Historian and author Professor Brinsley Samaroo is urging citizens to learn about the significance of the East Indian contribution to the region, and to encourage the continuation of intellectual work to add to the knowledge about our forefathers. Samaroo was the feature speaker at the El Do Shiv Mandir Indian Arrival Day programme on May 27 and spoke on the theme "Contributions of our ancestors towards the development of our country." He highlighted some of the ways indentured workers affected the economic and spiritual development of the Caribbean. "The indentured labourers forever changed the history of the Caribbean with all that they brought with them that has been infused into the lifestyle of our Caribbean culture. From the food, fruits, flowers, herbs, religious texts in what we know as their 'jahaji bhandal,' with 'jahaji' meaning 'ship' and 'bhandal,' 'bundle,'" he said. He said some examples of the items they brought from which we benefit include the chameli, mussaenda, suraj mukti (sunflower), pan de pata (pan leaf), mangoes, limes, oranges and other citrus, pepper, karailli, lowkie, rice, dhal, lentils, bhaji and eddoes. He said herbs such as dhania, corianda, mustard, geera, cinnamon, ginger, garlic, karapulay and neim had their roots in India.
In addition, he said, spiritual values such as those derived from the Qur'an, Ramayan and Bhagvad Gita were introduced by the indentured labourers. "The spirit of religiousness, hard work, emphasis on the importance of family life, education-those ideas the Indians brought with them, from the teachings of their Qur'an and Ramayan and those they practised, all have made the Caribbean a much better place." He said the name of the ship on which the indentured workers came to the Caribbean was the Fatel Razack, which means Victory to Allah as Provider, pointing to the Islamic link to the journey. Many different versions of the name have evolved over the years. Samaroo also explained to devotees that one of the reasons why certain areas in the country were more densely populated by indentured workers than others was because some areas they had occupied were infested with snakes and the estate managers sought to move the labourers to higher ground or alternative locations. He identified Lopinot as one such area.
He said through the influence of the indentured workers and the sugarcane industry, the Caribbean economy had been rescued. Also the goods and services Indians brought with them, which now form a part of our "normal" landscape, with regard to fruits, flowers, vegetables, spices, herbs etc have transformed our culinary landscape, economic and religious diversity, agricultural methods, food production, and entrepreneurial spirit. He said the Caribbean's economic landscape had also changed. "Among the workers there were also julahas, or weavers, who have gone on to conduct business in, for example, haberdashery and making of various types of plant oils, including coconut, among their many interests. The Indians also took the Caribbean into the production of rubber, coconut, rice, and cocoa. "Many of the children of the labourers have gone on to become qualified professionals now at various levels in Trinidad and Tobago and internationally. The Indians have spread their culture throughout the world, where they continue to make significant contributions in medicine, technology, fashion, film, music and many types of business establishments." Resident pundits Vinai Sharma and Deosaran Sharma officiated at Sunday's service. Tributes were paid to two of the elders in the community-Lachandaye Ramuite and Supersad Maharaj-who were honoured for their contribution to the work of the mandir.
• The El Dorado Shiv Mandir (EDSM) in 2012 is celebrating 100 years since its establishment. The mandir was constructed in 1912 by indentured workers who worked in the nearby sugarcane estates, and lobbied the estate owners to allow them to have the land so they could build a place to worship and practise their culture.