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Reader Takes Exception to Hinduism Today Article on Guyana/Suriname

on 2001/1/18 8:46:02 ( 1653 reads )


KAPAA, HAWAII, January 10, 2001: Hinduism Today felt HPI readers would be interested in the long letter on our article on Guyana/Suriname which appeared in the January/February, 2001, issue.

Dear Editor, Articles on the Indian Diaspora are certainly welcome, especially those that document the continuation of our Indian Culture and the efforts to propagate it. That is why the feature article by Anil Mahabir, titled "Hindus of South America," in the January/February 2001 issue of your esteem magazine is crucially important -- not for its ostentatious portrayal of the tribulations of our ancient culture, but because it does that culture an injustice. This flagrant misrepresentation aside, Mr. Mahabir's article is also a flagrant violation of part of the raison d'etre of Hinduism Today as it contravenes purposes [3] and [5]. The former, for example, states that one of the functions of your magazine is "To dispel myths, illusions and misinformation about Hinduism." This is why I feel compelled to respond to Mr. Mahabir's article. First, the article is riddled with factual errors. Here are some glaring examples:

* "I traveled 45 miles by speedboat from one bank of the Essequibo River to the next " (p. 18). As far as I know, the normal route that speedboats ply, from Parika to Supernaam, takes about 45 minutes and is no more that 10 miles. The routes plied less often, from Parika to Wakenaam and Parika to Leguan, take less time because the distances involved are shorter.

* "The Ramayana is the main text" (p. 18). This is essentially a regurgitation of historical studies that document the indenture experience. Today, at least in my native Essequibo, it is Bhagavad Gita that is the main text of Sanatana Dharma, not the Ramayana.

* I fail to understand how the similarities between Guyanese and Trinidadian Hindus have been "shaped by a shared Caribbean experience." Our Shastras and nothing else have shaped Indian culture, which has remained basically unchanged for the last 6,000 and more years, despite the prolonged shocks imparted to it by Islam and Christianity. I maintain that the core of Caribbean Hindu culture survived the indenture experience intact.

* "Pundit Reepu Persaud pointed out that these [the Indians who arrived in Guyana on May 5, 1838] were the first to bring Hinduism to the Americas, not Swami Vivekananda." This is a silly statement that lacks any deep thinking, something that is sorely absent among Caribbean Hindus. The first Indians who came to Guyana (and thus the Americas) merely relocated geographically; they did not transmit Hinduism to the people they found there. On the other hand, it was no other than Swami Vivekananda who opened the Western mind to Hinduism; it was Swamiji who sanitized Hinduism of the heathen aspects that various European and others arbitrarily pasted upon it.

* "Perhaps about 10 percent [of the Indians who came] returned to Indian from Guyana." For the record, about 240,000 Indians came to Guyana and about 76,000 returned (among other sources, see Dwarka Nath, 1970. A History of Indians in Guyana. London: Butler and Tanner). That is, about 32 per cent of those Indians who came to Guyana returned to their native Bharat.

* "It is believed the ratio of migrants was 100 men to 20 women " (p. 21). This is a downright fabrication. Indeed, the sex gap was too large for a self-sustaining Indian population, but, once again, Mr. Mahabir did not do his research. The evidence shows that,

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