communities to perform cremation near temples. But most of the temples are built on the agricultural lands and commercial areas, which have already been encroached upon by land mafia.

There are a lot of Hindu family residing in the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and still, there are very few cremation grounds where their last rites can be performed in that area.

Although, Pakistan boats that the minority communities enjoy equal rights in their country, the ground reality seems to be completely different. Not having a crematorium in Peshawar is just one of the woes that the minority communities are facing since long.


After much of the protests, finally, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government has started building the facility from the chief minister’s fund, as per some government sources.

There are almost 50,000 Sikhs and Hindus in Peshawar. And unfortunately, due to lack of proper facilities, people over there are also facing the same situation what others are facing in areas like Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Also Read: 7 new-age social issues in India that need a check

To expect some kind of generosity from the war-torn state like Pakistan is out of the way. Instead of spending extravagantly on the military expansion, Pakistan should come forward and full-fill the basic amenities for the citizen of its country. It’s the people who make the country and not the other way round.