Trinidad and Tobago is a twin nation known for having many creeds and races, religions and cultures coexisting together as one. Traversing the country, it is not uncommon to see religious structures of all shapes and sizes for each and every faith represented on the island. Situated nationwide are Christian churches including: Pentecostal, Presbyterian, Evangelical, Anglican, Methodist, Congregational, Roman Catholic, Seventh Day Adventists, Kingdom Halls of Jevohah’s Witnesses; Hindu temples: Sanatan, Vedic, Swaha and Sai faiths; Mosques for the Muslim faiths: Sunni and Shiite; Afro-Caribbean syncretic faiths such as the Spiritual Shouter Baptist, Rastafarian and the Orisha; Buddhism also exists and there is one temple located on the island.
Approximately 18% of the nation is represented by the Hindu faith. Hindu temples are found cross-country and can always be seen decorated with colourful flowers and depictions of Gods and Goddesses called “murtis” or statues are found inside or around the temple. Murtis can be carved from any material: wood, clay, stone or metal. Hindus worship the Divine through these murtis depicting the various deities.
Located centrally on the island of Trinidad in the town of Carapichaima, the largest murti of Lord Hanuman (the Monkey God in Hinduism) in the Western hemisphere (that is, outside of India) can be found. Lord Hanuman is depicted with the face and tail of a monkey and the body of a man. The statue stands at a whopping 85 feet (26 meters) in height and can be seen from a distance. It is located on the compound of the Dattatreya Yoga Centre in the province of Orange Field. The Dattatreya Yoga Centre was constructed in 2003 by Indian artisans.
To get to this marvelous architectural wonder, one would exit the Uriah Butler Highway into the town of Freeport. Driving in a Westerly direction on Freeport Main Road, you will eventually come to the end of a junction where a sign directs you either left or right. Proceeding right, the entrance to the temple is clearly marked by appropriate signage located on the left hand side. At the entrance of the site, there are two elephants on either side of the gates. We recommend you follow the directions given on Waze – I did and it was super easy to find! You would have spotted the murti of Lord Hanuman from a mile away.
Cars are not permitted to drive across temple’s sacred grounds. At the entrance, a sign will direct you to the main parking lot at the Western end of the temple.
ENTERING THE COMPOUND
On the temple grounds, you will find a light pink, one storey building with many beautiful, intricately carved symbols and deities. This is the Dattatreya Yoga Centre and to the Southern side of the temple is the towering murti of Lord Hanuman. Another architectural design can also be found on the temple’s grounds. It is a sculpture of a camel painted in gold and facing the direction of the murti. Once on temple ground, footwear must be removed as a form of respect before entering the yoga center or the grounds surrounding the murti as it is considered sacred. On the floor of the entrance to the murti a beautiful, rangoli design can be seen. This is an Indian art form where colourful patterns are made on the floor of yards or rooms typically using coloured chalk, dyed rice, flour, sand or flower petals. The design at the murti is painted so it cannot be washed away.
This architectural masterpiece is striking to behold and the sheer size of it will leave you in awe. While it looks beautiful in photographs, it is nothing comparable to witnessing its grandeur in real life. The murti depicts Lord Hanuman or the Monkey God in Hinduism in a vibrant red colour. He is garlanded with a mala (garland of flowers) and he is holding a gada (mace). The murti stands on a base which doubles as a small, enclosed prayer room. Inside the prayer room, prayer items typically used in Hindu rituals can be seen. These include flowers, tariyas and lotas (brass plates and brass water gourds). This prayer room is usually kept closed unless during there are ceremonies taking place and on religious holidays where prayer rituals will usually be done. Outside of the prayer room, offerings can be made as well as donations. There is also a box to place mantras written on paper. Surrounding the murti are smaller prayer rooms and its surroundings are tiled so that devotees may perform pradakshina. This is the art of worship by walking clockwise around a holy shrine. Yoga is not to be performed in the surroundings of the murti. It is only performed in the yoga center. The grounds of the murti is fenced and seen hanging on the fenced are husked coconuts. These are used in Hindu rituals to Lord Hanuman and placed there upon completing the rituals.
The murti attract thousands of visitors per year, locals and tourists can always be sighted at the temple. Many also consider it a pilgrimage site for Hindus. The largest ceremony to take place at this religious site is the Hindu occasion of Hanuman Jayanti which is dedicated to the worship of Lord Hanuman. On Hanuman Jayanti, devotees gather at the temple to perform Hanuman pooja (prayers) and chant the 1000 names of Lord Hanuman.
The murti can be visited at absolutely any time of the year and it is open to the public from 5am to 9pm or later depending on whether there is a service going on. So pay this magnificent site a visit and you won’t be disappointed!