Thursday June 27, 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

Woman Who Coated Cow Dung on Car Uses Horse-Cart for Short Distances

Caring for the environment and employing various ways to conserve and protect it for the future generations is not really a modern approach

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Woman, Cow Dung, Horse- Cart
Her green initiatives are not to demonstrate to the world that she cares. Pixabay

Just as you enter the iron gates of ‘Abhang Dwar’ (invincible gate), a horse-cart welcomes you. Look around and there are vintage wooden ghunghroo bells, bamboo chairs, old-world charm wooden benches. And between all this, stands a proud Toyota Corolla Altis painted all over by cow dung, competing with a powerful air-conditioner inside.

World Environment Day went past on Wednesday and could come again for others to do something green, but for the khadi-clad Sejal Shah all days and nights are spent virtually in the lap of nature. Including her cow dung plastered car.

“Albeit it can’t be the same as an AC, but the layers of cow dung all over prove to be an effective coolant,” explains Shah, 45-something, about her unique car.

Again, for her, this idea is only a logical continuum of her entire home artistically plastered by cow dung as found in the villages. Her car was painted by two village women and it gives an out-of-the-world look. Sitting inside instantly gives that cooling effect in a scorching summer.

Woman, Cow Dung, Horse- Cart
 The layers of cow dung all over prove to be an effective coolant. Pixabay

But Shah needs the car only for long distances, otherwise she struts around everywhere around on her classic horse-cart.

“Caring for the environment and employing various ways to conserve and protect it for the future generations is not really a modern approach. It is the very way our ancestors have lived,” Shah tells IANS.

She moved to Ahmedabad seven years ago from Mumbai along with her diamond merchant husband after he retired to live in the peace of her eco-friendly home. Her green initiatives are not to demonstrate to the world that she cares. Shah does it since it comes naturally to her.

This is how she explains what she is up to: “The collective efforts put together by every single person who believes in sustainable development of our resources can only make the world a better place for the future, before the damage gets permanently irreversible.”

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She goes on: “Small contributions from every individual like avoiding plastics, or providing waste water to the ground instead of letting it go in the sewage and use of chemicals as minimum as possible, will contribute to the large cause of saving the Earth which has provided resources for everybody’s need which is being wasted for human greed.”

She practices what she preaches in every sense. Right from her eco-friendly clothes to bronze and copper vessels she uses. The earthen ‘chulha’ in the kitchen at the backyard is also in an open space like typical Indian rural kitchens.

“India needs a cultural shift and mindset which takes us back to a value system given to us by our forefathers to look upon nature as a source to nurture, not an object to consume or conquest,” Shah declares.

“Just like joint families where everyone chips in equally for everything, the Indian culture believed in sharing a symbiotic relationship with the nature,” Shah says.

Woman, Cow Dung, Horse- Cart
Shah needs the car only for long distances, otherwise she struts around everywhere around on her classic horse-cart. Pixabay

As Ahmedabad burns at 45-plus degrees Celsius of dry heat, Shah looks cool. Not only her khadi clothes, everything she does is green, like using natural alternatives of soap, shampoo and talcum powder. She suggests shankh-pushpi powder or multani mitti and neem for skin care as well as for brushing teeth.

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“If used on a daily basis, all these natural elements with Ayurvedic properties, instead of products with chemicals, surely give much, much better results. And also for longevity,” strongly believes Shah. (IANS)