This post is very close to home for me, sharing not just a bit of Trinidad & Tobago's multi-ethnic culture, but my Hindu heritage and family. Indians make up 35% of the population of T&T; descendants of the first Indians who came from India 169 years ago. Sometimes people are surprised T&T has such a high percentage of Indians but it is just another factor that makes us such a unique country.
I do travel a lot, but when it comes to family, I find myself on a plane back to Trinidad as much as I can to celebrate religious and other functions with them. This was one of such events.
Granny's wish for her 80th birthday was to have a Hindu deity brought from India and placed in one of her favourite temples in town as her legacy. Granny being the matriarch of the family, when she says she wants, we make it happen. However this event we were about to undertake as a family was a once in a lifetime opportunity.
Now it could have been made in Trinidad but Granny's wish was to have it made from marble in Jaipur, India. Doesn't sound too complicated does it? Little did we know we were about to commission a 400kg marble murti of the Surya God to be shipped to Trinidad and the elaborate ritual upon arrival to have it installed in the temple. It was similar to a mini Indian wedding with much pomp and circumstance, a definitely learning experience for all.
Surya is the chief solar deity of the Hindu religion. Lord Surya, the Sun God as he is commonly referred, is the only visible god which one can see every day in the form of the sun. He is also the presiding deity of Sunday. He is often depicted riding a chariot harnessed by seven horses which is said to represent the seven chakras in the body, seven colours of the rainbow, seven days of the week etc. Seven being a very auspicious number for Hindus.
Hindus consider a murti worthy of serving as a focus of divine worship only after the divine is invoked in it for the purpose of offering worship. Praan Prathistaa is the idol installation ceremony, which is the means of instilling the divine presence of the Lord himself.
With 300 invited guests (Granny's version of a "small" event), we all escorted the Surya murti from her house to the Shiva Harijan Mandir which was a 2 mile walk away in Debe, my hometown of circa 4,000 residents.
Follow this awe inspiring event in photos as we made Granny's dream come true.
Doing puja before the Surya murti can leave our home and be taken to the temple.
Everyone sang hymns praising Lord Surya as the murti was put on the truck that will take it the temple.
The singing continued as the procession left our street.
A pitstop at the beginning of our street to perform prayers; seeking blessings as the Surya murti left our family home for the last time.
The procession continued to chant hymns as they left our street and proceeded onto the main road to the temple (police escort directing traffic off course)
The seven boys, holding flags with names of each of the seven horses depicted on the Surya murti, lead the procession
The seven girls walking proudly carrying their thalis on their heads.
Halfway mark in the procession to the temple.
Family and friends walked behind the murti on the street continually chanting hymns to Lord Surya.
Almost at the temple, everyone felt the energy of the chanting.
Our needed police approval and escort to have this event. They did a fantastic job directing traffic (afterall we were 200 people walking on the main streets in town).
Arriving at the temple the murti would call home.
Granny and her two daughters continued to perform Aarti on the murti before it is taken inside.
Inside the temple, the seven boys and seven girls all stand in a row to welcome the murti as it is brought in.
Doing Aarti as the 400kg marble murti is brought into the temple by a forklift.
Manually moving the murti onto the stand where it will be placed permanently.
Before the ceremony starts, the murti is covered, life has not been breathed into it until the ceremony is over.
The two pundits (Hindu priests) getting ready to start the ceremony.
The multicultural side of Trinidad - my cousin stared the program off playing the National Anthem on the national instrument - the steelpan.
The entire family sat together with Granny to perform the ceremony.
Doing final puja to Lord Surya
Praan Praatishta ceremony over, the Surya murti is worshipped in the temple.
The family at the end of the ceremony all dressed in red. Red represents Surya.