ISSN 0008 6495
Volume 41, No. 1
THE INDIAN PRESENCE
Arrival and After
VOLUME 41, No. 1
(Copyright reserved and reproduction without permission strictly forbidden.)
THE INDIAN PRESENCE
(In Commemoration of the 150th Anniversary
of the Arrival of Indians to the Caribbean)
Comparing Periferal Cultural Systems : India and the Caribbean
Paget Henry & Emile Walter 1
Hosay and its Creolization
Ajai Mansingh & Laxmi Mansingh 25
East Indian Life in Pre-War British Guiana Edgar Mittelholzer:
Corentyne Thunder (1941)
Frances Williams 40
Interview with Ismith Khan
Frank Birbalsingh 61
Stewards of Creation Covenant: Hinduism and the Environment
Ajai Mansingh 59
Ethnic Domination and Reconciliation in Multi-Ethnic Societies:
A Reconsideration And an Alternative to J.Furnivall and M.G.
Ralph Premdas 76
Books Received 87
NOTES ON CONTRIBUTORS 88
INFORMATION FOR CONTRIBUTORS 89
UNIVERSITY OF THE WEST INDIES
The lion. R.M.Nettleford, O.M.., Pro Vice-Clhancellor, Professor of
Continuing Studies, Mona-t Editor)
G;.M. Richards, Pro Vice-Chancellor, Principal, St. Augustine, Trinidad
Roy Augier, Professor of History, Mona,.Jamaica
Sir Keith Ilunte, Pro Vice-Chancellor, Principal, Cave Hill.
Neville McNorris, Department of Physics, Mona
Veronica Salter, School of Continuing Studies, Mona (Managing Editor)
All correspondence and contributions should be addressed to:
School of Continuing Studies,
University of the West Indies,
Mona, Kingston 7, Jamaica.
We invite readers to submit manuscripts or recommend subjects which
they would like to see discussed in Caribbean Quarterly. Articles and book reviews of
relevance to the Caribbean will be gratefully received. Authors should refer to the
guidelines at the end of this issue. Articles submitted are not returned. Contributors are
asked not to send international postal coupons for this purpose.
Jamaica J$150.00 (1993) J$200.00 (1994)
Eastern Caribbean J$ 200.00 (1993) J$300.00 (1994)
United Kingdom UKf 15.00 UKf 20 (1994)
Canada, U.S.A., and other countries US$30.00 US$40 (1994)
Exchanges are conducted by the Gifts and Exchanges Section, Library University of the
West Indies, Mona, Kingston 7, Jamaica.
Back Issues and Microfilm
Information for back volumes supplied on request. Caribbean Quarterly
is available on microfilm from Xerox University Microfilms and in book form from
Kraus-Thompson Reprint Ltd.
Abstract and Index
1949-90 Author, Keyword and Subject Index now available.
This journal is abstracted by AES and indexed by HAPI
Subscription orders may be forwarded to the Editor or the Resident
Tutor at the University Centre in any West Indian Territory served by this Univer-
This issue of Caribbean Quarterly follows on Volume 40 Nos. 3 & 4 in com-
memoration of the 150th anniversary of the "Arrival" of East Indians in the Carib-
bean. As with the Africans who came before them and some indentured European
labourers who came even earlier, their Presence was dictated by the demand for
labour in the cultivation of 'King Sugar', the commodity that for some three cen-
turies determined the economic, social, cultural, and even political, destiny of the
Caribbean region as a whole. The abolition of slavery and the abandonment of
plantations by the African slaves forced estate owners to look to the next source of
labour supply in order to save themselves from economic ruin. The Deccan Plateau
proved to be a prime source and so as early as May 5, 1838 East Indians were
imported into Guyana. By 1840 Trinidad and Jamaica started to import as well; and
by 1917 when indentured Indian immigration was finally abolished just under half a
million souls had entered the region by that route. While a sizeable proportion of
indentured Indians returned to India at the end of their contract the majority
remained to join the process of cross-fertilisation long set in train by Africans and
Europeans in their master-slave encounters two centuries before.
It is this intercultural phenomenon which Paget Henry and Emile Walter use in their
paper Comparing Peripheral Systems: India and the Caribbean, to set the
framework for the contributions which follow theirs in this issue. The co-authors
develop a comparative framework for examining changes in Third World
"peripheral cultural systems". Their paper uses the concepts of hybridization and
syncretism to link the dynamics of changes in these cultural systems to the political
economy of peripheral societies. These two processes, according to the co-
authors, are linked to the legitimacy deficits of the colonial states of international
capitalism, making state policies for dealing with these deficits crucial to the
formation of the cyncretic for creole cultures of colonial societies. The co-authors
rest their case on the situation they found in India and Grenada. Their likely
contribution to the better integration of culture into the approach to comparative
political economy is their hope.
The lived reality in the Caribbean striving for such intercultural integration between
"peripheral cultural systems" and they in turn with what may be regarded as
mainstream culture, offers phenomena for demonstration of how this can be
achieved. Ajai and Laxmi Mansingh turn to Hosay, the Mohammedan-derived
Caribbean festival art to make good their claim in Hosay and Creolization. The
threatened decline of the ritual leaves the Mansigms with some deep cause for
concern but they offer suggestions for its revitalisation as an integrating force
between Muslims and Hindus, East Indians and Blacks.
East Indian Life in Pre-War Guiana [as seen through the eyes of] Edgar
Mittelholzer's "Corentyne Thunder" examines the black West Indian's perception of
the newcomer East Indian. This is after all, a very important aspect of the creolisa-
tion process for both the creolised Black and the about-to-be creolised East Indian.
This, insists the author Frances Williams, was a serious contribution by Mittelhol-
zer "to the establishment of a West Indian culture and this in 1938-1939, long
before any idea of West Indian culture had been formulated...and since vindicated
with Derek Walcott's Nobel prize for literature".
Frank Birbalsingh's Interview with Ismith Khan (the novelist), the contribution which
follows, is evidence of this important aspect of the Indian Presence in the creole
Caribbean. And the organic nature of that Presence in contemporary Caribbean life
is accurately summed up in Mr. Khan's final expression of delight in the fact that his
"The Jumbie Bird" is "recognized in the Caribbean educational system, by being
selected as one of the texts on the Caribbean Schools Exam list."
That Indian Presence informs the contemporary scene in other ways. Ajai Man-
singh sees this in the implications that Hindu philosophy has, for preserving the
integrity of the environment. He here echoes the view which has appeared in the
popular literature dealing with the Arrival Commemoration that "Indian immigrants
to the Caribbean brought with them a deep value and respect for learning and the
acquisition of knowledge" (see Anantand Rambacham's "Path of the Immigrants"
in Sunday Express, Trinidad Indian Arrival Supplement, May 28, 1995, p. 10-11).
The inculcation of spirituality into environmental management is, according to Dr.
Mansingh a real possibility on the basis of the natural theological foundations of
Hinduism- the way of life of hundreds of thousands of East Indians in the region.
That way of life continues, however, in dynamic encounters with other ways of life
in the plural society which is the Caribbean. The final contribution Ethnic Domina-
tion and Reconciliation in Multi-ethnic Societies: A Re-consideration and an Alter-
native to J. Furnivall and M.G. Smith by Ralph R. Premdas is therefore apt. The
cultural pluralism model, associated with two great scholars J.S. Furnivall and the
West Indian anthropologist M.G. Smith, has been point of departure for numerous
studies by way of endorsement, rebuttal and balanced critiquing. Dr. Premdas
draws on the vision of Arthur Lewis, the West Indian economist, for an alternative
form of government for plural societies that have attained Independence. "He has",
writes Dr. Premdas "creatively pointed to practical alternatives which can at once
maintain order and promote justice". Perhaps it is in those "practical alternatives"
that East Indians as arrivants to the region will find place and purpose in their effort
to become fully integrated, active contributors to the shaping of West Indian/Carib-
Comparing Peripheral Cultural Systems : India and the Caribbean
PAGET HENRY & EMILE WALTER
The field of development studies has undergone a number of significant theo-
retical shifts in the last ten years. In a recent assessment of the state of develop-
ment studies, Evans and Stephens noted the emergence of at least four new
paradigms in the area: the comparative historical, dependency, world systems, and
the "new comparative political economy."1 In spite of their differences, these
approaches all share two basic features: they are comparative, and they place
great emphasis on political and economic factors. Although these new paradigms
have brightened the lights so that we are able to focus on a number of problems,
they have also contributed to the obscuring of others.
One particular institution that has been obscured by this strong politico-eco-
nomic focus has been that of culture and its significance for the development
process. Thus, in a recent symposium on John Taylor's article dealing with the
comparative method in development studies, the role of culture did not arise. 2
Fortunately, this problem has begun to receive some attention. 3
However, these attempts at integrating culture into comparative political econ-
omy share a common limitation. They are all focused on the advanced or core
countries of the modern world system. A comparative framework that links the
dynamics of Third World or peripheral cultures to the political economy of their
societies remains to be established. The outlining of such a framework will be the
primary goal of this paper. Central to this framework is the notion of hybridization,
which will be linked to the legitimacy needs of the colonial state structures of an
expanding international capitalism. After its initial statement, the framework will be
further developed through the cases of India and the Caribbean island of Grenada.
Comparative Approaches to Peripheral Cultures
For review purposes, the existing comparative approaches to peripheral cul-
tures can be put into three basic groups. First is the comparative approach
established within the parameters of modernization theory. In its Parsonian variant,
this comparative strategy focused on differences in levels of institutional differenti-
ation and the increasing rationalization of values that sustained and accompanied
these processes of differentiation.4 In particular, societies were compared on the
basis of their values using Parsons' well-known pattern variables. Consequently,
using this approach, peripheral cultures were usually compared to core cultures in
terms of the degree of formal or scientific rationalization of values.
The second comparative approach is that initiated by Herskovits in his attempt
to address the question of African cultural survivals (Africanism) in Afro-American
culture. In formulating his answers, Herskovits developed a comparative frame-
work for studying Africanisms. It began with West African culture as a base and
compared it to the cultures of African populations in the U.S., the Caribbean and
Latin America.5 Consequently, in this approach, peripheral cultures were usually
compared to each other in terms of the degree to which they had retained a native
identity, and not those of value rationalization.
The third or syncretic approach grew out of a critique of Herskovits' notion of
Africanisms, but maintained his comparative framework. Perhaps more than any
other, the work of Roger Bastide is associated with this approach. Rejecting
Herskovits stress on the African nature of new world cultures, Bastide emphasized
the blending of African, European and Asian cultures, which had produced new or
creole cultures in these societies. Consequently, this approach focuses on compar-
ative analyses of distinctly new cultural formations produced by syncretism, and
not the retention of a prior identity.
These three approaches have identified important dimensions along which
peripheral cultures can be compared. However, there are some problems that must
be noted. In emphasizing value rationalization, modernization theory overlooked
the depth of the identity crises that post-colonial societies had inherited. In this
theory syncretic formations were recognized primarily as "seedbed" cultures that
may be important for subsequent developments.6 From the more short-term
standpoint of a development approach, this reading of syncretic formations is
inadequate, as they are the immediate realities for the leaders of peripheral
societies. Hence the need for a more central focus on syncretic formations.
Although the other two approaches emphasize the problem of syncretism, their
shared comparative framework is somewhat restricted. It has been limited almost
exclusively to inter-African comparisons. In other words, it has not embraced the
larger set peripheral cultures. Such an expansion would require adjustments in
the established relations between Africanisms, syncretism and creole cultures. In
particular, the notion of syncretism will have to be more radically separated from
the African case, and its underlying formal mechanism more explicitly thematized.
