The Ramayana in Trinidad: A Socio-Historical Perspective
This article seeks to examine the history and function of the Hindu religious text, the Ramcharitmanas – commonly referred to as the Ramayana – in Trinidad. Since the earliest days of Indian indenture in Trinidad, the Ramayana has provided the major framework of the theological edifice of the Hindu migrants. Initially functioning as a religious, social, cultural and emotional anchor for the Hindu indentured labourers, the Ramayana has established itself as the primary source of ethics, morals and codes of conduct, variously influencing almost all dimensions of both the private and the public spheres of Hinduism in Trinidad and Tobago. The article argues that the Ramayana, by constantly informing and reflecting the Trinidad Hindu experience, can be deemed both mirror and metaphor of history and society, and, thus, Hindu socio-religious transformation. Finally, it explores the Ramayana’s role in the spheres of Hindu religious and family life, politics, and social interaction.