By : Devi Kaladeen, Audit Manager, Health Sector Development Unit
Activity: 7 comments 1553 views last activity : 07 06 2010 20:18:04 +0000
Arrival Day ought to be used to promote national unity- says Pandit Reepu Daman Persaud in an interview with the Guyana Chronicle.
Guyana Celebrated "Indian Arrival Day on May 5, 2009(a national holiday in Guyana)
EAST Indians arrived in Guyana bringing with them their ancient customs and culture from India and undoubtedly today their various arts and culture continue to be kept alive.
On May 5, 1838, the first set of East Indian labourers arrived in then British Guiana on the ships Whitby and Hesperus that landed with 936 Indian indentured workers after a hazardous journey crossing the Kala Paani (dark) from Calcutta.
The preservation and development of their rich and unique cultural heritage can also be credited to the hard work and dedication of several dynamic individuals and descendants of Indian immigrants.
One such person is President of the Guyana Hindu Dharmic Sabha and former Parliamentary Affairs Minister, Pandit Reepu Daman Persaud, who is the son of an immigrant.
In an exclusive interview with the Guyana Chronicle, this Hindu Missionary said his father was from Pitampura in India, while his mother was born in Vreed-en-Hoop on the West Coast of Demerara,Guyana.
He was fortunate to visit the land of his ancestors and recollected, “I went to the very room where my father was born and I climb on a rope to get upstairs and I saw the indigenous layout.”
“They have simple houses…I met some relatives so I had a good day in the village of my father’s birth,” he stated.
“When indentureship started in 1838, in excess of 239,000 people came from India most of course from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and a sprinkling from other states,” he noted.
“They brought with them a culture, a way of live - their heritage so to speak-- and that culture has been nurtured,” Persaud stated.
Apart from their rich cultural heritage and religion, he said: “In addition to all of that, the Indian immigrants made a tangible contribution to the economy of this country.”
“Recognising what others have contributed, I make the point that Indian contribution in this respect has been of great magnitude,” Pandit Persaud reiterated.
One significant contribution, he observed: “With their arrival, Guyana stop importing sugar and started exporting.”
“But as we look at Guyana today, the Indians have been absorbed or they have entered every conceivable field of life, particularly in the professions.” Descendants of indentured laborers continue to make immense strides in the social, economic, cultural, educational, political and trade union fields, and even in the sporting arena.
“I am Guyanese, I was born in Guyana and my commitment is here,” the former Minister of Parliamentary Affairs maintains.
“I will always be proud of the fact that India is the land of my heritage,” the Sabha’s President exhorted.
“What stands out in Guyana is the fact that the culture was not only brought, but the culture has been fueled and it remains as of today very vibrant and visible,” noted.
“There was a time when an Indian girl danced, a ‘stigma’ was attached to her. I took that on as a battle and brought home very forcible to this country that Indian dance forms are enshrined in our scriptures. Hinduism is a musical religion,” he posited.
“Its poetry is fantastic and most of our verses and so on can be sung in various melodies and tunes and ragas (melodic modes used in Indian classical music) so right now the culture is rising,” he said.
He pointed out that young people are now openly associated with dance schools.
The Guyana Hindu Dharmic Sabha, which was formed in 1974, has the Dharmic Nitrasangh which produces Naya Zamana and the recent Ram Leela.
The organisation with mandirs (places of worship) and groups across the country is also involved in the hosting of annual Deepavali motorcades, Kala Utsav or ‘Festival of Arts’, an annual event which showcases a variety of talent forms by participants drawn from Praants countrywide.
“The organisation is going well up to today and it is definitely the strongest and largest,” Persaud insisted.
He said the Sabha has classes in vocal and instrumental music, dancing, Hindi classes and promoting the various Indian arts and culture; the organisation is involved in social and humanitarian activities and recognising the rich depth of talent in Guyana, has been actively engaging and molding young people.
“I think we have the most powerful network,” with mandirs and regional groups (praants) across the country.
The Sabha also has the Dharmic Naujawaan, which is the central youth arm.
“…we (the Dharmic Sabha) teach and we bring out very good talent,” Pandit Persaud stated.
“The tassa and nagara drums seem to be disappearing but some work has to be done in that field; nagara has been a vibrant dance form and I know some of the real top nagara dancers in the Guyana,” he says.
“Indian Arrival Day celebrates not only arrival but arrival of a change which has brought about a new beginning…not only in the economic sense, but in the cultural sense definitely.”
“In Guyana, Indian culture is now appreciated by people of all faiths and people of divergent cultures discuss aspects of Indian culture - it is a fascinating thing to look at a good kathak (traditional Indian dance form) dance,” he noted.
“But I will conceive kathak does not really attract the young so much - youths like the filmi dances and of course the more relaxed dance forms,” Pandit Persaud said.
He noted that today descendants of Indian immigrants are actively involved in the playing of traditional musical instruments such the sitar, tabla, and dholak, among others, apart from the singing and dancing.
“The culture in itself is not only singing and dancing,” he pointed out.
He spoke of the ‘seven curry’ which is eaten in the puri leaf at religious functions, and the countless Indian delicious sweets such as barfi, gulab jamoon, ladoos, and mithai.
“Arrival Day is an integral part of our history and an opportunity to reflect and to contemplate on where we have come and where we have reached,” he noted.
“Arrival Day ought to be used to strengthen unity in Guyana. I have not seen divergent cultures as you will find here in Guyana anywhere else,” the Pandit stated.
“I myself was born in a logi and I grew up in a logi. I know logi life and while I was not exposed to the harshness of indentureship, I know of the hardship my foreparents passed through, particularly on the sugar plantation,” he noted.
“Not only have they (Indians) survived. They have risen in society both in business and the professions. Indian culture is now paramount, and it has grown in great magnitude, and people take pride in their culture.”
PS: My great grandfather also came from India and settled in Guyana. Unfortunately he died long before I was born.
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Very nice article....the youths of today should read this. It so sad that children of today hardly take time to stop and think of how hard their parents work so they can have a good life. Thanks for posting.