Also, the politico-economic factors affecting the nature of syncretic formations will
have to be more carefully spelled out. These are some of the problems that our
framework will attempt to address.
We will develop this comparative framework in three steps. First, we will
introduce a sectoral model to facilitate general comparisons between cultural
systems. Secondly, we will look at the notion of hybridization as a process of
particular importance for the comparing of peripheral cultural systems, and finally,.
we will introduce some political and economic factors.that affect patterns of
hybridization. Finally, by examining the cases of India and Grenada, we will show
how processes of hybridization vary among peripheral societies.
Elements of a General Comparative Framework
To provide us with macro-level concepts of cultural systems and a common
framework for basic comparisons, we will make use of Henry's sectorial model of
cultural systems7 The model divides cultural systems into four basic sectors, the
linguistic, belief, knowledge producing and arts sectors. These are in turn subdi-
vided, but these subsectoral divisions will vary with particular countries and their
level of development.
Each subsector is organized around a particular signifying system (language,
religion, music, painting), the activity and the institutional structures necessary for
producing work in that system. Consequently, within each of the four basic
sectors are groups of semiotically similar signifying systems. In the linguistic
sector are the languages of the society, in the belief sector, its religions and
ideologies, in the knowledge-producing sector, its educational and research institu-
tions, and finally in the arts sector, the mass media and the Fine Arts. The systemic
aspects of this model derive from two sources: the internal relations between the
subsectors and the external relations with the economic, political and family sys-
tems. However, space does not permit the further elaborating of these aspects of
The second set of factors needed for our comparative framework are those that
will facilitate the comparing of peripheral cultural systems in particular. Because
these systems are usually grounded in the colonial administration of a plurality of
cultures, their special characteristics have been the set of structural and symbolic
adjustments that previously autonomous cultural systems made to the imperial
presence of European capitalism. Earlier, we saw that these peculiar adjustments
have been analyzed in terms of processes of value rationalization and symbolic
sycretism. Although both processes can be observed in peripheral cultures, we
suggest that in their colonial phases, the latter processes are the dominant ones.
However, as presently used the concept of syncretism will have to be revised if
it is to serve in this broader comparative framework. Firstly, it needs to be more
general or given a more general foundation; and, secondly, the relationship
between syncretism and creole cultures has to be made less rigid to allow for other
outcomes, particularly cases of cultural mixing that do not lead to creole forma-
One way in which we can more adequately generalize the notion of syncretism
is to define it in terms of the formal processes upon which it rests. This we suggest
can be done with the aid of the notion of hybridization. The latter can be defined as
the processes of symbolic exchange, combinations and substitutions that occur
when cultures are brought into contact. These are not random processes, but
interchanges that are governed by semi-semantic rules as the varieties of syn-
cretic formations suggest. In imperial contexts, hybridization can be defined as the
forced asymmetric 'mating' of the signifying systems of two or more cultures,
occurring at the time that control over key subsectors of the dominated system
passes from local to foreign elites. The result is often a new cultural formation of a
syncretic nature in which elements of the external and indigenous cultures have
come together without losing their distinct identities. Thus, hybridization of the
linguistic sector may take the form of a pidgnization of local languages in which
indigenous and external elements are clearly recognizable. In less extreme cases,
it may result in the creation of pidgns that exist alongside both external and
indigenous languages. If similar patterns of semiotic 'mating' occur in other sub-
sectors, the result may be a generalized change in the identity of the system.
Viewed in this way, hybridization though a basis for syncretism is not identical
with it. The former is essentially a semio-semantic process. In addition to this
semio-semantic base, syncretic cultures are the results of social processes that
derive from the support or resistance of a number of social institutions. Therefore,
the notion of a relatively stable syncretic formation represents a process of cultural
hybridization which has been systematically linked to processes of institutional
support, consumption and resistance. Such formations need to be further distin-
guished from creole cultures. The former become cases of the latter only when the
syncretic formations permanently replace the prior culture as the primary source of
identity and means of cultural practice. Thus, it is possible to have hybridization
without syncretic formations, and syncretic formations without creole cultures.
However, the three are very closely connected.
Hybridization and Political Economy
Although cultural hybridization has been a widely observed consequence of
imperial domination, the extent to which it occurs varies greatly. As our case
studies will show, it is much greater in some societies than others. Thus, it
becomes necessary for our comparative framework that we identify a number of
factors that will help us to account for these variations in patterns of hybridization.
Differences in patterns of hybridization are closely associated with differences
in the imperial or colonial situations produced by external penetration. Colonial
situations are defined by the economic projects and the new structures of domina-
tion that foreign politico-military elites use to displace indigenous rule and establish
their own. Factors making for significant differences in these situations and their
accompanying patterns of hybridization, can be put into two groups. Firstly, those
deriving from differences in the nature of imperial societies and their colonial
policies; secondly, those deriving from differences in the nature of colonized or
dominated societies and their responses to colonization. In the contemporary
period, patterns of hybridization are also shaped by differences in post- colonial
situations. However, as this paper focuses on the colonial phase, analysis will be
restricted to the two groups of factors just mentioned.
In the first group, four factors are particularly important: (1) the settlement goals
of the core country; (2) its phase of development; (3) the role of cultural elites in the
constituting of state power at home; and (4) the cultural policies of the locally
established colonial state. In the second group, three are particularly important: (1)
the size and population of the peripheral country; (2) its social organization and
level of development; (3) the length of the period of colonization. Space does not
permit an expanded commentary on all of the above factors which affect differ-
ences in patterns of hybridization. However, it is necessary to do so in the case of
the social organization and level of development of peripheral societies.
The cases of both Grenada and India suggest that significant differences
existed between many of the societies that were penetrated by European im-
perialism. We will use Weber's categories of tribal and patrimonial formations to
conceptualize the differences between various groups of pre-capitalist societies.
Tribal societies are comparatively small social formations with simple modes of
agricultural production that are characterized by communal ownership of land, and
family regulation of day to day production. Patrimonial societies are large, tribute-
paying social formations with centralized state structures. State elites collect tribute
in the form of taxes on long-distance trade or agriculture, or in the form of various
kinds of supplies. In these societies, modes of agricultural and metallurgical pro-
duction are more complex, with land being owned either by the state or an
aristocracy. Patrimonial societies produced economic surpluses which allowed
them to create large armies and to sustain a cultural elite. Although we have
singled out this factor for special treatment, all seven factors listed above are
important for understanding differences in colonial situations.
In spite of the differences produced by the factors, colonial situations all shared
chronic legitimacy problems. These legitimacy difficulties were linked to the fact
that colonial situations rested on the displacing of local state authority by imperial
or colonial state authority. Colonial state authority was often seen as illegitimate
within the framework of the indigenous culture, and thus in need of justification. The
resulting legitimacy deficits of the colonial state generated a large demand for
justificatory symbolism or a need to silence the delegitimating voice within the
indigenous cultural system. Hence the need for legitimacy-producing strategies
(cultural policies) that directly or indirectly accelerate or retard rudimentary pro-
cesses of hybridization. These often include attempts to control or reorganize
specific subsectors of the dominated culture. The specific legitimacy-producing
strategies will vary with differences in particular colonial situations, which in turn will
make for difference in patterns of hybridization and syncretism.
This in brief is our comparative framework. Its focus is on differences in patterns
of hybridization between third-world cultural systems and the impact of peripheral
capitalism on these differences. The methodological and empirical aspects of this
framework will centre around case studies. The latter will be constructed and
compared with the aid of the set of general concepts introduced above. The
methodological status of this integrated set of concepts is what Habermas has
called a "general interpretation" as opposed to a general theory.8 This means that
specific cases will not be subsumed under this general interpretation. Rather
application is more a process of narrative construction that fills out and particular-
izes the general roles, processes and relations that make up the general interpre-
tation. This filling out produces a historicizing of these concepts as the historical
nature of a particular case must take precedence over the general concepts in
constructing the narrative. Thus findings from either case studies or the narrative
needs of case studies can produce modifications in the general interpretation. With
this framework, we are now in a position to compare the cases of India and
India at the time of its penetration by Europe was an excellent example of a
patrimonial society. Like Egypt, Mesopotamia and Persia, India around 2300 BC,
was among the first human societies to break through to post-tribal forms of social
organization. This long history of post-tribal organization produced a number of
patrimonial formations. However, the one which will concern us is that of the
Mughal period, as it was the dominant formation at the time of European contact.
Mughal India was the culmination of a protracted effort by the expanding Islamic
empire to conquer India. Invasions began as early as 712 AD, producing limited
successes, the most important of which was the establishing of the Delhi Sultanate
in 1206. In 1526, Babur, King of Kabul, invaded India and defeated a weakened
Sultanate.9 Thus the Mughal period began just after the coming of the Portuguese,
who arrived in 1498.
The patrimonial foundations of Mughal India rested on the Mansabdari system.
All lands and public administrative offices were the property of the emperor. These
he exchanged for a variety of services that allowed him to maintain large armies
and substantial economic surpluses. Top administrative offices (Mansabs) were
divided into ranks each of which carried the number calvary that the mansabdar
(officeholder) had to supply the emperor.10 The country was divided into twelve
provinces, which were further divided in districts and subdistricts. Each province
was ruled by a governor and cities by city governors. Revenue was collected in the
form of the emperor's share of the harvest, which was often about a third. However,
this varied with the fertility of the soil, actual crops grown, and the availability of
irrigation.11 It was these tribute-paying arrangements that established the patrimo-
nial framework of Mughal India.
Culturally, the Mughal period was a distinct phase in the long and complex
evolution of India's national cultural system. Before the Islamic invasions, the
cultural life of India had been dominated by the growth of Hinduism. Consequently,
the period starting with the Delhi Sultanate and culminating with the Mughals,
constituted the biggest challenge to Hindu dominance.
Because they were a numerical minority, Muslim leaders found it necessary to
win the cooperation of the Hindu masses, and the dominant classes and elites that
they had displaced. This resulted in a pattern of Hindu-Muslim cooperation that
emerged first in the period of the Delhi Sultanate but peaked with the Mughals,
particularly in the reign of Akbar. The culture most associated with this period came
to be known as Hindustani culture a hybrid formation that cannot be understood
without reference to the legitimating of Mughal rule.
To consolidate this rule, Akbar attempted to establish a secular as opposed to
a religious state. This state would be above or outside the religious and cultural
differences within the society. Therefore, it would need legitimating symbolism that
transcended both Hinduism and Islam. The basis of this new state symbolism was
the ideology of the equality of all citizens.
To actualize this ideology, Akbar implemented a series of policies which to-
gether established the institutional context for the emergence of Hindustani culture.
