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Iere stages Temple in the Sea

Published: 
Monday, April 23, 2018

When Indian immigrant and the son of indentured labourers, Sewdass Sadhu, returned to Trinidad from India in the mid-1940s it was as a man on a mission to recreate the sacred aura of the Ganges River he had witnessed in his native land.

He was born in Benares in 1903 to Boodhram and Bissoondayia who later moved to Trinidad as indentured labourers when he was three.

He later returned to India but dreamt of replicating the sacred river location in the land that became his home.

Little did Sadhu know then that his tenacity and faith would someday become an enduring story of persistence and pride and the subject of the dramatist’s and numerous other pens.

Iere Theatre Productions has been in rigorous rehearsals for months to stage Temple in the Sea - the remarkable story of this Hindu holy man who insisted that in his adopted land, Trinidad, his religious practices should find a respected place among equals, even in the face of stout resistance from colonial authority.

The current structure, known as the Sewdass Sadhu Shiv Mandir was finally completed and consecrated at Waterloo in Central Trinidad in 1995 to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the arrival of Indian indentured labourers.

The original temple was built at MacMillan Park in 1947 following Sadhu’s return from a trip to India. But the structure was erected on land owned by sugar manufacturers Tate and Lyle and was demolished in 1952 after the company went to court to have it removed. In the process, he was fined and thrown in jail for two weeks.

Upon his release, and through the use of a bicycle and basic tools, Sadhu went on to single-handedly construct a new temple 500 feet out at sea, in the Gulf of Paria at Waterloo where he grew up.

This production of the story of Sadhu and his Temple in the Sea is an encore performance for the group and a hat trick for director, Victor Edwards, who worked on a 2002 UWI production of the play and the 2012 version produced by Iere.

In his 2012 director’s note, Edwards pays tribute to Sadhu as “a resistant force to the colonial presence.” This time around, the role is played by accomplished thespian Martin Sahadath.

“In spite of his fine, his term in jail, and the eventual destruction of the first temple built, he persevered in constructing a second temple on ‘no man’s land’,” Edwards says of Sadhu. That effort took 25 years to complete.

The rest, as they say, is history – a tale this Iere production hopes to capture through drama, dance and a variety of musical genres.

An Iere backgrounder describes Sadhu’s story as “magical, mystical yet true” and “an integral part of our nation’s history.”

Edwards believes that relating the story on stage can contribute to a stronger sense of nationhood.

“We should first shape our intention in ancestral memory and allow the architect of their resolve to guide our tasks and aspirations as we consciously construct a meaning for nationhood,” he says.

There will be seven performances of the play from May 24-27. On May 24 and 25, there will be three performances for school audiences and on May 26 and 27, there will be general performances, all at the Southern Academy for the Performing Arts (Sapa).

More info

For further information, Iere Theatre Productions can be contacted via its Facebook page. Tickets are also on sale at Books Etc., Browwwsers, Elle Fashion, MS Foodcity and Nigel R Khan Booksellers.

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