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

By Alexander Rocklin | Go to book overview

5 Standardizing Sanatana Dharma

What our Saviour Christ is to Christianity, Shri Krishn is to Hinduism
and Mohomet to Islamism. The granting therefore of similar aids, to
Hindoos and muslims is within reasonable and legitimate bounds, and
we have every confidence that an appeal to the government for the
purpose would be entertained.

—“Government Grants to Hindoo and Muslim Churches,”
East Indian Herald

In an article in the East Indian Herald from the mid-1920s, the author (evidently a Christian, likely the drug store proprietor and the paper’s editor Nathaniel Edward Ramcharan1) drew attention to the inequality between non-Christian Indian Trinidadian identified religions and the Christian denominations in Trinidad with regard to government patronage. As part of its secular policies maintaining religious equality, the government gave out grants for institutions such as schools to different Christian organizations. This equality, however, had its limits, not extending to Hindu and Muslim groups. The author wrote that all religions, from their beginning, have had to adapt to the requirements of their time, and “the Hindoo and muslim [sic] religions” have also “kept apace with the progress of time.” The author then drew comparisons between all three religions, to show the similarities between them, including that all three possessed a savior figure. Therefore, he argued, it was reasonable for the government to extend equality and grant aid to Hindu and Muslim groups similar to what they granted to Christian ones. However, to receive the recognition they deserved, the author went on, the Muslims and “Hindoos” had to reorganize their “religious activities.” He counseled that each religion should have an officially recognized head, each district should have designated “churches” (temples and mosques), and each district a “sub”-pundit and imam, all under the authority of a council.2 This article raises two points of particular interest. One is the explicit call for the rational and formal organizing of religions among Hindus and Muslims on the model of Christianity. The other is the keen interest that Indian Trinidadian Christians showed in non-Christian social

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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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