First he built upon and encouraged a number of religious, communicative and
artistic tendencies toward cooperation that had emerged prior to his rule. The
Bhakti and Sufi movements were the most important religious tendencies, both of
which stressed a unity that was deeper than the outer differences between Hindus
and Muslims. In the communicative sphere, the emergence of Hindustani as a
lingua franca from Persian and Hindi in the Delhi region, was a very significant
development.12 It became a major symbol of the syntheses that were taking place,
and gave the new culture its name. Similar processes of semiotic hybridization also
occurred in the languages of architecture, painting, and music with corresponding
effects on the works of art that were produced with the aid of these signifying
Second, Akbar eliminated a number of existing practices that stood in the way
of cultural equality and cooperation. He abolished the pilgrim tax and also the poll
tax (Jizya) on Hindus.13 Later, he abolished slavery for all citizens and ended
Muslim closure of important state jobs to Hindus. Following these, important
reforms were attempted in the linguistic and educational subsectors. Akbar made
Persian the official language of the state, which required all Hindus working for the
state to learn Persian. This increased the familiarity of Hindus with Persian culture
and improved the status of the language. In the educational subsector, a large
number of state schools were opened in which Hindu and Muslim children were
taught in Persian. This educational policy required the translating of Hindu text into
Persian, which stimulated further processes of cooperation in the arts.
Finally, it should be noted that Akbar did not attempt to establish Islamic control
over the religious subsector. Here he sought cooperation and equality. However,
he did attempt to liberate the ideological subsector from religious control, and to
use its space as a legitimate base for his secular and civic-oriented state.
These in brief are the socio-political foundations of the Hindustani culture of the
Mughal period. It was a syncretic culture that developed as a thin layer over its
Hindu and Muslim bases. The growth of this layer was a state-led phenomenon
that was motivated largely by legitimacy needs. These cultural characteristics
together with the general patrimonial features described earlier, should give us a
good idea of the type of society the Europeans met when they arrived.
Cultural Impact of European Colonization
As already noted, the Portuguese arrived in India in 1498. However, it would
take another 350 years and the great war of 1857 before the British were able to
colonize India. Until 1707, Mughal power was successful in keeping the British out
of Indian politics, and restricting their activities to coastal trading. This was indica-
tive of the resistance that a strong patrimonial society was able to mobilize against
young capitalist societies, still in the mercantile stages. However, in the years
following the violent reign of Aurangzeb, which ended the period of Hindu-Muslim
cooperation, political and cultural conflicts resulted in a rapid decline. These
conflicts gave the British their opportunity to enter Indian politics. Particularly in the
Bengal area, they threw their weight behind princes they could control. Soon, they
were the defacto rulers of the area, with puppet Indian princes providing a cover of
legitimacy. As a result, the period between 1707 and 1827 was one of increasing
British control. However, the comparative significance of this long period of con-
quest is that it shortened the period of colonization and indicates the level of
resistance the society was able to mobilize.
With the increasing control and subsequent colonization of India, the British
established a secular colonial state and made some significant changes in the
upper layers of the Indian class structure. They banished the emperors, eliminated
or dispersed a major part of the Mughal aristocracy and the elite professional
groups upon which the latter depended .14 Taking the place of these groups was a
British political elite, as well as a military and an administrative bureaucracy that
were both under British control.
As in the case of the Mughals, the British colonial state was in need of local
support and legitimating symbolism. Support was sought through alliances with tax
collectors and large landowners, while legitimacy was sought through an ideology
that combined racism with elements of liberalism. Unlike Akbar, the British at-
tempted to generate the needed legitimacy by eliciting cooperation on the basis of
their acknowledged superiority. In other words, it was a strategy of inducing
cooperation on the basis of a clearly established and routinely maintained inequal-
ity between Indians and Britons. Farrish, a colonial bureaucrat, posed the problem
"The natives of India must be kept down by a
sense of our power, or they must willingly submit
from a conviction that we are more wise, more
just, more humane, and more anxious to improve
their condition than other rulers they could have"
In other words, legitimacy was not to be secured by encouraging the growth of
a state-led syncretic culture that would be a thin layer above both British and Indian
culture. Rather it was to be secured through the creating of a new hierarchy and a
syncretic culture that strategically inflated the status of British culture.
The purpose of this state-led syncretic culture was, in the words of Macaulay,
the creating of a subordinate class
"who may be interpreters between us and the
millions whom we govern; a class of persons
Indian in blood and colour, but English in taste, in
opinions, in morals and in intellect"16
Its creation rested on a process of asymmetrical interculturation that minimized
the production of a class of persons British in blood and colour, but Indian in taste
and opinions. This unequal interpenetration was mediated by British attempts to
restructure the educational, religious, linguistic and ideological subsectors of the
Indian cultural system, while keeping the British cultural system essentially closed
to Indian penetration. However, as our analysis will show, the creolizing impact of
the resulting processes of hybridization and syncretism was small compared to the
case of the Caribbean. These differences we attribute to the power of Indian elites,
the shorter period of colonization and the patrimonial structure of Indian society.
As already noted, the new state ideology was a mixture of racism and liberal-
ism. This had to be given institutional expression at the same time that the state
ideologies of the late Mughal period had to deinstitutionalized. The racist elements
found institutional expression in the reserving of top positions in the military and the
civil service for white Europeans and in the elaborate codes for interacting with
various classes of Indians. The liberal elements found expression in the establish-
ing of structures of limited democracy. These served two basic purposes: first, they
allowed British citizens in India to enjoy some of the rights they had at home.
Second, they allowed the British to incorporate elite elements of Indian society.
Thus, the Indian Councils Act of 1861, brought a small number of Indians into the
legislative council, as non-official members.17 With the passage of time, the British
would find it increasingly necessary to extend these democratic rights, in order to
reduce growing legitimacy deficits.
What was the impact of the institutionalizing of these ideologies on the ideolog-
ical subsector of the Indian cultural system? First, it should be noted that the
response of Indians to these new ideologies was indicative of a broader pattern
that we will meet again in other subsectors. This response was initially an ambiva-
lent one. Indians resented bitterly the racism of the state ideology, but responded
positively to its restricted liberalism. Participation in the limited system of democ-
racy soon produced a new counter-ideology that of a liberal Indian state, eclipsing
notions of a Hindu or Islamic state. Thus, the nationalist sentiments that had long
been a part of the response to British rule, were now integrated into a new
synthesis with liberalism. In this form, they were more effective tools in the
delegitimating of British authority. This ability both to learn from Europe and to
re-assert the authority of a national discourse in the face of an external challenge,
has been the response that has kept levels of hybridization in India comparatively
This pattern of response was even more marked in the case of the religious
subsector. Systematic attempts to Christianize India date back at least to the time
of the Portuguese. These efforts came to an unsuccessful end when the Jesuits
were reported to have forcibly converted two slave girls of the Empress Muntaz
Mahal. Emperor Shah Jahan responded by having his armies drive the Portuguese
from their settlements.18 New attempts at Christianization were undertaken by
British evangelists, starting around 1792. The ambivalent reactions of Hindus and
Muslims to these attempts paralleled their responses to British ideological penetra-
tion. On the one hand they were impressed by the rational and socially progressive
elements in Western philosophical and religious thought. On the other hand, they
resented and resisted the attempts to overthrow the authority of their religions.
For example, among Hindus, the former response produced a small number of
converts and syncretic movements such as the Brahmo Samaj Movement of Ram
Mohan Roy. This movement rejected Christian authority but at the same time it
attempted to reform Hinduism in the light of Western rationalism. More representa-
tive of the second half of the Hindu response was the Arya Samaj Movement. This
movement was purist and conservative in orientation and very outspoken in its
rejection of Christian authority. The leading exponent of this type of Hindu conser-
vatism was Bal Gangadhar Talik, who devoted his efforts to bringing Hindus into a
more direct contact with their glorious past. Thus, in spite of these differing
responses to Christian penetration, both tendencies remained committed to the
national authority of Hinduism in India. Consequently, both were part of the larger
movement, the Hindu Reformation, that not only reformed Hinduism, but also
succeeded in re-asserting its national authority and in containing the Christian
Next, let us look at the area of education. Like Akbar, control of the local
educational subsector was an integral part of British strategy for generating legiti-
macy within the Indian cultural system. Initially, the effort to establish Western
schools in India was a missionary one. However, after 1835, it became state policy.
The shape of this policy was the result of the well-known efforts of Macaulay whose
assumptions and attitudes reflected very well the racial inequality upon which
British rule was being established. For example, Macaulay held that it was better to
know English than Sanskrit, and that the historical information in all the books
written in Sanskrit was less valuable than that found in the abridged versions of
Western texts used in the English preparatory schools.19
By 1854, the new policy guided the construction of a coordinated nationwide
system of schools, colleges and universities. As this educational drive was directed
at a small Blite, little attention was paid to primary education for the masses.
Rather, the focus was on the secondary and tertiary levels. In these upper reaches
of the systems, instruction was in English with curricular emphasis on European
literature and science, all oriented toward the producing of a hybrid, intermediary
class. In this effort, the state was ably assisted by the missionaries, who saw it as
a way of weakening Hindu-Muslim authority and thus increasing the prospects for
This attempt to penetrate the educational subsector was more successful than
the attempts made on the ideological and religious subsectors. It produced a thin
stratum of Anglicized Indians who were by and large the hybrid creatures Macaulay
had hoped for. They worshipped British culture and had an intense desire to imitate
it. These tendencies though strongest in this group, were not restricted to it, and
also affected closely related ones. Further evidence of this deeper impact of British
education can be seen in the fact that after independence, English has remained
the language of University instruction, and has been declared the official link
language of the society.
The comparatively strong impact of British education on India can in part be
explained by the fact that it was something that Indian leaders themselves had
called for. In their view, there were real benefits to be derived from it, and so many
of them welcomed it. This cooperation together with the legitimacy that this accep-
tance of their educational authority generated for the British, may be the basis for
this deeper impact.
But, in spite of the more general acceptance of British educational authority, the
basic pattern of nationalist resistance and counter-mobilizing was also present.
The growth of British schooling also produced the building of Hindu and Muslim
schools and the revival of oriental seminaries, as attempts to preserve the author-
ity and traditions of indigenous education.20 Between these two extremes of
acceptance and rejection was the more general response of rationalizing and
modernizing indigenous educational traditions without losing either their identity or
their national authority. Thus, rather than resulting in the complete Anglicization of
Indian education or the hegemony of Christian authority, Western education stimu-
lated the internal rationalization of indigenous schooling which in turn strength-
ened their claims to national authority.
Finally, we take a brief look at the consequences of the abovementioned
imposition of English as a language on the linguistic sector. The similarity here with
Akbar, suggests that the legitimacy generating consequences of such a move are
readily apparent to those attempting to establish imperial power. As already noted,
the imperial imposition of English produced a small but significant stratum of
English speaking Indians. However, it also produced a strong nationalist move-
ment for the preservation of India's major languages. The most significant achieve-
ment of this movement was the explosion of creative writing in the languages of
Hindi, Gujerati, Tamil and Bengali.21 Indigenous genres were reworked, while new
ones, such as the novel were adopted. The result was an increase to the
semio-semantic capabilities of these languages and a reinforcing of their social
status and their claims to national authority. Thus, in spite of the imposition of
English, the linguistic sector remained a very competitive one, with speakers of
local languages fighting and working to preserve their various media of communi-
To summarize, our analysis of the Indian case has attempted to demonstrate
five basic points.
First, that processes of state-led cultural change emerge in peripheral
societies due to the high legitimacy deficits of colonial or imperial states.
Second that these processes of cultural change are predominantly pro-
cesses of hybridization and syncretism.
Third, that in the case of British India this syncretic culture was to be a
subordinate one that would be rooted in an intermediary stratum of Angli-
Fourth, that the British pursued these legitimacy producing cultural changes
through the strategic penetration of the ideological, religious, educational
and linguistic subsectors of the Indian cultural system.
