Yesterday I had a unique experience celebrating Ram Nawmi. It was not held at midday but during the hours of 6-9 p.m. at the Orange Valley Mandir, Couva.
When I was invited by Parbatiji I never expected to have the experience I had yesterday. Little did I know that this innovative and creative way of celebrating Ram Nawmi is not new but has been in existence for many years at the mandir.
I was accompanied by Krishendath ‘Blues’ Singh, a popular musician, and singer and no stranger to the people of Orange Valley. In the 1980s Blues was a regulator visitor to the weekly Satsangh at the Ramlakhans’ residence lending his voice and also playing the harmonium.
In the car park a few youths were placing pieces of wood together which I guest was for a havan kund. Tables and chairs were laid out and I learned that meals will be served in the open under the stars. All the devotees were dressed in yellow and several familiar faces greeted us.
I have been visiting this temple since the early 1980s and I marveled at the physical transformation that has taken place. The wood benches of yesteryear had all gone and replaced by the red padded chair that carries a VIP aura. The entire temple is air-conditioned. Noticeable were the aesthetic steel doors at the front and the side to the altar.
When Pandit Narine arrived he very calmly took his place next to the altar. Siewnarine ‘Bates’ Babwah set up the PA System and Blues and other musicians settled on the stage. With all devotees on stage, Pandit Narine began his chanting of rituals as offerings were made to the deity and the havan. The singing began with Blues and then followed by Parbatie and other devotees.
The rocking of the hammock with Baby Ram was accompanied with the rendition of ‘jhule jhule palna Kausilya jhulawe lal na” led by a devotee with Parbatie and others chorusing. By this time the temple was packed. Soon all devotees formed into a beehive and made their way to the stage offering their gifts of prasad to Baby Ram and rocking the hammock before leaving.
I was reminded that Ram Nawmi is being celebrated since Rama’s birth in Ayodha, Uttar Pradesh, India and the observance of Ram Janamasthami has never ceased despite many calamities. The destruction of the Rama temple by hostile forces did not put an end to the observance of Ram Nawmi.
What is most heartening is that our indentured ancestors ‘exiled’ to this part of the world amidst hostile forces never ceased to celebrate Ram Naumi and this year, coming out of the pandemic, it was most opportune to demonstrate our love for Sri Ram.
The devotees shifted from the temple to the car park. Each family came forward and made their offering of a single coconut to the fire while the pandit chanted mantras. More than three dozen families participated.
MP Ravi Ratiram was called to the microphone to bring greetings. He shared with devotees ‘the wonderful experience I had with the Radha Madhav Society earlier in the morning.” He shared with the devotees the message given by Didiji, a visiting Swamini who said that “we can best experience Ram Nawmi by striving for oneness by uniting the senses, the intellect and the spiritual and that this can happen by chanting the name of Ram.”
Accompanied by Councilor Taxi, a devotee of the mandir, MP Ratiram joined with scores of devotees in the circumambulation of the fire, each carrying a coconut to offer to the fire. Bhajans resonated from the loudspeakers and after half of an hour, devotees were invited by Pandit Narine to make the final offerings of coconuts to the fire amidst the chanting of mantras.
After the closing prayers, devotees were invited to partake of meals. The dishes were prepared by each family and brought to the mandir. With their plates filled with sada roti and talkaries of their choice and sweets, they made their way to the available seats under the stars. (I have now remembered that I still have pieces of the delicious pone and carrot cake in my fridge to devour… no… no… to relish.)
So next Saturday Blues and I shall be joining the devotees at Orange Valley to celebrate the birthday of Sri Hanuman.
By Dool Hanomansingh