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Sunday 21 July 2019
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Phagwa celebrations today

Vishnu Boys College students sing chowtaals at Phagwa celebrations at the school in Caroni on Friday.
Vishnu Boys College students sing chowtaals at Phagwa celebrations at the school in Caroni on Friday.

Seeta Persad

Brightly coloured abeer will be sprayed on friends and relatives as Hindus celebrate the spring festival of Phagwa or Holi today. Temple groups, school choirs and other social groups will be involved in singing chowtaal (folk songs) with their jaals (brass instruments) and dholak (hand drums).

Phagwa will take place at several venues in the country including: Sangre Grande, Tunapuna, Chaguanas, California, Enterprise, Couva, San Fernando, Cedar Hill, Barrackpore and Penal. Phagwa falls in the month of Phagun (March/April) in the Hindu calendar. It signals the start of the spring season and is among the first Hindu festivals for the year.

US-based Trinidadian scholar Professor Anantanand Rambachan said Phagwa incorporates the celebration of nature with the religious. Rambachan said one of the best known narratives about Phagwa is about the child, Prahalad, and his tyrannical king-father, Hiranyakashipu. Prahlad ‘s faith and trust in God saw him through many trials in his life.

“Stories like these never cease to speak to us and, in our contemporary context, the story of Prahalad and Hiranyakashipu is especially powerful and inspiring,” Rambachan said, adding that, in so many ways, the story speaks profoundly to current times. The story is also about the insatiable lust for power.

“Hiranyakashipu enjoyed the power of a king, but this was not enough. He was a megalomaniac, who wanted to be worshipped and needed unqualified flattery from those who surrounded him,” he said, adding that in the time of Hiranyakashipu, subjects were punished or rewarded on the basis of their willingness to lavish him with praise.

Rambachan underscored that Prahalad’s story is about resistance to the abuse of power and standing up for one’s moral commitments. “Prahalad resisted his father’s tyranny and refused to engage in self-debasing flattery. He did not waver in the face of the direst threats. It is story also about religion as a source of inspiration for resistance,” he said, noting Prahalad made it very clear that his deepest loyalty could never be to a human being, but only to the ultimate source of the universe known as Narayana. Rambachan also said Prahalad’s loyalty to a higher truth was the source of his fearlessness and his willingness to risk his life in standing up against his father. He concluded by saying that in Prahalad there is an example of faith that refused to be seduced by the transitory enticements of power.

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