Fifth and finally, that in relation to Hinduism and Islam, the level of syncre-
tism produced by this penetration was comparatively low. This was due to
the size and patrimonial organization of the society, and the ability of its
leaders to mobilize mass resistance. Consequently, the syncretic forma-
tions did not replace the Hindu and Muslim identities of India, which blocked
the tendencies to creolization.
Grenada at the time of its penetration by Europe was an excellent example of a
tribal society. In contrast to the Indian subcontinent, Grenada was a small island
(21 miles long and 10 miles wide) with no history of major patrimonial formations.
The first known people to settle in Grenada were Amerindians, who were called
Arawaks.22 The Arawak economy was based upon subsistence agricultural pro-
duction; they were not a seafaring population; and there is no evidence that they
tried to colonize other inhabited islands. The political structure was authoritarian,
with the chieftain's power extending over the entire island. The island was divided
into five provinces which were led by subchiefs (caciques) who were primarily
responsible for the implementation of the chieftain's orders and the planning of
ceremonial rituals. Each province was comprised of villages in which village
headmen managed work routines and the distribution of food and supplies. The
stratification system was rigid and caste-like, with social positions based primarily
upon ascription. The chieftainship, for example, was decided by matrilinial de-
The Arawak cultural system included an oral linguistic sector, an elementary
knowledge-producing sector, a belief sector dominated by magic, and an arts
sector which reflected both their means of production and their religious beliefs.
Since the Arawak economy was a subsistence economy, and not a commercial
one, technological development was linked to the making of tools for local food
production. Specifically, the teaching of woodwork, pottery, agricultural and herbal
techniques dominated the knowledge-producing sector.
The history of the Arawak community was taught orally, and a series of rites and
ceremonies demonstrated the tribe's belief systems with magical rites being
paramount. The Arawaks believed in two great Divine beings (the god of the sky
and the goddess of the earth) who were the parents of all other gods. The lesser
gods were involved with the activities of everyday life: they could control the rain
supply, food production and bring illness. The priest (shaman) was the spiritual
leader whose responsibilities included consulting with the gods and directing the
series of rites and ceremonies designed to pay homage and appease the gods.
The Arawak art sector was quite complex. Although the woodwork and pottery
products were made primarily for food production and religious worship, these did
not exhaust their significance. Their artistic qualities indicated expert craftsman-
ship. In Brizan's words, they "excelled in the field of art and handicraft".24
The second set of people known to have settled in Grenada were also Amer-
indians. They were called Caribs, and settled on the island around 900 A.D. 25
They conquered the Arawaks, established Grenada as a tribal centre, and domi-
nated the island from the tenth o the seventeenth century. This period of Carib rule
created the dominant social formations that were present at the time of European
The Caribs, like the Arawaks, were tribal in social organization. However,
important differences existed between the economic, political, and cultural systems
of these two tribes. Firstly, the Caribs were mainly a seafaring population who
traveled and colonized other inhabited islands. Secondly, social positions were
determined by one's strength and bravery in military exploits, consequently, strat-
ification- as opposed to social differentiation, was determined by gender. Thirdly,
the characteristics of the Caribs' linguistic, belief, arts, and knowledge- producing
sectors were closely related to their values on military strength.26
The characteristics of the knowledge-producing sector reflected the needs of
the subsistence-oriented economy. Men were responsible for the construction of
canoes for fishing and military expeditions, and the making of tools for military
conflict. These skills were highly valued and taught to their sons. The women were
responsible for teaching cooking skills and pottery making to their daughters.
The ideology of the tribe was dominated by a belief in patriarchal authority and
aided in maintaining the caste-like stratification system: social advancement was
possible through military prowess; celebrations were held when a boy was born;
and honours were bestowed on men who exhibited bravery. All of these practices
encouraged the continuation of the ideology of male supremacy. Women were
considered to be intrinsically inferior. Not only were the products from their labour
less valued, but also the women who were captured in battle became Carib slaves.
This sexism was probably an important factor in explaining why the Carib arts
sector was not as complex as that of the Arawaks. The pottery products made by
the Carib women were not as highly valued as they were among the Arawaks.
Consequently, the intricate detail and craftsmanship which characterized Arawak
art was absent
The Carib religion was also characterized by a magical system of beliefs. There
were two sets of gods: the Icheriri, who represented good, and the Mabouya, who
represented evil. The task of the Carib priest (boyez) was to conduct rites and
ceremonies which limited the power of an mabouya's evil spells and deeds.
The dominance of this culture resulted in Carib men becoming the cultural elites
in Grenada as by their military strength they had displaced the Arawakan cultural
elites and made the women slaves. This dominance of the Carib cultural system, in
all probability, resulted in processes of cultural hybridization and syncretism.
However, because the Caribs were subsequently eliminated by the French, it is
difficult to assess the extent to which these cultural processes occurred.
The evidence of hybridisatioon and syncretism that is available comes primar-
ily from archaeological sources and from studies of the Black Caribs of St. Vincent
who were forced to seek refuge in Central America. These sources suggest that
Carib life became less nomadic as a result of Arawakan influences. They also
suggest that Arawakan women continued to speak their language among them-
selves even though they learned the Carib language. This, in turn, had an impact
on the language and the arts of the Caribs. Finally, it is important to note that this
rise of Carib dominance did not result in the transition to a patrimonial or any
other type of post-tribal society.
Cultural Impact of French Colonization
As already noted, the tribal society of the Caribs remained in control of Grenada
until the latter half of the seventeenth century. During the first half of that century
unsuccessful attempts at colonization were made by the French. Although the
Caribs had limited military capacity in comparison with the French, their warrior
skills and guerilla-type attacks enabled them to postpone defeat.
The decisive skirmish which ended Carib domination of the island occurred in
1652. Aware of certain defeat, some committed mass suicide by jumping into the
sea. The Caribs who survived the events of 1652 formed guerilla-type groups and
continued the resistance. In 1654, the French conducted a surprise attack and
killed almost all of the remaining Caribs.27 The few who survived did not represent
any future threat to the French. However, the Caribs left their mark on Grenadian
culture through such things as words in the pidgyn languages that emerged, and
musical instruments, for example, the maracas. Thus, Grenada became a colony
two hundred years before India. The comparative significance of this short period
of conquest is that it indicates the lower level of resistance that small tribal societies
were able to mobilize, which in Grenada produced a much longer period of
As in the case of India, external control of Grenada required the establishing of
a colonial state. The rise of this new state involved the overthrowing of the political
authority of the Carib elite. This overthrowing of authority was one of the reasons
for the indigenous resistance to the French state. Further, it is this resistance to the
colonial state that made it necessary for the French elite to develop a strategy of
colonial rule. Like the British in India, it was based upon racial inequality. The
French first attempted to elicit the cooperation of the Caribs and failing in that,
turned to military conquest. With conquest, attempts were made to generate the
needed legitimacy by eliciting cooperation on the basis of their acknowledged
superiority. As a result, the French developed a colonial state with a legitimating
ideology that combined absolutism and racism.
Within the parameters of this state, the French elite in Grenada were subject to
the laws and regulations of their home country, and they were accorded the same
basic rights as French citizens. Along with being more absolutist, there were two
other important differences between the colonial states of India and Grenada: first,
the latter was Catholic, and second, it legalized and enforced slavery. This was the
slavery of the Africans who were bought as labourers to replace the decimated
Indians. As slaves, the basic rights of the French Absolutist state were not ex-
tended to these Africans. This exclusion was legitimate by racist ideologies which
claimed that Africans were intrinsically inferior, and were better able to work in the
climate of Grenada. An assertion such as "to beat a Negro is to nourish him"
illustrates the racism that had become an integral part of the state's legitimating
This practice of African slavery was basic to the colonial economy that the
French had established on Grenada. This was an agrarian capitalist economy
which centred on the export of sugar and coffee to France. However, the resis-
tance of Africans to their enslavement forced the colonial state to rely less on the
above sources of symbolic legitimacy, and more on coercive measures. This use
of coercion resulted in the extensive destruction of the African cultural system, and
in particular it suppressed African cultural practices which might have facilitated
resistance. A classic example of this destruction of elements of the African cultural
system was the outlawing of the.practice of drumming. Drumming was used as a
private language among the Africans, and sometimes it was used to communicate
plans for rebellion. The French did not understand this coded language, but were
aware of its significance, thus, the practice of drumming was made illegal.
The French colonial state in Grenada not only destroyed significant aspects of
African culture, it also legitimized the practice of resocializing Africans for their
slave status. As they were not citizens, an important context for this resocialization
was the implementation of the laws of the Code Noirof 1685. Among other things,
this code established the legal and social status of the slaves, policies of assimila-
tion for mulattoes, and sought to encourage the immediate Christianizing of the
slaves. This posture of early religious instruction differed significantly from British
colonial policy, and reflected the greater influence of religious elites on the French
imperial state. In short, these elements of French policy suggest that the need to
stabilize a system of slavery necessitated a more extreme colonial situation in
Grenada, forcing the colonial state to employ more severe measures of symbolic
and physical violence than was the case in India.
What was the impact of the violence of slavery and the programmes of
resocialization on the African cultural system? Overall, the result was very high
levels of de-Africanization followed by correspondingly high levels of Gallicization.
That is, patterns of hybridization and syncretism were fostered in which Galliciza-
tion, or more generally Europeanization, was the more dominant factor. The major
exceptions to this were in the areas of dancing, music, folklore and magic. Here,
African patterns retained their ascendency, assimilating French elements as the
slaves saw fit.
Let us consider the case of religion. Even though the Code Noir stated that
slaves were to be taught the principles of Catholicism, the local French elite passed
laws to discourage these teachings, because many feared that Christian principles
might be used for resistance. However, since the code called for the Christianiza-
tion of Africans, it gave the colonial state administrative control over African
religious life, and the legal right to suppress the African religions. Even though the
slaves had been imported from various tribes in Africa, many of these tribes held
similar religious beliefs. The shared elements in the religions of these tribes may be
illustrated with the aid of a pyramid. 29 At the apex of the pyramid is the great God
who created the world and reigns supreme. The ancestors and nature gods are
located on the two sides of the pyramid and, at the base are negative powers,
employed in magic and witchcraft. Humans occupy the centre of the pyramid and
are affected by all of these forces the negative powers, the ancestors, the nature
gods, and God. Dancing, drum playing, painting, sculpture, witchcraft and the
telling of stories were all part of the religion. The French colonial elite passed laws
that prohibited many African religious practices. For example, if slaves were found
practicing obeah or if they held in their possession articles used for witchcraft, they
could be punished by death. They also attempted to stop African polygamy and to
Christianize marriage ceremonies.
Separated from its deepest roots, subjected to violence of the colonial state and
the resocializing efforts of the code, the religious practices of Afro-Grenadians
began to change. Slowly, much of the original contact with the great God, and with
many of the nature gods was lost. In other words, the top and one side of the
pyramid were severely eroded. What remained was the practice of magic and
some degree of ancestor worship.That is, the base and portions of the second side
of the pyramid. Slowly taking the place of these losses were Catholic elements as
the attempts to proselytize increased. This was the politico-religious context in
which the syncretic religions of Grenada emerged.
