Youngsters participate in chowtal singing.

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Phagwa: Celebrating good over evil

By Sateesh Maharaj

It is one of the most colourful celebrations in the Hindu calendar, and even though one may become soaked in a liquid rainbow at the end of the day, good, clean fun is the order of the day. The National Phagwa Council of Trinidad and Tobago will be celebrating 45 years next month. Pesident of the organisation, Pundit Satyanand Gosine, said Phagwa, which takes place on March 11, celebrates the triumph of good over evil.

The roots of the celebration are based on ancient Hindu scripture which tells of the demise of the demonic king, Hiranyakashipu.

Pundit Gosine explained: "[Hiranyakashipu's] son, Bhakt Prahlad, focussed his time and energy on Lord Vishnu. Hiranyakashipu was a self-proclaimed king. His son tried to tell him that he was not God. Prahlad asked that his father pray to Bhagwan Vishnu, but his father was egotistoc. He tried to destroy his son instead."

Pundit Gosine said that Phagwa is a time when egos should be removed.

"Many parents will listen to everyone else but their children. Had Hiranyakashipu listened to his child he would have been on the right path. Parents are too busy today to listen to their children. Phagwa is a celebration of good over evil. During this time we must transcend the boundaries of goodness and reach out to that which is bad and [guide] them to that which is good. It is a time for rejoicing. It is a time for us to be happy and forget our differences."

Phagwa is celebrated every year in the month of Phagun—February to March. Pundit Gosine said that the Hindu calendar month runs from 15 days bright half to 15 days dark half. There are 30 days in a Hindu calendar month. It is celebrated every year around this time. It is also the time of Karwas, where new endeavours such as marriage, large construction cannot be undertaken.

He said: "We have to be a realistic society and consider three words: desh (place), kaal (time) and avastha (circumstance). We don't live in India. We have to learn to encompass the circumstancial changes in life. We celebrate Phagwa in the time of Karwas but we pray to lord Vishnu for the safe keeping of the world."

Pundit Gosine said that during this time in India it is a post harvest period. People are reaping their crops and thanking the Lord for what He has given them.

"In the tradition of a harvest, after a whole year of repenting and sacrificing we are harvesting our good deeds. After Phagwa is Nau Raatri, the ushering in of the New Year in the Hindu calendar."

Following the Phagwa celebrations, the Council together with103FM are for the first time in the country's history, planning a grand celebration to commemorate the event at the Barataria Oval near St George's College.

The fifth annual chowtal singing competition takes place this Sunday at the Dattatreya Temple in Carapichaima. Singers will be rewarded with sunstantial cash prizes; a far cry, Pundit Gosine says, from the days when chowtal singers used to receive a soap dish as a token of appreciation.

Even though the National Phagwa Council prides itself in raising prize money, organising various cultural events and keeping the tradition alive, Pundit Gosine says a lot more can be done by the government especially when other organisations have been generously assisted during the Carnival period.

"I think it is not enough when compared to what other people have been getting," he said. "Whatever money we get we pass it on to the people."

Eighteen groups have already registered for this Sunday's competition and the organisation thanks president of the Dattatreya Temple, Ramesh Persad and the temple's committee for allowing them to use the venue this year. The event is schedlued to start at 1 p.m. Pundit Gosine was also greatly appreciative of the support given to him in the past by Dr Fuad Khan.

On March 11, the Phagwa celebrations take place at the Aranguez Savannah. The Prime Minister has been invited to partake in the celebrations. On March 15 at Gaston Court, Chaguanas, there will be a prize giving dinner hosted by the National Phagwa Council of Trinidad and Tobago.

—Photos: DAVE PERSAD, ISHMAEL SALANDY AND

DEXTER PHILLIP

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