A reflective piece about the story behind Sewdass Sadhu temple in the sea.
Travelling is one of the most effective forms of therapy. Travelling provides an opportunity to escape your everyday reality and embrace a fresh environment, culture and unexpected experiences. Oftentimes, our discovery of something new can lead to a deeper understanding of self and ultimately to lifestyle changes. This philosophy became a reality when I stumbled upon the Sewdass Sadhu Temple in the sea located in Waterloo on the West coast of Trinidad.
The one-story temple bears an octagonal shape and displays images of numerous Hindu deities such as Ganesh. The temple stands majestically on the shore surrounded by tall colorful flags dancing in unison with the gentle breeze. Hindus across Trinidad come to the temple to worship, host weddings, or even funerals. However, behind the stunning architecture is a story of persistence, resilience and unwavering commitment to a higher being.
From 1845, Indians were being brought to Trinidad as indentured laborers to work on plantations. These workers were removed from their families, their temples and their customs. In adjusting to their new environment, it was necessary to maintain or recreate some elements of their culture. Religion was one of these elements of culture that had to be maintained. Sewdass Sadhu was an impoverished indentured laborer who remained committed to creating a place of worship for Hindus such as himself. The temple was built on the shore because it is believed that the calm waters of the Gulf of Paria reminded him of the Ganges river which is said to be the holiest river for Hindus.
Sewdass Sadhu single handedly started building the temple; it took about 25 years, but he was stopped by the legal owners of the land, who demanded that he demolish the structure. According to an article by Niala Maharaj, such a request “was asking him to commit a sin. No matter what threats they used, all he would say was, ‘I cannot break down that.’” Eventually, Sadhu was arrested for fourteen days and fined. By 1995 the temple was renovated by the government and consecrated. On any given day, music and prayer fill the temple. This temple not only represents the history of Indian persons in Trinidad and their attempt to reconstruct a part of their former lives, but it represents the indomitable spirit that lies in all human beings when we are fully committed to a cause.
The temple in the sea is a sacred encounter because regardless of your views on religion, the story forces you to question your own determination, faith, resilience and commitment to God. Encountering the Temple in the Sea fosters a sense of spiritual awakening and also provides a tranquil, peaceful environment. It is an experience worth having.