For a hegemonically Catholic country, however, these hybrid formations were
rather unusual particularly when compared to those of other Catholic countries
such as Haiti, Cuba or Trinidad.30 In contrast to the latter, syncretic formations in
which Christianity was assimilated to a dominant African pattern did not become
really influential. The Shango religion was the major exception. much more influen-
tial were hybrid formations in which African elements had been assimilated to a
dominant Catholic orientation.31
Because of the dominance of the latter patterns of syncretism, the ambivalent
responses observed in our analysis of India manifested themselves differently in
Grenada. Like their Indian counterparts, there was probably a lot in Catholicism, or
French culture, that sparked the curiosity of Afro-Grenadians, at the same time that
they resented its racism and its coercion. However, the syncretic religions shaped
by the code and violence of the colonial state were making it impossible for Afro-
Grenadians to resist by reasserting the authority of their African religions. More and
more, resistance to European religious domination would be expressed in Christian
In other areas of the African cultural system, French attempts at resocialization
and control were less intensive for the remainder of the slavery period. However,
the above attempts to control the religious subsector did have significant conse-
quences for some of these remaining areas. As religious instruction was in French,
it reinforced the ongoing destruction of African languages and the emergence of a
French-based pidgyn or hybrid language as the lingua franca of the society. Again,
unlike the case of Indian languages, this pidgyn slowly replaced African languages,
and eliminated the possibility of their nationalistic reassertion.
This forced Christianization also had important consequences for the artistic
sectors of the African cultural system. Because there were no written texts in this
system, the arts served as the inscribed or textual counterparts to beliefs that were
committed to memory and communicated orally. Thus religious demands for
songs, sculpture, ceremonial items and drumming were major stimuli to the arts
sector. It is not surprising that that area experienced a major decline as a result of
the religious policies of the state.
In short, the stabilizing of French colonial rule in Grenada was systematically
linked to the emergence of a syncretic culture characterized by high levels of
Gallicization. This change in the cultural identity of the dominated was in part a
response to legitimacy and communicative problems of the colonial state.
The Cultural Impact of British Control
French control of Grenada was yielded to Britain by the Treaty of Paris in 1763.
The purpose of British settlement was the same as the French had been. Consis-
tent with mercantile policy, the island continued its commercial practices, exporting
coffee and sugar, except that it would now trade with Britain instead of France.
The British, at first, tried an indirect form of rule. They recognized the French
cultural l1ite, allowed them limited political participation, and attempted to redirect
their allegiance to Britain. Although these policies were implemented to bring about
a smooth transition of power, British settlers lobbied against them, and also the
French rejected any attempts at domination. The end result was that Britain failed
to legitimate its new colonial state by this strategy of indirect rule. France regained
control from 1779-1783; and Britain regained Grenada as a possession in 1783 by
the Treaty of Versailles. A mass exodus of French planters and their slaves to
Trinidad resulted. Those who remained on the island increased their resistance to
British domination by combining their forces with those of the mulatto class. The
Fedon Rebellion, the final conflict for control of Grenada, occurred between 1795-
1796. Hulian Fedon, a mulatto who was the leader of the resistance, gained the
support of not only other mulattos and the French settlers, but also of many
enslaved blacks and Grenadian maroons. The goals of Fedon's rebellion were to
oust the British Blite, free the slaves, and make Grenada a part of the French
With military aid provided by France, Fedon and his forces were able to take
control of the Island. A central camp was established in the mountains and Fedon
began to negotiate terms with the British for the island's freedom. While these
diplomatic manoeuvres continued, England sent reinforcements which success-
fully crushed the rebellion. All who had participated or had sympathised with the
efforts of the rebellion were either killed or deported; another mass exodus to
Trinidad and Saint Dominque resulted; and British cultural domination was ensured
with the emigration of the local French cultural elite, the mulatto class, and sections
of the enslaved Blacks. However, the containing of the potential threat from the
remaining enslaved Blacks would continue to be a major concern of the British
After the rebellion, there were marked changes in British colonial policy. State
organization was changed from an indirect to a direct form of colonial rule. This shift
in turn produced changes in the cultural and ideological symbolism used to "fi-
nance" the state's legitimacy deficits. Consequently, the reorganized state was
legitimate by an ideological mixture of colonial authoritarianism, Anglicanism and
racism. The first was institutionalized through the political system of crown colony
rule. In such systems, basic liberal institutions such as legislatures were main-
tained for the European population. However, in contrast to more representative
colonial systems (such as India), membership in Crown colony legislatures was via
appointment as opposed to election.
Anglicanism was a broad strategy employed by the British to de-Catholicize and
de-Gallicize Grenadian society. It included making the Anglican church the official
church; establishing English as the language of state, the confiscating of large
amounts of Catholic church property, and the barring of Catholics from the legisla-
ture. The latter was done through the enforcing of the Test Act, which called for a
sworn rejection of the Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation. 33
With regard to the partially Gallicized Africans, the British pursued policies of
cultural accommodation in contrast to French policies of assimilation. Conse-
quently, the notion of an "evolue" who could become a French citizen disappeared
as no amount of accommodation or assimilation could "make" one British.
The institution of slavery was also a basic policy of the British colonial state. It
was firmly established by the 1766 Act for the Better Government of Slaves. Thus
like its French counterpart, the British colonial state continued enforcing policies
which resulted in the further destruction of elements of the indigenous African
cultural system, and in an English as opposed to a French resocialization. For
example, the Act expressly outlawed African magic (Obeah) making it punishable
by death or transportation.34
The above policies toward the culture of Afro-Grenadians was most evident in
British attempts to gain control over the religious and educational lives of this
group. These attempts produced allocations of money and resources to ensure
greater colonial control of the corresponding cultural subsectors. Starting in the late
slavery and accelerating at the start of the post-slavery period (1834), both British
imperial and local colonial elites, began to shift their religious policies. Having
established a clear dominance over the French who remained on the island, the
British now sought the cooperation of French Roman Catholics in the Christianiza-
tion of Africans. By the start of the post-slavery period, all clergy in Grenada,
including Roman Catholic priests received annual salaries from the state.35 This
cooperation became the basis of a new mobilization to Christianize Africans.
Schools were opened, and regular visits to plantations were arranged for the
religious instruction of Africans.
This local drive to Christianize was strongly reinforced by imperial educational
policies of the post-slavery period. As a part of the Emancipation Act, the British
government allocated money for the education of ex-slaves in schools that offered
non- denominational instruction in Christianity. The money was given not to the
local colonial state, but to the various religious denominations. These efforts
resulted in the reorganization and control of Afro-Grenadian education by both
church and state. In short, British cultural policies reinforced and deepened the
patterns of Afro-European syncretism established earlier by the French.
As in the period of French rule, British control of the religious and educational
subsectors had important consequences for other subsectors that were less di-
rectly penetrated. Probably the most important of these were in the linguistic
subsectors. French and the Gallicized pidgin of the Africans (patois) became major
obstacles to British colonial projects. By linking English to social mobility, French
gradually disappeared from the society, while the patios was slowly Anglicized,
adding English to its already complex mixture of African, Indian and French words.
Important areas of African influence remained, however. For example, Pan
Africanism emerged as an important ideology in the second half of the nineteenth
century. Even stronger were the African influences in the art sector. These could be
seen in secular rituals such as the annual Carnival. This carnival generated
demands for painting, sculpture, music, street dramas and other creations. These
activities were the major sources of popular art. However, it is important to note that
this art was now rooted in secular rituals as opposed to the religious one of the
To summarize, our analysis of the Grenadian case demonstrates six basic
First, that processes of cultural change in Grenada were closely associated
with the legitimacy efforts of both the French and British colonial states.
Second, these processes of cultural change were predominantly processes
of hybridization and syncretism.
Third, that in the case of Grenada, the hybrid culture was to be subordinate
to that of the colonial elites on the islands.
Fourth, that the dominant elites pursued these legitimacy-producing cultural
changes through both coercive and symbolic strategies.
Fifth that the level of hybridization produced by the British elite was higher
than in the case of India.
Sixth and finally that the resulting syncretic formations eventually replaced
the original culture of the Africans, which resulted in the creolization of this
Our aim in this paper has been to establish a framework for comparing periph-
eral cultural systems. To be effective such a framework should permit the analysis
of similarities and differences between these types of cultural systems. The similar-
ities and differences that emerged from our study of India and Grenada are good
indicators that the framework meets the above criterion. It has allowed us, without
losing the unique identities of the Indian and the Grenadian cultural systems, to
compare their responses and adaptations to imperial penetration. Thus, we sug-
gest it constitutes a significant contribution to the field of comparative development.
1. Evans, P. and Stevens, J., "Development and the World Economy: in N. Smelser and
R. Burt (eds) Handbook of Sociology Beverly Hills, Sage, 1987.
2. Taylor, Peter, "The Poverty of International Comparisons: Some Methodological
Lessions From World-Systems Analysis." Studies in Comparative International Develop-
ment, 22: 12-81, 1987
3. See Friedman, J., "Culture, Identity and World Process." Review, 12: 15-32, 1989. and
Meyer, John, "The World Polity and the Authority of the nation- State." in A Bergensen
(ed) Studies in the Modern World System New York: Academic Press, 1980.
4. Parsons, Talcott, Societies: Evolutionary and Comparative Perspectives Englewood
Cliffs, Prentice Hall, 1966.
5. Herskovits, Melville, The Myth of the Negro Past Boston, Beacon Press, 1958.
6. Parsons, Talcott, "Comparative Studies and Evolutionary Change" in I. Vallier (ed) Com-
parative Methods in Sociology Berkeley, University of California Press, 1973.
7. Henry, Paget, Peripheral Capitalism and Underdevelopment in Antigua New Brunswick:
Transaction Books, 1985.
8. Habermas, Juegen, Knowledge and Human Interests Boston: Beacon Press, 1971.
9. Husain, A. op.cit.
10. Maddison, Angus, Class Structure and Economic Growth New York: W.W. Norton and
11. Maddison, Angus,op.cit.
12. Husain, A. op.cit.
13. Husain, A. op.cit.
14. Maddison, Angus,op.cit.
15. Carnoy, Martin, Education as Cultural Imperialism New York: Longmans, 1977.
16. Wolpert, S., A New History of India New York: Oxford University Press 1982.
uthnow, Robert, Communities of Discourse. (Cambridge, Harvard University Press), 1989.
17. Pannikkar, K., Asia and Western Dominance New York: Collier Books, p. 119, 1969
18. Pannikkar, K.op.cit. p.281
19. Wolpert, S., op.cit. p.215
20. Husain, A. op.cit. p.169
21. Pannikkar, K.op.cit. p.250
22. Brizan, George, Grenada: Island of Conflict London: Zed Books, p.1, 1984.
23. Devas, Raymond, The History of the Island of Grenada: History of the Church in Gre-
nada London: Sands and Company, 1964, pp.25-27, 1932.
24. Brizan, George, op.cit. p.25
25. Bullen, Ripley, (Gainsville, University of Florida Press, p.59, 1964.
26. Brizan, George, op.cit. pp 8-10
27. Brizan, George, op.cit. pp 17-20
28. Davis, David Brian, The Problem of Slavery in the Western Culture Ithaca: Cornell Uni-
versity Press, p.174, 1966.
29. Henry, Paget "Towards a Thing of Peripheral Cultural Systems." Unpublished, p. 22,
30 Bastide, op.it. pp152-168
31 Devas, Raymond, op.cit. pp.25-27
32. Brizan, George, op.cit. pp 31-77
33 Brizan, George, op.cit. p. 51
34. Brizan, George, op.cit. p. 82
35. Brizan, George, op.cit. p. 105
Dagnino, E., "Cultural and Ideological Dependence: Building a Theoretical Framework." In
Structures of Dependence, edited by F. Bonilla and R. Girling Standford: Institute for Politi-
cal Studies, 1973.
