Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam: From Trinidad to America | Greatest Indo-American Journal | San Jose CA.
When I was just retiring, memories of my childhood bubbled up when I finally had time to dream. My father’s grandmother, Gangee Maharaj, came to Trinidad in 1900 from Raipur, India. Many Indians came to Trinidad as indented workers and eventually earned land from the British. So my great-grandparents got their own land and passed it on to my grandparents, on whose farm I grew up. I vividly remember our two beloved cows, Rani and Raja. We have often been blessed with fresh and nutritious milk.
In order to become a legitimate bride, it was a prerequisite to be able to skillfully inflate a paratha! Achieving the perfect architecture and weight of the delicious and well-known flatbread takes practice. Only then could you have your handprint painted on grandma’s kitchen wall. This meant that you could enter their kitchen and prepare a meal under their supervision. My first painting had to be from this kitchen!
I also remembered the wonderful Trinidad folklore that was permeated by the many African immigrants. We have heard many stories from mythical creatures. Moko Jumbie was called to protect the people during the long and arduous slave boat journeys out of Africa. The Soucouyant is a vampire who is popular in many Caribbean countries. I remember when I was a young girl I was very scared to hear some of these stories!
My pictures are memories of my childhood, which was shaped by traditional Hindu ceremonies, African folklore, the natural beauty of the islands and the diversity of cultures of the diverse population.
The world is a family
One is a relative, the other is a stranger
say the little ones.
The whole world is one family
live the magnanimous.
Lift up your mind, enjoy
the fruit of brahmin freedom.
– Maha Upanishad 6.71-75
The Yamas and Niyamas of healing patterns and colors is the title of my latest collection of paintings.
Imagine that these ethical principles, the Yamas and Niyamas of the ancient Upanishads, are embedded in all of my paintings. The wise, Patanjali explains them in his Yoga Sutras. Sutra means “thread” in Sanskrit, what You can see represented by the multicolored line segments in this painting collection.
YAMAS: Patanjali Yoga sutras lists five yamas, or moral restrictions, that apply specifically to how you outwardly relate to other beings.
1) Ahimsa – Nonviolence in thoughts, words and deeds
2) Satya – Truthfulness
3) Asteya – Don’t steal
4) Brahmacharya – put the “path to the divine” first and foremost in life
5) Aparigraha – Don’t hoard, freedom from grasping
NIYAMAS: Patanjali Yoga tomorrow lists five niyamas or observations that are specific to how you conduct yourself on a more personal level.
1) Saucha – cleanliness
2) Santosha – satisfaction
3) tapas – self-discipline
4) Svadhyaya – Self study
5) Isvara Pranidhana – Devotion: offer yourself completely as a vehicle of divine will
My ten-part paintings capture religious and cultural life in so many patterns and colors, just as our world is full of patterns and colors. They reflect many disciplines and ideals of life: faith, steadfastness, willingness to make sacrifices, respect and love. Love and respect for all patterns (ways of life) and colors (global cultures) are a very important Hindu worldview – “VASUDHAIVA KUTUMBAKAM” (The world is a family).
Indra Persad Milowe is a visual artist living and working in Salem, Massachusetts. She is currently working on an extensive series of paintings based on childhood memories of growing up in Trinidad in the 1950s.
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