Red Sands, Black Flags Pt3: What do those Jhandis mean?

A popular depiction of Kali.

In part 2 of this ongoing tale of the Red Sand quarry and the Pundit #NEWSauce reminded readers that Hinduism in Trinidad has many faces. Kali worship has been linked to an issue that is really about government contracts and corruption. And to avoid further ignorance and demonisation of a religion that emerged from the Eastern provinces of India, #NEWSauce decided to ask some questions.

 There are many Hindu sects here from that period in our history: Sanatan Dharma, Vedic, Arya Samaj, Shakti, Kabir Panth, and SWAHA are some of main ones. The Hindu religious landscape is dominated by the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha, certainly in the media. As a religious organization with clout and sway it has also become a powerful political entity because it controls votes. The Maha Sabha refers to the version of Hindusim it practices as orthodox. It avoids blood sacrifice, which it deems as barbaric and backward. Blood sacrifice however is a feature of Shakti Hinduism. It is in Shakti Hinduism that the goddess Kali is worshipped as the Divine Mother. So how exactly did a Maha Sabha pundit get embroiled in alleged Kali rituals, when Kali worship and blood sacrifice are not central to his world view?

Religious flags, jhandis in the Hindu world view, are an important part of rituals here. There are used to invoke deities and energies of all kinds. Flags are not specific to Hindus, because Orisa and Spiritual Baptist practitioners also use flags in their rituals.

According to CNC3 news stories in early November, the flags planted by pundit Persad-Maharaj are linked to Kali rituals. The implications are that a death ritual has been put in train. 

#NEWSauce reached out to several Shakti devotees to explain the symbolism of the flags and to interpret their meanings. Our sources were able to explain to us that the ritual involves the use of three sets of flags – red, black and white – and the mounting of each new colour points to a new phase in the ritual and of the energies being invoked. Our sources also pointed out the colours have various meanings under Maha Sabha and under Kali worship. The sources also indicated that only a Kali pundit can mount Kali flags. So it was unlikely that pundit Persad-Maharaj set the flags himself. One source also expressed concern that Kali worship was once again being painted in a particular light, especially by Maha Sabha practitioners who traditionally frown on Kali worship and Kali devotees because both the Gita and the Puranas Vedas forbid blood sacrifice.

Jhandis at Temple in the Sea, Waterloo. Photo by Vasudha Narayanan.

Red Flags:

Under the Maha Sabha system red is symbolic of Hanuman who is seen as a protector. During the period of indentured labour Hanuman was seen as a symbol of resilience, especially political resilience. The mace Lord Hanuman carries featured prominently in recent television interviews given by Sat Maraj where he threatened the government on their stance on illegal quarrying.
Under Shakti Hinduism red is the colour for Hanuman and also the colour for Durga Kali, who is referred to as Mother by her devotees. Red is also the colour that represents Madu Rai Vee Ran. This entity is a warrior and protector who seeks justice. He is the tool of the Mother. And through him Kali is invoked to clear darkness. Sacrifices to Madu Rai Vee Ran take the form of goats and chickens usually.

Black Flags:

Under Maha Sabha black flags refer to the planets, bad karma and negative energy, also described as navgraha.

Black under Shakti Hinduism can refer to a Devi and a Deuta called Dee and Kateri. Dee presides over land and is considered to be the controller and securer of land. Kateri, the sister, presides over illnesses. According to our source, usually female problems.

White flags: 

In the Maha Sabha system white symbolises wisdom and knowledge. The deities associated with this colour flag are Saraswatee and Lord Shiva who is the destroyer of negativity.

Under the Shakti system white also refers to Saraswatee. It can also be a reference to Muneswa Ran, the Master of Finance. It is said that Muneswa Ran can bring or take away money and he controls spirits and djinns. 

 Sources in the Ministry of Agriculture indicated that red flags had been planted as early as June 2017. Black flags were planted in early November.  It remains to be seen if white flags will be erected to complete the ritual.

When reached for a comment, Minister Rambharat said he is continuing his work at the Ministry and in the EMBD.

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