Maha Sabha writes to PM: Reopen rivers

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Acting Secretary General of the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha, Vijay Maharaj. –

ACTING secretary general of the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha (SDMS) Vijay Maharaj has written to both the Prime Minister and Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh asking for rivers to be reopened so Hindus can resume religious activities that requie the use of water sources.

In a letter to Dr Rowley dated January 4, which was copied to Deyalsingh, Maharaj reminded the PM about the Hindu community’s willingness to adjust its prayer practices to conform with covid19 public health regulations, which at the time, saw a complete ban on activities at beaches, rivers and other watercourses.

Maharaj however noted that Rowley had reopened beaches from 5 am-12 pm daily, “as the country inches towards a state of cautious normalcy.”

In referring to the total closure of beaches and waterways, Maharaj said a number of Hindu religious ceremonies were curtailed or modified, including the
dasgaath (a shaving ceremony that takes place after the death of a loved one). This, he said, is usually performed at a river.

Scores of people relax at Swallow’s Beach, Crown Point on Sunday. Photo by David Reid

But owing to the restrictions, the Maha Sabha’s Pandits’ Parishad recommended a substitute for Hindus to follow in the interim, given the ban on access to rivers. The Maha Sabha designated certain temples on whose compounds the
dasgaath ceremonies could be performed, Maharaj said.

This was done with the understanding that it was only a temporary measure until Hindus have access once again, to rivers.

“Today, the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha wishes to ask that you consider opening up the rivers for public use, even with similar restrictions as beaches,” Maharaj’s letter said.

The dasgaath ceremony, he pointed out, is a very sombre one and does not involve the use of any alcohol nor does it promote a party atmosphere.

The ceremony includes a small number of people and usually takes less than four hours.

So if access is granted to rivers for this ceremony, “There is reasonably little to no risk that it would be a spreader event for the covid19 virus,” Maharaj said.

He said the country inevitably nees to balance necessary precautions against covid19 with the responsible practice of religious rites, customs and everyday living.

“We feel certain that if our request is granted, it will in no way upset this balance, and the Hindu community will have a chance once again to revert to our religious traditions, which have become an integral part of our everyday lives.”

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley.

The Maha Sabha has previously called on Government to remove the ban on open-air pyre cremations, saying this has caused untold financial hardship to many Hindus, who have had to fork out tens of thousands of dollars for cremations at funeral homes.

This matter has since reached the High Court, where a decision is still pending.