Sunday May 19, 2019

Religion and Conversation – Haldi and Hindu women in Trinidad

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Image source: knowyourindianroots.blogspot.com

By Annesha Das Gupta

In the above video, Dr. Kumar Mahabir -an anthropologists and faculty at the University of Trinidad and Tobago, talks about his findings on the link of Hindu women and ecosystems. It may be noted that Trinidad and Tobago is home to a huge Indian diaspora. Out of 1.3 million population of Trinidad, at least 550 thousand (5.5 Lakh) people have their ancestry rooted in East Indians.

One should not be astonished, at such an approach because of the strong connection that has been exhibited by the village women with their surrounding lands, is a common knowledge for centuries in India. For instance, the famous Chipko Movement, will give a proper idea of what is been talked about here. Similarly, Mahabir, wants to explain that how some of the essential medicinal plants has been on the verge of being extinct and a unique formulation of insight by the conservationists can save us much time.

This, he states, can be done by studying the affinity which the Hindu women shares with the ‘scared’ plants like Haldi and Tulsi. Though, Mahabir here specifically concentrates his research on the cultural and religious aspects that the plant of haldi or turmeric (Curcuma domestica), still have its hold on the Indian community. And of course how it can help in sustaining, our floundering biodiversity.

While being on it we can give out some inputs that has been mentioned in Mahabir’s findings about the importance of turmeric –

  • His ethnographical researches suggest that the Hindu families readily grow this common herb in their gardens and also share it among their community.
  • The community holds the item more as an object of religious rites than as a sacred herb.
  • The plant is readily used as an ingredient in cosmetics, medicine and food.
  • In Hindu marriages, a turmeric paste, consisting of grounded stems mixed with coconut oil is applied, covering the whole body of both the bride and the groom, on the day of their marriage. This tradition indicates an aspect of the herb which is believed to have properties to increase a person’s fertility.
  • Among the medicinal benefits, there is the coating of the lower abdomen of a woman who has just given birth. It is to known to have firm the skin. While, the stems are also boiled with milk (Haldi Doodh) and drink to cleanse the stomach.
  • Other than that the mixture is used as a means of gaining a brighter complexion and still is widely popular among the womenfolk of the community.

Dr. Mahabir, wants us to acknowledge the opening of doors in the ecological research by delving into the relationships that the religious groups fosters with different herbs and plants that were used to be found easily in their backyards and thus being an almost indispensible part of their daily lives.

To give out a brief in his own words, he opines that ‘Little research has been done in the Caribbean and elsewhere on the inter-connections between religious practices and environmental protection. It is widely known that many medicinal plants face the imminent threat of extinction, as the world advances towards an ecological crisis. Hindus use hardi/tumeric (Curcuma domestica) more as an object in religious rituals than as a sacred item. They also use the plant as an ingredient in food, cosmetics and medicine. This paper uses ethnographic research to investigate exactly how Hindu women ritualists in Trinidad use, cultivate, and conserve the plants in their gardens for ready use at home and in the community. In their tireless attempts to promote biodiversity, conservationists may have adopt a new approach by working with religious groups, and demonstrate to the public at large how plant protection is related to religious values.’

This article has been prepared by Annesha DasGupta with input from a video produced by Dr. Kumar Mahabir. Follow Annesha on twitter @Dancingbluepen

Next Story

Seeking Help From Lao Authorities To Get Home Safely: Interview

The woman stranded in Hunan is among 3,000 Laotians known to have been trafficked to China in recent years according to the Lao National Anti-Human Trafficking Commission, which said last October that only 600 of those women have returned home.

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Thai authorities collect identification information from suspected sex workers who were detained during a raid on karaoke bars in Muang Narathiwat, a district in southern Thailand’s Narathiwat province, Nov. 9, 2018. VOA

25-year-old Lao woman from near the capital Vientiane was trafficked to central China’s Hunan Province in late 2018 and sold to a Chinese man for $20,000. She issued an appeal through social media for help getting home and gave an interview to RFA’s Lao Service on April 30, describing how she was misled by traffickers, including a relative, to expect a relatively high-paying job in China, taken across the Lao-China border illegally, married off to a Chinese man who bought her, and then left to fend for herself without proper travel documents. On the same day that RFA spoke to the woman, who asked to remain anonymous to protect her and her family from traffickers, twelve young Lao women, including two that authorities believe were under the age of 18, were rescued from a karaoke bar in the southern Thai province of Narathiwat. The woman stranded in Hunan is among 3,000 Laotians known to have been trafficked to China in recent years according to the Lao National Anti-Human Trafficking Commission, which said last October that only 600 of those women have returned home.

RFA: How did you end up in China?

A: They, the traffickers, lied to me. I came here without any documents. I don’t have ID and I don’t have a passport. They drove me to somewhere near the Boten border gate, then took me across a mountain border.

RFA: So, you crossed the border illegally?

A: Yes, they illegally took me across a mountain, not through the border check point.

RFA: Why did you go with them? What did they say to you?

A: They said they’ll take me here to work. It’s easy; I can go home anytime. If I want to go home, they’ll take me home. I believed them. But once they sold me to a Chinese man who later became my husband, I couldn’t contact them anymore. I didn’t receive any money. I can’t go home because I have nothing in the way of documents.

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My relative at home has asked for money from the traffickers many times; but they keep saying “next month; next month.” Pixabay

RFA: Did you report this to Lao police?

A: My family is too afraid to contact police because they (the traffickers) are now in Laos.

RFA: Who are the traffickers?

A: One of them is a Lao woman who told me that she had relatives in China, and said that work in China was not heavy. I thought I’d make a lot of money, then send it to my mother.

RFA: Did they the traffickers talk to your family first?

A: Yes, they talked to my mother. Actually, one of the traffickers is my relative.

RFA: Is your relative a middle-man or -woman?

A: Yes, she is actually the ‘small wife’ (misstress) of a Chinese man who brought me here to China.

 

RFA: What happened to you in China?

A: They sold me to a Chinese man who wanted to have a Lao wife.

RFA: How does your husband treat you?

A: We lived together as a normal couple, and sometimes I’d go to work. But later, when I wanted to go back home, I couldn’t and I could not contact those front men at all.

RFA: Why can’t you go home?

A: Because I don’t have any documents. That’s why I’m asking for help from an organization called ‘Sisters for Laotians’.

RFA: Are there any other victims like you in China?

A: Three of us came together. One of us, who is my cousin, was able to escape last month, and now she is already in Laos. The other woman is also trying to escape as well. There are many other Laotians around here. Most of them are illegal. Some have passports, but the passports are expired, so they became illegal now.

RFA: How do you communicate with your husband?

A: I don’t speak Chinese, so, we use a telephone (app) to translate.

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Yes, she is actually the ‘small wife’ (misstress) of a Chinese man who brought me here to China. Pixabay

RFA: Do you personally know the traffickers?

A: Yes, I know them, but I can’t contact them now.

RFA: What are you going to do once you get home?

A: I’m going to report to the police that the traffickers promised me that I’ll get a salary of more than 1,000 Yuan ($150) a month. I now get nothing.

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RFA: How much were you sold for?

A: For 130,000 yuan ($20,000), but some others may fetch 150,000 Yuan. I received no money, and I don’t have any money to send to my mother. My relative at home has asked for money from the traffickers many times; but they keep saying “next month; next month.”

RFA: Why didn’t you report this to Chinese police?

A: The police would send me back to my husband. That’s why I’m requesting help from Lao authorities and hoping they can get me home safely. (RFA)