The expression "Jahaji bundle" has found its way on the political platform in T&T. It was politician Jack Warner who immortalised the phrase in an internal political upheaval in the United National Congress (UNC). This was a time when the opposition politics was in disarray and Basdeo Panday was fighting to maintain control of his political party. Challenge to his leadership was coming from the present Minister of Finance, Winston Dookeran. But Panday then had the support of Jack Warner, who was not only financier of the UNC but at the time fully supported Panday as the maximum leader. It was at this point that Warner made the controversial attack on Dookeran, who he advised: "Take your jahaji bundle and go!" This is all now history because both Warner and Dookeran are playing on the same political team. But the expression "jahaji bundle" is critical study if one is to understand the history of T&T and the impact of the Indian indentured labourers on the first arrival of the SS Fatel Rozack on May 30, 1845.
The "jahaji bundle" (four corners of a piece of cloth tied to make a carrier) could be described as a olden-day suitcase that held all the worldly possessions of an indentured immigrant labourer who travelled the high seas for three months to arrive in Trinidad from the port of Howrah in Calcutta. The vegetation landscape of Trinidad has been changed because of the seeds and cuttings of plants which indentured labourers brought in their "jahaji bundles." As one travels the countryside the presence of these Hindu sacred trees and plants are visible everywhere. The Ashoka (Saraca indica), Bael (Aegle marmelos), Dhatur (Datura stramonium), Katahar (Artocarpus heterophyllus), Madar (Calotropis procera), mango (Mangifera indica), Neem (Azadiracta indica), Paan (Piper betle), Peepar (Ficus religiosa), saffron (Curcuma longa) and the tulsi (Ocimum sanctum) are only a few of the hundreds of flowering trees and plants that have been brought here by our ancestors. But probably the most important religious plant was the tulsi, also known as the holy basil or sometimes spelt tulasi.
It carries the botanical name Ocimum sanctum. This tulsi plant could be found in nearly every Hindu home, especially around the open altar in the yard where the "jhandi flags" are flying.
In his recent publication of a book titled Plants of Religious Significance: The Hindu Perspective by author Rabindranath S Lakhan, a full description and uses of this religious plant is recorded. He writes: "An erect, annual, herbaceous plant which is found wild in the tropical and sub-tropical regions of the world. The bushy stems can grow up to 40 cm. Flowering period appears to be from June to September and vary in colour from white to red and sometimes with a light touch of purple. "It is a prime herb in Ayurvedic medicine. Marked by its strong aroma and a stringent taste, tulsi is a kind of 'the elixir of life' as it promotes longevity. The plant's extracts can be used to prevent and cure many illnesses and common ailments like common cold, headaches, stomach disorders, inflammation, various forms of poisoning and malaria."
Rabindranath Lakhan then proceeds to give a full description of the religious significance of the tulsi plant: "The tulsi is always associated with purity and highly revered and used for all religious purposes among Hindus. "It is considered very auspicious to have it planted in the front courtyard of many Hindu households. Its presence symbolises the religious bent of a Hindu family. A household is considered incomplete if it doesn't have a tulsi plant in the courtyard. "Many families have the plant in a specially built structure, which has images of deities installed on all four sides, and an alcove for a small earthen oil lamp. Some households can even have up to a dozen plants on the veranda or in the garden forming a 'tulsi-van' or 'tulsivrindavan'-a miniature basil forest. "Tulsi beads can also be seen around the necks of serious yogis and mystics in India, worn to purify the mind, emotions and body. Dispelling the unwanted influences of others, gross and subtle, is one of the many benefits bestowed by the tulsi plant and hence is worshipped by all.
"In practically every temple in India (T&T also), no puja can be started without a few tulsi leaves. There is always a special place reserved for this sacred plant. The qualities and amazing powers of this plant are found throughout the oldest writings on Earth, the Sanskrit Vedas of ancient India, where it is stated that simply touching the wood is purifying at many levels. "Quite a few myths and legends found in the Puranas, one of our ancient scriptures, point to the importance of tulsi in religious rituals. "Although tulsi is regarded as feminine, in no folklore is she described as the consort of the Lord. Yet a garland solely made of tulsi leaves is the first offering to the Lord as part of the daily ritual."
n Satnarayan Maharaj is the
secretary general of the
Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha