Kartik Snan is a time for the renewal of wows to seek the love of God, fear sin and promote morality in society. Any time is a good time, but a spirit of community festivity goes a long way in helping the goal of starting now.
The sounds of Vedic mantras will resonate along the sea-shore of Manzanilla Beach on Sunday, as thousands of Hindus in T&T will join their counterparts across the world in their annual pilgrimage and puja (worship) to observe Kartik Snaan. The eighth lunar month of the Hindu calendar is known as Kartik and this year it began on October 22 and will end on Sunday. Kartik Snaan (also called Kartik Nahan in Trinidad and Guyana) is the last day of this month and it occurs each year on the full moon day. Kartik is the culmination of 45 days of intense and sustained prayer and devotion for the Hin-du, which began with the observances of Nau Ratri (nine nights of worship to the female deities) and Ramleela, followed by the festival of Deepawali (Divali). During this period Hindus worshipped the Divine Mother in her varied manifestations. They paid homage to Lord Rama for his victory over evil, and then they joined hands with the national community as the Goddess of Prosperity—Mother Lakshmi—was worshipped and celebrated.
The Padma Purana (a latter day Hindu religious text) outlines that during the holy month of Kartik, one who bathes early in the morning attains the punya (religious merit) of bathing in all places of pilgrimage. It is also widely believed that taking a holy dip on the auspicious Kartik Snaan will help in attaining moksha (salvation) and wash away all sins. On the Kartik Snaan day, devotees will visit the various beaches and rivers to perform their pujas (prayer), make their offerings and, most importantly, have their spiritual bath. Some will worship Lord Shiva and Ganga Devi (the Goddess who presides over the Holy Rivers), whilst others would worship Lord Satnarayan (form of the Lord Vishnu). A few devotees also worship Lord Kartikeaya (the brother of Lord Ganesh). This month of Kartik is actually named after Lord Kartikeaya. The legend is that when Lord Ganesha was designated as Pratham Puja (the first deity to be worshipped), his younger brother Kartikeaya inquired as to what would be his role and position.
It was determined that a month in the year would be dedicated to Kartikeaya and this month would be called Kartik. There are numerous scriptural events associated with Kartik Snaan that emphasises the spiritual and religious potency of worship done on this day. Lord Shiva destroyed Tripurasur (a demon) and the world was once again a safe place to live in. The day marks the remembrance day of the death of Tripurasur. In addition, it is believed that it was during this period Lord Vish-nu appeared in the form of mastya (fish) to rescue the Vedas from the depths of the ocean where it had been taken by the demon Hayagriva. Kartik Snaan represents a period of spiritual purification, renewal and advancement for the Hindu. It affords the devotees the opportunity to purge themselves of all sins or negative karma whilst simultaneously praying for their spiritual upliftment.
The deeper philosophical meaning of Kartik is that the devotees must first remove their impure qualities and then only can peace and spirituality be attained. As with all other Hindu festivals, practices and traditions, Kartik Snaan observances were brought to Trinidad by our ancestors when they came as indentured labourers over 165 years ago. It is also to their credit that this religious practice has been preserved and transferred to the future generation. The religious landscape of T&T is much richer with the abundant diversity of cultures and religions. Kartik Snaan has been practised in Trinidad for as long as Hindus have been here but it was only in 1956 that it was observed on a large scale. In June 1952, Act 41 of the Parliament of T&T incorporated the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha (SDMS). This not only led to the introduction of Hindu schools throughout Trinidad, but also to the organisation of the first and probably largest gathering of Hindus on the occasion of Kartik Snaan in 1956.
It was estimated that over 25,000 Hindus made this pilgrimage. This event was organised by the legends of Hinduism of that era. Bhadase Sagan Maraj, Sim-bhoonath Capildeo, Rampersad Bholai and Pundit Krishna Maharaj were some of the leaders who led the Hindu renaissance. Such was the magnitude and impact of this event that one newspaper wrote a creaming front page article titled “Tiger in the bushes” as it pictured a barebacked Bhadase and Simbhoonath performing puja on the beach. This article alleged that Hindus were waiting like tigers in the bushes to take control of T&T.
Fast forward 54 years to 2010, as Hindus in their thousands make their way on Sunday to Manzanilla Beach, Mosquito Creek (North), Manmohansingh Park, Cedros and other waterfronts to observe Kartik Snaan.