Frank, Andre Gunder, Latin America: Underdevelopment of Revolution New York:
Monthly Review Press, 1969.
Goonatilake, S., Aborted Discovery London: Zed Books, 1984.
Mattelart, A., "The Nature of Communications Practice in a Development Society." Latin
American Perspectives 5: 13-34, 1978.
Hosay and its Creolization
AJAI MANSINGH & LAXMI MANSINGH*
MOHARRAM, the ten-day annual observance of the massacre of Hosain (a
grandson of Prophet Mohammed), his family and followers in an intra-Islamic
battle, was introduced into the Caribbean in the 1840s by the Indian indentured
workers. Though the first group of the farm workers arrived in Guyana in 1838 and
in Trinidad and Jamaica in 1845, observance of Moharram as a community activity
was probably started only after sizeable populations of Indian Muslim indentured
workers settled down in the Caribbean sugarcane plantations.
From its very inception in the Caribbean, Moharram acquired a secular charac-
ter as the Indian Muslims displayed their religious sentiments in the cultural
traditions of their motherland, while the Hindus used the occasion for demonstrat-
ing ethnic identity and inter-religious brotherhood. As the inevitable process of
cross-cultural interaction gained momentum, Moharram started to transcend eth-
nic, religious and cultural barriers in the mosaic Caribbean society, just as Hindu
beliefs and practices started to influence the Afro-Caribbean members of the
The process of creolization of Moharram started with a change in its nomencla-
ture to HOSA Y the word which the creoles thought they heard repeatedly when the
mourners loudly and repeatedly remembered the chief martyr Hosain. Gradually, it
has reached a stage where Hosay has little religious significance for most Indo-
Caribbeans in Jamaica and many communities in Trinidad, as it succumbed to the
greater cultural needs and norms of the Caribbean society. Initially, the three M's.
- mourning, mercia (martydom songs) singing and meditation (while the Koran
was read), along with tazias and the parade with drumming were the soul of the
ten-day Moharram activities. Contemporary Hosay in Jamaica has incorporated
the Jamaican 'awake' traditions of post-death mourning (in which drinking rum is
almost a ritual) and the Trinidadian carnival theme. The three M's. have thus been
* Presented at Symposium, Caribbean Festival of Arts
Smithsonian Institute, Wash. D.C., Sept, 1989
replaced by three D's drinking, drumming and dancing (carnival style) for creating
an atmosphere, not for mourning but for what the present generation of Indo-Ja-
maicans term "Jollyfication".
Moharram is essentially an occasion for mourning, observed mostly by only the
SHIA sect of muslims who number around sixty million and live mainly in Iran, Iraq,
India and Pakistan. The sect originated immediately after the Prophet's death in
632 C.E. when Ali, cousin and son-in-law of the prophet, failed to succeed him as
Caliph (Successor and Commander of the Faith) However, Ali did become
Caliph in 650 C.E., only to be murdered by Muawiyah on 27 January 661 C.E. Ali's
eldest son Hosain was forced to sign a treaty acknowledging Muawiyah as the new
Caliph for life before the Caliphate could return to the house of Ali3
Hassan was retired to Medina as caretaker of the prophet's grave, where he
died in 669 C.E., allegedly poisoned by one of his hundred wives.4 On Muawiyah's
death in 680 C.E., his son Yazid invited Hasan's younger brother Hosain to take
over the caliphate but it was a stratagem. While camping at Karbela on their way to
Damascus, Hosain and his entourage were attacked by Yazid's troops. In the
encounter on the tenth day of Moharram (the first month of the Islamic calendar) in
the year 61 A.H. (corresponding to October 680 C.E.), Hosain, his infant son Ali,
and many followers including women and children were killed5. Since then, the
Shiites all over the world began the Islamic new year with ten days of solemn
mourning in memory of the martydom of their leader. Indo-Shia communities in
Yemen, Oman and other Arab Emirates, Mauritius, Fiji, Africa and the Caribbean
mark the occasion with a distinctive blend of Hindu and Iranian cultural traditions.
Moharram in India
During the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, the influx of the Iranians (who
were Shiites) into India introduced the observance of Moharram in the sub-conti-
nent. In the early decades, it retained its Persian characteristics of displaying
personal mourning in public by marching in processions, recalling the names of
Hasan and Hosain loudly with the phrase Hai Hasan, hai Hosain ham na huay (Oh
Hasan, Oh Hosain, I wish I were there) to the music of drums, and in ecstasy of
religious emotions, beating and scratching their chests with fists, clubs, knives and
other sharp objects without ever feeling the pains of wounds. By the end of the
eighteenth century, the dominant Hindu culture penetrated into Moharram as the
Nawabs (Princes) of small states in Oudh (Northern Uttar Pradesh) encouraged
the emulation of Hindu festivals with Rath Yatra (chariot parade) in which the
images of Devatas (gods) and Devis (goddesses) are taken out in richly decorated
floats with drumming, chanting, acrobatics and martial dancing (depicting the
victory of virtues over vices) by the devotees. In fact, Rath Yatra is a regular annual
feature in Toronto and Los Angeles where the North American devotees celebrate
Lord Krishna's birthday in August.
This led to the introduction of the float TAZIA an artistically designed replica of
imaginary tombs of Hasan and Hosain, as an integral part and indeed the central
attraction of Moharram processions on the final day of mourning. Various other
Hindu rituals and activities associated with Rath Yatra such as fanning the images
(representing personification of specific aspects of God), showering of flower
petals on them and performing aarti (offering prayers while moving an oil lamp in a
clock-wise circle) of the images also became regular features of Moharram rituals.
In India and Pakistan, Moharram is observed strictly according to the Islamic
calendar, but in a unique tradition which transcends sectoral differences prevalent
in other Islamic countries. Both Shia and Sunni sects abstain from regular merri-
ment for the first ten days of Moharram and hold Majlis (assemblies) in the
evenings for reading of scriptures and religious discourses. The Shias start building
tazias on the first day of Moharram after holding special consecration prayers and
complete it by the ninth day. Tazia may be sponsored by the community, business
houses or individuals, often as a thanks-giving gesture for the fulfillment of a wish.
Almost the entire Shia community in a neighbourhood gets involved with the
building of tazia. In the evenings, while menfolks build the float, the battle of
Kerbela is retold and mercia songs eulogizing Hosain and martyrs are sung by the
mixed congregation. Loban (a special incense used during funerals) is burnt beside
the Tazia and the fumes are fanned ritualistically towards the "graves" inside the
In the mornings, small bands of Shia mourners with flags (called Alamdars)
would parade the main streets while playing Nagaras and Tasas (small portable
drums) and remembering Hasan and Hosain loudly. On the evening of the ninth
day of Moharram, tazias are brought out of the shed where they were built, and
carried to a few homes in the neighbourhood where the faithful provide all -night
vigil by drumming, reading of scriptures, singing of mercia and burning of loban.
The tenth day of Moharram is the climax of mourning activities. In Northern
Pakistan, saddled and decorated but riderless horses called Zuljinah (representing
the martyr) lead the Tasa drummers and procession of male mourners. In the rest
of the Indian subcontinent, tazias have replaced the horses. The order of proces-
sion is also reversed; whereas zuljinah leads the procession in keeping with the
Indian funeral practice in which the coffin or mortal remains is followed by the
mourners, Tazia is always at the end of a Moharram procession just as the floats in
a rath yatra or the bridegroom in a marriage procession.
Small tazias are carried individually by men on their heads while the large ones
on the shoulders or wheel carts in a procession which is led by alamdars, tasa
drummers, sword and stick fighters, kathghora (wooden-horse) riders and often
fire-walkers (all adapted from Hindu festival activities) in this "military funeral"
parade. The drumming of martial music and shouting of Hai Hosian reverberates
the atmosphere and arouses the emotions of the mourners to ecstatic frenzy in
which some may open bloody gashes with sharp objects. The female mourners
grieve from the sidewalks or try to touch tazia during the regular stops.
The processions march through predetermined routes where people set up
sabilor waterhuts for the thirsty passersby; the practice is supposed to rekindle the
ordeal of Hosain and his followers when Yazid had blocked their access to River
Euphrates. The processions stop in front of the homes and business places of the
sponsors where special drumming and mercia singing provides an opportunity for
offering prayers. Many perform aarti with an earthen pot of burning loban, while
reciting verses from the Koran.
Late in the afternoon, the processions reached river banks, sea coasts or burial
grounds where whole tazia or simply the paper coverings are thrown in water
(adopted from Hindu tradition) or buried. Usually, the disposal of tazias is preceded
by drumming and sword or stick-fighting competitions between groups or individu-
Hosay in the Caribbean
The Hindu-Muslim amity which flourished in India during the indentureship
period was further strengthened among the immigrants by the loneliness of the
long and confined voyage across the Indian and Atlantic oceans, the haunting
memories of their cradles in the plains of Ganga, the tormenting thoughts of the
near and dear ones left behind and apprehensions about the future among the
unknown aliens. This led to the instant development of an indelible bond of ethnic
kinship in which religion became secondary to ethnic emotions and home sickness.
Observance of Moharram in the Caribbean was initiated by the early groups of
Indian indentured workers as they strived to establish homes in individual planta-
tions away from home in India. The Muslims were the main actors while the Hindus
provided material, logistic and moral support and participated in tazia-making,
dancing, gutka (stick) or sword-fighting and vending of sweets and drinks along
the way and at the immersion grounds at the river banks of sea coasts. Until the
1940s, Hosay invoked general religious sentiments and devotion among the main
participants of either religion who would avoid alcohol, sex and other pleasure-giv-
ing activities for ten days.
It is difficult to establish the time and place for the first Hosay observance in the
Caribbean. The first group of Indian immigrants with about twenty to thirty Muslims
who landed in Guyana in 1938 may be credited with the introduction of the event in
the New World. Trinidad, which had regular immigration of thousands of Indians
since 1845, must have started celebration of Indian festivals soon after the Indians
settled down in plantations. Similarly, Hosay was initiated in the Eastern Carib-
bean islands of St. Lucia, St. Vincent and Guadeloupe after the Indian immigrants
reached there in the 1850s. Indians in Belize are the secondary immigrants from
Jamaica and claim to have been celebrating Hosay since their arrival in the 1870s6
In the early decades of Indian immigration into Jamaica (late 1840s and
1850s), observance of Moharram in different plantations must have had a low and
irregular profile as the Indian populations were small and scattered and inter-plan-
tation communications were restricted. For instance, the impoverished and jobless
Indian workers who were abandoned by the irresponsible plantation owners and
the Government of Jamaica in the late 1840s and the 1850s, could never have
observed Moharram in the proper way. Full-scale and regular observance of the
event must have started in the early 1860s when indentureship was resumed after
a gap of about thirteen years.
In the nineteenth century, Moharram was observed in the Caribbean strictly
according to Islamic Calendar and Indian rituals and traditions7. Indian Panchayat
(council of five) which were set up by the immigrants in each plantation, sponsored
and organized the event before businessmen, mainly for promoting their own
businesses, started to patronize the expensive activities.8
The construction of tazia would start on the first day of Moharram after a simple
religious ceremony at the craftsman's shed which was regarded as a holy shrine for
the next eight days. To keep the structure light, whole or split bamboos provided
the scaffolding while coloured paper and cloth covered the frame. Both Hindus and
Muslims would join in building tazia strictly according to traditional three-tier Indian
design. The base called chabutra or chautra, is usually 2 x 2 x 0.6m in dimension;
the middle section or tabut depicts a hall with the martyrs' grave and an entrance
door in the front which is left a-jar; the top section or gummaj is a round or tapering
dome about three metres high. Each section is built separately and assembled
just after being taken into the open. Outwardly, tazia appears like a typical Islamic
architecture with the characteristic dome in the middle.
