Orange Valley Mandir: A Shining Star in the Hindu Galaxy
The Orange Valley Vishnu Mandir is a mandir with a difference. Apart from its regular Sunday morning devotion and observing the various festivals in the Hindu calendar, the Mandir has embarked on innovative projects to attract the interest of its devotees and particularly the youths.
Recently the mandir held its 18th annual yagya. This year’s yagya, held between 2-9 July, took the form of a Bhagwat Puran Yagya with three daily readings (9am-11am; 2pm-4pm; and 7pm -9pm) from the Srimad Bhagavatam.
The yagya culminated with a gow-dan on the final day where the devotees gifted to the pandit a calf. An elaborate and colourful ritual, the gow-dan ceremony, like the rest of the yagya, attracted large number of devotees. Many were witnessing a gow-dan for the first time. The cow was decorated like a deity and worshipped with the chanting of mantras.
“Hindus are called upon to perform a gow-dan during their life time. It is a gift of a cow to a Brahmin (Pandit). According to the Srimad Bhagavatam by offering a cow the soul is assisted in the crossing of the Vaitarini River, which can be very challenging and difficult for the departed soul,” explain Pandit Randy, a devotee of the mandir.
Officiating was Pandit Navn Omardath Maharaj, a teacher attached to the Vishnu Boys College. He was assisted with the bedi pooja by Pandit Narine Persad, the resident pandit of the mandir and a retired school teacher.
Parbatie, Secretary of the mandir was pleased with the enthusiasm and co-operation of all the devotees during the course of the yagya. She was very happy to inform that the roti for each night was not bought from outside-as is the norm today- but prepared in the mandir by Uncle Harold. It was a labour of love and every one was only too happy to play their part.
“But why did you choose a Bhagwat and 21 sessions?” I enquired.
“I guess we wanted to test our devotion. We have had seventeen consecutive yagyas but this year we felt that we should do something that need a bit more sacrifice,” she said.
Our youths are very active in the mandir. They were busy as ushers, passing around artee, serving parsad and meals. “I am pleased with the role the youth are playing in the mandir,” said Parbatie.
At present the mandir occupies 2.25 acres of land. Recently the Maha Sabha acquired an addition parcel of land from Caroni Ltd. The mandir plans to fence a portion for a car-park and another portion for the development of a Hindu botanic garden. This project involves the planting of all plants associated with worship in Hinduism such as mango, bael, tulsi, anar, neem, etc. Provisions would also be made for those who wish to perform poojas on site.
The mandir has been hosting classes provided by the Ministry of Community Development. In the past years classes were held to make Indian sweets, Indian savoury dishes, cosmetology, hair dressing and vegetarian dishes. This year’s classes would be on nail technology. These classes are always well attended and devotees continue to look forward to them.
I asked Parbatie about the threat of conversion to Christianity. She responded: “Like any way else the churches are doing their work and some families are converting but this is marginal. The majority of families in Orange Valley continue to be Hindus and are active in the mandir.”