Sanatan Dharam Mandir, Maha Sabha to Celebrate 4th Annual Indian Arrival Day

The Sanathan Dharam Mandir located off South Post Oak on Players Road

The Sanathan Dharam Mandir located off South Post Oak on Players Road

By Ariti Jankie

HOUSTON: Preparations are in full swing for the fourth annual Indian Arrival Day celebration to be held on June 25th at the Sanatan Dharam Mandir from 7.00 a.m. to 12.30 p.m.

Organized by the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha, Branch 377 and the Sanatan Dharam Mandir, the celebration brings together a dynamic second diaspora that adds its vibrant cultural charms to the thriving cosmopolitan city life. Their ancestors left India during an Indian indenture system in which 3.5 million Indians were transported to various colonies of European powers to provide labor for the (mainly sugar) plantations. It started from the end of slavery in 1833 and continued until 1920.

Dharam Vishal Chatoor, President of the SDMS, said that a compassionate culture developed from the bondage endured by the Indians. Indian Arrival Day, he said nourished the root that kept the community mainly from the Caribbean flourishing.

“Our ancestors left India empty-handed like most of us who arrived in Texas. We moved with faith and hope like them and are no strangers to sacrifice and hard work. Our parents and grandparents were contented. They strived to provide a better life for us just as we are doing for our children,” he said.

Photo from last year’s event. A skit was performed showing how the Indians were tricked into going across the waters and later, after their arrival, mistreated by British agents

Photo from last year’s event. A skit was performed showing how the Indians were tricked into going across the waters and later, after their arrival, mistreated by British agents

Indian Arrival Day is celebrated May 30 in Trinidad and Tobago commemorating the arrival of the first Indian Indentured laborers from India to Trinidad, in May 1845, on the ship Fatel Razack. Guyana celebrates on May 5 while in Fiji May 14 is observed as Girmit Day.

In 2014, the two mandir groups got together to share in the spirit of arrival by recounting the lessons learnt from humble backgrounds. Several prominent community members were honored and cultural performers were given the opportunity to showcase their talents. Since then, the celebrations have grown with each passing year.

Pundit Sais Narain, who was born in Guyana and heads the SD mandir, said that coming together to remember and share a common history has been empowering. “It gives us a moment to reflect and be thankful for all that we have received,” he said.

Jasoda Sharma, a cultural icon and coordinator of the Houston Girmit festival, said that people of Indian origin remained whole through an oral tradition that continues till today.

She said, “We share what we have and give all that we know to our youth for safe keeping and by so doing we continue to enrich new generation with greater community spirit and human kindness.”

Bhajan singer, Shomie Ramprasad said that life in Houston fulfilled her dreams, but left her culturally starved until she found others like her whose inner strength lay in old traditions and cultural values handed down from one generation to another.

“I look forward to Indian Arrival Day every year and experience a special bond with those who share a common heritage,” she said.

Public Relations Officer of SDMS, Fiji-born Ram Sharma, felt that remembrance brought relief to participants as it helped them to appreciate the strides they have made.

“We try to be worthy of our noble ancestors and in so doing are more humble and compassionate to the sufferings of others,” he said.

This year, the National Council of Indian Culture in Trinidad has shown interest in the Houston festival and will send representation to join in the celebrations.

NCIC Public Relations officer, Surujdeo Mangaroo said that his heart swells with pride to see how well the cultural traditions has been transported to take its place in new cities like Houston.

“A common history binds us together as one family and I look forward to joining this dynamic group in celebration,” he said.

Tassa drummers, folk singers, musicians and dancers will showcase aspects of an ancient abiding culture that kept them whole through the first and second diaspora since leaving India more than a hundred years ago.

The festival also focus on a history of food that began with bare sustenance among the indentured ancestors and developed into world class dishes compared and shared across the globe.

The celebration starts at 7.00 a.m. with a short dance/walk around the mandir. Participants will take their seat in a circle to talk about the old days. This year the talk will revolve on the things that influenced them the most.

The program continues with pooja by Pundit Sais, followed by an inaugural lighting of the lamp, an invocational dance by Amrita Chatterpal, followed by folk songs of the ancestors by Sharma, two dance items by students of Kusum Sharma’s Shri Natraj School of Dance, feature address by Chatoor and the presentation of awards to community workers, tassa drumming, a photographic display by Shashi Beharry and more dances and songs that shows appreciation of ancestral gifts. Both breakfast and lunch, prepared by the mandir devotees, will be served.