L to R - Vijay Maharaj, General Secretary (Ag.), Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha; Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley MP; Terrence Deyalsingh MP, Minister of Health.

The Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha has written to Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley and Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh, requesting the reopening of rivers and natural watercourses, so the Hindu community can resume several of its religious ceremonies.

The correspondence, signed by Secretary General (Ag.) Vijay Maharaj and which has been shared in the media, reminds both Government officials that the Hindu community has been compliant with the safety protocols effected for the pandemic.

The religious organisation is asking that special consideration be given to one Hindu ceremony in particular, which is connected to funeral rites.

The following is the full text of the letter sent by the Maha Sabha…

Dear Honourable Prime Minister and Minister Deyalsingh,

As the country inches towards a state of cautious normalcy, the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha notes that beaches have now been conditionally reopened for public use.

When beaches and rivers were closed, several of the religious ceremonies of the Hindus had to be curtailed and/or modified.  For example, the rituals of the ‘dasgaath’ (shaving ceremony that takes place on the tenth day after cremation), is usually performed at a river, but had to be modified to comply with the public health protocols of the pandemic.  The Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha and the Hindu community willingly abided with this restriction and sought to find an alternative means of performing this ceremony.

The Pandits’ Parishad of the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha did recommend a substitute that Hindus could follow in the interim, given the restricted access to rivers.  The Maha Sabha designated certain temples on whose compounds the dasgaath ceremonies could be performed.  This recommendation was made with the understanding that it was a temporary measure until we had access to rivers once again.

Today, the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha wishes to ask that you consider opening up the rivers for public use, even with similar restrictions as beaches.

The dasgaath ceremony is a very sombre one, and does not involve the use of any alcohol, nor does it promote a party atmosphere.  The ceremony includes a small number of persons and the time required for its completion is usually under four hours.  In other words, if access is granted to the rivers for the performance of this ceremony, there is reasonably little to no risk that it would be a spreader event for the COVID-19 virus.

We are aware that as we go forward as a nation, there is the inevitable need to balance the necessary precautions against the COVID-19 virus with the responsible practice of religious rites, customs and everyday living.  We feel certain that if our request is granted, it will in no way upset this balance, and the Hindu community will have a chance once again to revert to our religious traditions, which have become an integral part of our everyday lives.

Yours in Dharma,

Vijay Maharaj
Secretary General (Ag.)