The evening majlises during the construction of tazia were dominated by
Muslim men and women who would sing mercia until early mornings. Beckwith9
has recorded the lyrics and music of some of these mourning songs.
On the ninth night, tazias were assembled at the previously consecrated plat-
form, and amidst drumming, mercia singing, shouting of slogans, it was displayed
to the public. Both Muslims and Hindus paid respect to the "shrine" in their own
ways. An all night vigil was provided to the Tazia by the mourners with disciplined
expressions of their sentiments through songs and discourses, without drinking,
smoking or even eating.
The activities on the tenth day were heralded by the playing of martial music on
Nagara (double ended drums hung from the neck and shoulders) and tasa (top-
ended drums, tied to the waist). The proceedings started with the lifting of tazia on
their shoulders by four men who would then go around the resting platform seven
times while Koranic verses were recited and drums played. The mourners repeat-
edly changed shoulders as they carried the tazia towards the central point usually
the yard of the chief sponsor. Large tazias were rested on wheeled carts (hearse),
medium-sized ones were carried on the shoulders whereas the tiny ones were
lifted by the individual mourners on their heads.
From this point, the tazias moved in an organized procession through the
predetermined route to a "fair-ground" at the bank of a river or sea shore. The
procession was led by alamdars and drummers, followed by the sword and gutka-
fighters/dancers, katghora dancers, the main body of mourners beating their
chests and shouting "Hai Hosain" slogans and the tazia, respectively. On its way,
the procession would stop in the yards of sponsors for the drums to be warmed on
burning coal, drummers to rest and the mourners to perform aarti of tazia. Several
tazias from nearby communities met at a central point from where they finally
moved in a joint procession towards the immersion grounds.
The routes of individual and joint processions would be lined with onlookers, -
both Indo- and Afro-Caribbean. While the Indians felt proud and elated by the
audio-visual display of their culture in alien surroundings, the Afro-Jamaicans
shared the sentiments of their colleagues in the non-European religious and
cultural traditions with an aura of ecstatic Afro-drumming, animism and mysticism.
Indian vendors sold typically Indian snacks (Jalebi laddoo, khurma, phylauri,
mungaora, gulgula etc.) and drinks (sharbat and thadai with bhang or ganja
leaf-paste). In 1975, the authors interviewed one Mrs. Suraji whose family had
been vending sweets at Rio Minho banks in Race Course, Clarendon, since the
1880s. The immersion ground had all the atmosphere of an Indian fair ground.
Vendors had their stalls on three sides of the ground while Tazias from different
communities were parked or rested in the river bank. By rotation, drummers of
each group would play the martial music for the sword and stick-fighters to dance.
The sword fighters used steel or wooden swords and shields while the stick-danc-
ers used about six feet long bamboo staff for both offence and defence in a display
of dazzling movement of arms, body and feet. Katghora dancers would then dance
to the Tasa music and sing songs narrating the battle of Karbela. Often Indian
wrestlers would compete in friendly matches.
At dusk, amidst deafening sounds of Tasa, Nagara and shouting of Hai Hasan,
Hai Hosain slogans, the Tazias were sunk, one by one, in the river or sea. The
activities would end after the Indians returned to their respective communities and
shared pieces of bread of "Tosha" or joined a community organized dinner.
The Process of Creolization
The cross-cultural and biological interactions between the Indians and their
Afro-Caribbean compatriots which began with varying pace in the 1850s in
different Caribbean territories are now being manifested by a spectrum of religious
and cultural responses by the dominant African and the minority Indian segments
of the Caribbean society. The general phenomenon of creolization of Indo- Carib-
bean inhabitants is best reflected by the way Moharram is now being celebrated in
the region, just as many aspects of Revivalism and Rastafarianism and some
contemporary thinking of Caribbean Christianity, reflect Indianization of the Afro-
The wonderful and desirable cross-cultural interactions have been triggered by
the inherent natural brotherhood between the Indians and the Africans, which is
inspired and dictated by aspects of metaphysical and cultural affinity between the
two peoples in spite of striking physical differences. Being mystic and perceptive,
they found each other as a product of natural theologies which are based on the
study of empirically observable facts and not on the authority of exclusive revela-
tions or traditions. Though varying in conceptual, philosophical and ritualistic
details, both the Afro- and Indo-Caribbean religions are animistic insofar as the
concept of soul is concerned, both believe in harnessing the cosmic energy or
spirit, both honour the spirits of the departed ones, and both believe in experiencing
an internalized religion which is beyond the externalized, non-mystical religion of
It is pertinent to note that the natural affinity between the two ethnic groups
could not be suppressed by the Christian churches, led by the Baptists who hurled
unsolicited abuses at the Indians even before they are arrived in Jamaica11
pursued vigorously and shamelessly by the Presbyterians12 and practised by
many "victims of colonial myopia" even today as they admonish the members of
their congregation who attend Hosay and other Indian Festivals. 13
Secularization and creolization of Moharram were thus inspired, initiated and
regulated by the following factors:
The overpowering need of the Indians to project their ethnic identity and
religious and cultural independence from the 'Whitemen' or to be more
precise, from "Europeanism".
Obvious cultural non-viability of the small numbers of Muslims within the
Inter-marriages among the Indian Hindus and Muslims which helped com-
plete the process of secularization of Moharram.
Development of close professional, social and to some extent biological
contacts between the Indians and the Afro-Caribbean population.
Both peoples shared work in the sugarcane and banana fields which
provided an excellent opportunity for the two ethnic groups to understand
each other's culture.
Discovery by both ethnic groups that they had a lot more in common than
either had with the Europeans. For instance:
(i) both Hinduism and Africanism are animistic and pantheistic religions;
and thus regarded as paganism by the philosophically hamstrung Christi-
anity but recognized as absolutely scientific by the modern scientists and
(ii) both believe in the divinity of individual soul and in spirits. Hindus
recognize spirits as aspects of the personified cosmic energy or Shakti. The
Africans believe also in the regulatory powers of cosmic energy but through
the ancestral and animistic souls;
(iii) Hindu Tantrics believe in harnessing spirits through magical rituals, just
as the Africans practice obeah etc. for achieving similar objectives;
(iv) both sets of people employ ritualistic sacrifice of animals goat by the
Kali worshippers and fowl by the Revivalists;
(v) both groups share several foods ingredients such as tamarind with
each other, but not with the Europeans.
(vi) the status of drums in the music of the two peoples is high; tasa and
nagara drums, bring out the spontaneity of the Afro-Caribbean person as
do African drums.
(vii) the spontaneous exuberance of the Indians and Africans is perhaps
best displayed through the ecstatic nachania and kumina dances, which in
most aspects are very similar.
Hosay The Creolized Moharram
Creolization of Moharram is an evolutionary phenomenon, displaying a spec-
trum of responses in different Caribbean countries from complete disappearance
in Guyana and Eastern Caribbean islands, through varying degrees of seculariza-
tion and creolization in Trinidad to almost complete creolization in Jamaica and
Belize. This cultural process is not regulated by political or social decrees, but by
the fusion of the two cultures at metaphysical, emotional and social levels in the
cultural environments of different Caribbean societies.
The characteristic features of creolized Moharram are:
1. NOMENCLATURE. The change in nonmenclature from Moharram to Hosay
was done by the majority creole society in the late nineteenth century. The
creolized name denotes both tazia and the festival as a whole.
2. TIME OF CELEBRATION. Secularization in the fixing of dates for the obser-
vance of Moharram or celebration of Hosay was brought about by the Jamaican
planters in the early years of this century, though Trinidad still follows the Islamic
calendar. Thus Eastern Jamaica celebrated the festival during the first ten days of
the lunar cycle in January-February, and the rest of the islands in August-Septem-
Belize had its dates fixed by the 1931 hurricane which had killed a large number
of East Indians (mostly of Jamaican connections) and destroyed their properties. In
an attempt to wipe out the memories of the tragedy, the then Governor persuaded
the Indians to celebrate the festival on September 10th, as was originally planned
by the community. Since then, it has become an annual event in Belize Cityl4
3. COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT. From the very inception of Moharram in the
Caribbean, Hindus have been involved in all but religious activities of the event.
However, as the process of secularization and creolization gained momentum, the
Hindus started to view it mainly as a cultural event. Gradually, many Hindus, such
as the Couva in Trinidad15 became completely involved in every aspects of
Moharram but invited Muslin priests to perform Islamic rituals. Some Hindus built
tazia for the first time as a thanksgiving gesture to God for the fulfillment of specific
wishes, and continued to perform the annual exercise for superstitious reasons.
Likewise several Afro-Caribbean people also got involved in Tazia making first
for satisfying their artistic urges, then continued the artwork for superstitious fears.
Mr. Martin of Hayes, Clarendon, Jamaica built his personal Tazia regularly be-
tween the 1930s and 1979 for purely community cultural traditions16.
4. CREOLIZED RITUALS. The fusion of Hindu Tantrism and Kali-puja rituals with
Obeah and Revivalism evolved a unique creolized ritual for the consecration
ceremonies in Jamaica. Instead of the simple Islamic practices of reading holy
verses at the places where Tazia is built and assembled (as described earlier),
Jamaicans developed an occult practice involving superstitious beliefs and prac-
Since the early twentieth century, Hosay ceremonies would start on the night of
the lunar cycle in August with the construction of a new or previously made platform
(chabutra) for the assembly of Tazia on the ninth night of the festival. A priest (or
chief organizer) and four or six others would go to a field and bring back some earth
in a bowl, along with four plants, usually banana suckers. While the man planted
the suckers at each corner of the platform (a practice similar to the preparation of a
prayer-area for a community Hindu puja at homes), the priest would scoop out a
grave-like cavity in the middle of chabutra, place the bowl of earth in the cavity and
cover it with coconut shell before drawing a white cloth over it. According to S.D.
Mitchell,17 people believed that drops of blood of Hasan and Hosain would fall from
the heaven into the bowl. During this consecration ceremony, the Muslim priest
would recite Koranic verses while men and women sang mercia.
On the ninth night, as tazia is assembled, the priest would sacrifice a fowl (a
nineteenth century revivalist practice.18 fill a small bowl with blood and place it in
tabut section of the tazia. Others may make a similar offering of a dove, goat or
duck. The whole night, mercia is sung, loban burnt, scriptures read and drums
The extinction of Indian Muslim priests in Jamaica and the growing unfamiliarity
of the present generation of Indo-Jamaicans with Indian languages have forced
the organizers to simplify the rituals and replace recitation of Koran with audio-
taped Indian film music which usually are most inappropriate, if not blasphemous
-at any religious ceremony.
Be that as it may, construction of tazia starts immediately after the consecration
ceremony. Majlis are still in vogue in Trinidad, but in Jamaica, they have been
replaced by the superstitious practice of keeping tazia hidden from those not
involved in its construction (or else the curse may befall the community and those
involved in the playing), social drinking and inappropriate Indian music. The ninth-
night activities are now more like the AWAKE ceremony of the Revivalists, in which
curry-goat, and roti and Bhat (rice) are served and gallons of rum are consumed,
drums played, Indian film and folk music played or sung.
