New murtis donated to Curepe temple

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Destroyed murtis at the Bharatiya Vidya Abhyas Mandali temple in Watts Street, Curepe on May 8. – Courtesy Bharatiya Vidya Abhyas Mandali temple

Devotees of the Bharatiya Vidya Abhyas Mandali, whose temple was vandalised after six murtis were beheaded, said there has been an outpouring of love since the horrific incident.

On Sunday, a board member who did not wish to give her name said members were touched and moved by the good wishes the temple has been receiving.

“People have been coming forward to donate new murtis, it’s a beautiful thing to witness, in the midst of the devastation, this love.”

On May 8, during the wee hours of the morning, an unknown assailant hopped the temple walls, which are secured by barbed wire and smashed the murtis.

A murti of Lord Shiva that had been on the temple grounds for 32 years was also destroyed. Images of the destructive scene have gone viral on social media, prompting many users to condemn the heinous act.

Speaking via phone, the woman said Sunday is usually their worship day and while they remained horrified by the act, temple leaders were holding prayers to keep worshippers’ spirits up.

The woman said despite the donation, she was unsure when they would begin work to replace the murtis and reopen the temple.

“Our spiritual head has that project in his hand. He’ll be dealing with those matters.”

At around 4 and 5.30 am, devotees showing up to clean and for morning worship made the discovery. When Newsday spoke with the temple’s treasurer, Zolika Ramdehal, on May 8, she described the destruction as losing something sacred. She said the vandals did not try to break into the temple and she believes their sole intent was to cause destruction.

There are no CCTV cameras on the premises, temple leaders were hoping to install cameras in June.

When Newsday visited the temple on May 8, temple members were busy removing the remaining damaged murtis as a pile of broken murti heads lined the right wall.

President of the Inter-Religious Organisation, pundit Lloyd Sirjoo, strongly condemned the attack in a phone interview with Newsday on May 8, calling it heinous and saying no such act at any religious place cannot and should not be condoned.

He questioned why anyone would desecrate any religious site and believes not enough is being done to safeguard religious spaces.

He called for police to be proactive in their work and said if the people responsible for the act were not held and convicted, it would not deter others from doing similar.

“Criminals will think it is okay to do this because nothing will happen to them.

“When it comes to religious institutions, it seems every creed and race do not find an equal place.”

Sirjoo urged the public not to label these acts as hate crimes without proper facts.

The Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha, in a media release on the day of the attack, also condemned it, saying, “This is not the unholy work of a vagrant or a band of vagrants.”

The May 8 attack was not the first of its kind, as in March, the Tabernacle of Prayer Church in Port of Spain was broken into twice in three days, with the bandits making off with close to $200,000 in equipment and food hampers, also vandalising the church in the process.

On September 9, 2023, vandals broke into the Williamsville Hindu Temple and destroyed the walls of the building. A few weeks later, on September 22, 2023, the Lakrani Ganesh Mandir in Gopie Trace, Penal, was broken into and several murtis were destroyed. Days later, on September 28, 2023, the Kali Maa Temple in Carli Bay, Couva, was graffitied.

In October 2023, a group of teens threw rocks at the Pranavananda Ashram at Temple Street off Beaucarro Road in Freeport, damaging several cars as devotees worshipped inside.

On December 18, 2023, vandals stacked wooden benches, drums, clay vases, and other sacred vessels in the middle of the St Francis Shrine Church of All Saints in Claxton Bay, setting it on fire.

Thieves also stole cash and gold jewellery from murtis at the Munroe Road Hindu Temple last December.