The Regulation of Religion and the Making of Hinduism in Colonial Trinidad

By Alexander Rocklin | Go to book overview

Introduction

He seems to infer thence—so many ceremonies, so many rights—
to their free observance. But this rule—a rule of liberal governments
only, has its limits.

—“The Coolie ‘Hosay’ Fete,” Trinidad Chronicle, March 27, 1871


Religion before Hinduism

The telegraph wires were blocking the route of the procession of tombs. In 1871 the newspaper the Trinidad Chronicle published a petition submitted by a group calling itself “A Conbination” [sic]. The petitioners identified themselves as “coolies,” Indian indentured laborers. They were writing to request the temporary removal of telegraph wires strung across the public roads leading into the city of San Fernando, in the south of Trinidad. The wires blocked the passage of their tadjahs, large bamboo and paper models of the tombs of Imams Husayn and Hasan, grandsons of the Prophet Muhammad, that were taken on procession during Hosay (or Muharram), the commemoration of the lives, struggles, and deaths of the Imams. A Conbination wrote:

We Coolies have conbined [sic] of preinforming you that, as our FETE
DAY is rapidly advancing, we shall indeed be exceedingly joyous of
beholding everything clear before us for the same purpose. Example,
as there are varieties of Nations as well as Sexes: There are also a
great diversification in their rites and ceremonies. For instance, take
the first for granted: the English takes a great delight in attending to
his Church, for he believes it pleaseth God: in like manner the Pagan,
by paying his homage to his God Hosá, he also believes it pleaseth
the same God. Hence we deem it necessary to strive all efforts of
avoiding all obstacles which withstands or deters us from
perpetrating that homage which is attribute [sic] to God.1

These Indian laborers were engaging in a complex set of comparisons and translations between “rites” and “ceremonies” “English” and “Pagan” in

-1-

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The Regulation of Religion and the Making of Hinduism in Colonial Trinidad
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Acknowledgments vii
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - Crossing the Dark Water 19
  • Part I - Religion 35
  • 2 - Converting Religion 37
  • 3 - Regulating Religion 73
  • 4 - Outlawing Religion 110
  • Part II - Hinduism 149
  • 5 - Standardizing Sanatana Dharma 151
  • 6 - Making World Religions 192
  • Postscript 231
  • Notes 239
  • Bibliography 271
  • Index 291
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