5. CREOLIZED DECORATIONS. Christmas trees have influenced the decorationn
of tazias in the Caribbean. The Islamic prohibition on the use of human and
animistic figures is being flaunted by perching beautifully made peacocks (Indian
National bird) or doctor birds (Jamaican National bird) at the top. Rastafarian flags
fly freely in Jamaican tazias.
6. SIGNIFICANCE OF HOSAY. Though Hosay is still observed as an event of
Islamic history, it has acquired a festive nature in the way tazias are decorated, rum
is consumed, drums are played and Indian and Caribbean carnival-style dances
are performed. In Jamaica and Belize, Hosay is regarded as a festival or mini-
carnival, and opportunity for reunion of friends. Almost every one regards it as an
event of Indian history, many associate it with Mahabharata of the Hindus.
7. DRUMMING. Though the music played on Tasas and negaras has not been
changed, the style of drumming and expressions on the faces of the drummers
reflect the bliss of musical pleasure rather than the sadness of the historical
occasion. The drummers usually march in formation but stop regularly to form a
circle and play drums for enjoyment.
Indo-Belizians take pride in having invented the first-ever Tin Band in the
Caribbean and playing it at what may be termed the local annual carnival.
Drumming in Hosay may be credited with the breakdown of inter- racial barriers
and promoting active participation of Afro-Caribbean persons in Indian cultural
activities. At least since the 1880s, Clarendon and Westmoreland in Jamaica have
been having Afro-Caribbean drummers in Hosay processions.
8. DANCING. Traditionally, dancing at Hosay had always been restricted to
Katghora, Gutka and Sword dances. It never attracted the Nachnia or Janghia folk
dancers. Since the 1970s, however, Hosay in Jamaica is strongly influenced by
Reggae which has introduced a carnival style "Jump-up" by the young Indo-
Jamaicans who form a circle, put their hands across the waists of individuals on
their left and right and dance in forward-backward steps with intermittent jumping
on Tasa music. Whereas stick, sword and katghora dancers are always Indians,
the modern dance has more Afro- than Indo-Jamaican participants.
9. DRINKING. Indo-Caribbean people are known to consume alcohol heavily.
However, the main participants in Hosay always refrain from drinking. The general
crowd of "mourners" would drink heavily and often indulge in bloody fights with
fellow processionists. Such fights between two groups often prompted police to
intervene and ban the Hosay procession for several years. 19
With the decline in the religious significance of Hosay, the Indo-Caribbean
people, particularly in Jamaica, regard drinking during tazia-making or the final
procession as a necessary stimulant for the all-night vigil and drumming. This has
encouraged more Afro-Caribbean participation at every stage of Hosay, since
euphorbiants and stimulants have always encouraged inter-racial or inter-cultural
mixing and interactions.
Indeed, the inter-ethnic brotherhood displayed by the Jamaicans after drinking,
gives credence to a Hindi verse that the "temples and mosques encourage divi-
sions and fights while the pubs however, forge peace and understanding".
10. COMMERCIALIZATION. In many communities in Trinidad 20 and even in
Jamaica, Hosay has been encouraged by rum shop owners who patronize the
event on the condition that the procession would stop in front of their business
places for a certain time. Naturally, it promoted the sale of rum and increased their
Cultural Contributions and Future of Hosay
Besides promoting inter-ethnic understanding and brotherhood, Hosay has
contributed significantly to certain aspects of Caribbean culture. This is summa-
1. DANCING AND DRUMMING. Ryman21 has recognized the influence of Hosay
dances on Revivalism. Also, certain beats in drumming during Revival services
have been derived from Tasa.
2. JONKONNU. Indian participants carrying of "small houses" or Tazias by individ-
uals on their heads as a part of Jonkonu masquerade in Westmoreland and
Kingston, Jamaica, is a direct gift of Hosay to the Christmas Jonkonnu activities in
Jamaica which is mistakenly attributed to African retention22. In fact small houses
and wearing of "maur" ( worn by Hindu bridegrooms during wedding) has been a
common sight at Jonkonnus23
3. STEEL BAND. How has the famous steel band in Trinidad evolved? On the face
of it, one would not even consider it beyond the ingenuity of musically gifted
Caribbean people to make melodious use Of discarded metal junk. But why the
steel drum? Professor Lloyd Braithwaite24 credited Tasa drums for inspiring
Trinidadians to develop steel drums. We will need more information on this view
before being convinced.
What has convinced us, however, is that tasas were replaced by metal drums by
Indo-Belizians, in September 1931. With the destruction of their Tasas and
nagaras by the devastating hurricane just a few week earlier, the Indo-Belizians
invented the use of empty kerosene cannisters as drums. With holes of varying
sizes and using sticks of different weights and lengths, the cannisters have,
forever, replaced the traditional Tasas in Belize. Over the decades, certain
changes in the tuning of the cannister have been made, but the basic characteris-
tics of the make-shift Hosay ensemble have been retained25. Could the
Trinidadians have been inspired by the Indo-Belizians?
The future of Hosay in the Caribbean
An unfortunate trend since the 1950s has seen the demise of Hosay in
Guyana which was probably the first country in the Caribbean to observe
Moharram. In the Eastern Caribbean islands, and in most parishes in Jamaica,
even in Clarendon and Westmoreland, tazias have decreased in numbers -
from 4 to 6 in the 1970s to only one in the 1980s. The factors responsible for the
dissolution of tradition may be several, ranging from the generation gaps among
the Indo-Caribbean populations to economic harshness in Guyana and Jamaica
which have forced massive migration of better-off Indians to socially and economi-
cally greener pastures.
Perhaps the greatest factor in the decline of Hosay has been religious. Hindus,
who participated in the activities do not feel much need of such involvement
probably because of the creation of a theocratic Islamic state out of a secular India.
Some Hindus who are still involved in the festival do so for personal superstitious
and/or artistic reasons which can never become a general tradition. In Trinidad,
Hosay has been projected as unlslamic by the fundamentalist Sunni Muslims
which would further undermine the participation of the Muslims.
Adoption by the society seems to be the only way for Hosay to survive. As a
festival and not as an Islamic event, it is still a great attraction in St. James,
Trinidad. Indeed Hosay has become an integral part of the national day celebra-
tions in Belize where biological and cultural; integration of the East Indian Belizeans
is at an advanced stage. Creation of non-racial and secular national organizations
for the preservation of Hosay could save the great cultural tradition from extinction
in Trinidad and Jamaica and may even lead to its revival in Guyana.
1. A. Mansingh and L. Mansingh. Impact of East Indians on Jamaican Religious Thoughts.
Carib. J. Religious Studies, 10, 39-51, 1989.
2. World Book Encyclopedia Chicago, Field Enterprises Educational Corp. Vol., 10, p.
377; Vol. 13, pp. 684-686.1968
3. H.N. Baylyuzi. Mohammed and the Course of Islam Oxford, George Ronald, p.
4. Will Durant. The Story of Civilization IV. The Age of Faith. New York, Simon and
Schuster, pp. 190-191.1960
5. H.N. Baylyuzi. op. cit. pp. 190-220.
6. A Mansingh. Information on Trinidad and Guyana was obtained by a study-visit by the
Senior author in 1981, and in Belize in 1985.
Jamaican information is based upon personal involvement of the authors in the Indo-Ja-
maican cultural activities since 1974, and also on the interviews of over fifty individuals,
many of them being the original or first generation immigrants. Notable among them being
Ganga Mahraj (1908 Immigrant) of Port Antonio; Sukhrani Biharrie (1903 Immigrant) of
Fellowship, Portland; Parvati Devi (born in 1890) and Doodnauth Charoo (son of 1875 Im-
migrant) of Kemps Hill, Clarendon; Suraji and Arun (born in the 1870s) of Race Course,
Clarendon; Shahzadi Begum of Hayes (1906 Immigrant), and Ram Samooj, Imam Ali, and
Kulusma Bux (1907-1910 Immigrant) of Kingston.
7. L. Mansingh and A. Mansingh. "Indian Heritage in Jamaica" Jamaica Journal 10 (2, 3,
4): 10-18, 1976.
8. A Neijhoff and J. Neijhoff. "East Indians in the West Indies". Milwaukee Public Museum
Publication in Anthropology, No. 6 Olson Publishing Co., Milwaukee, pp. 136-148.1960,
See also Mansingh and Mansingh (Note 7 above)
9. H.M. Beckwith. "The Hussay Festival in Jamaica" (Publication of the Folklore Founda-
tion, No. 4). Poghkeepsie, New York, p. 2. 1924
10. See A Mansingh and L. Mansingh. "Hindu Influences on Rastafarianism. Caribbean
Quarterly, Monograph Rastafari, pp. 96-115.1985,
A. Mansingh and L. Mansingh. op. cit., 1989,
L.E. Barrett. The Rastafarians: the Dreadlocks of Jamaica. Kingston. Sangster's Book
Stores Ltd. p. 67 (257 p.), 1977.
11. V.A. Shepherd. "The Dynamics of Afro-Jamaican East Indians Relations in Jamaica,
1845-1945: a Preliminary Analysis. Caribbean Quarterly, Vol. 32, Nos. 3 & 4: 15.
12. See G.S. Mount. Presbyterian Mission to Trinidad and Puerto Rico The Formative
Years. Lancelot Press, Hartsport, N.S., pp. 142-145. 1983; also
A Mansingh and L. Mansingh. op. cit., 1989.
13. A.S. Ehrlich. East Indian Cane Workers in Jamaica (Ph.D. Thesis). University Micro-
film Inc., Michigan, pp. 121-22, 1959.
14. Mansingh, A. Op. cit., 1981.
15. Mansingh, A. Op. cit., 1981.
16. H.W. Beckwith. Op. cit., 1924.
17. L.E. Barrett. Op. cit., 1977.
18. A.S. Ehrlich. Op. cit., 1959.
19. A. Neijhoff and J. Neijhoff. Op. cit., 1960.
20. A. Neijhoff and J. Neijhoff. Op. cit.., 1960.
21. C. Ryman. "The Jamaican Heritage in Dance. Jamaica Journal 44 (4): 3-14, 1979.
22. J. Bettelheim. "The Jonkunnu Festival: Its Relation to Caribbean and African Masquer-
ades. Jamaica Journal 10. 21- 27, 1976.
23. J. Bettelheim. Op. cit., 1976.
24. L. Braithwaite Personal Interview, 1980.
25. A. Mansingh, Op. cit., 1981.
East-Indian Life in Pre-War British Guiana Edgar Mittelholzer:
Corentyne Thunder (1941)1
It has frequently been said that ill-luck dogged the publication of Corentyne
Thunder. We know that the author submitted part of it when ne saw in a local
newspaper that a London publishing house in search of new talent was holding a
writers' competition. This was in 1938. He was later informed that he had won the
competition only to be informed by a later mail that it was a mistake, he had not won
the competition but the manuscript had been given to an agent. We know that
eventually the publishing house Thornton Butterworth accepted to publish his
novel. Apparently this is the first time anyone had shown any interest in his writing;
more than fifteen manuscripts had already been rejected according to the writer
himself! However, with the outbreak of war Thornton Butterworth went bankrupt.
Their stock was bought up by another London publishing house, Eyre and Spottis-
woode and Corentyne Thunder was finally published only in 1941. Legend has it
that almost immediately most of the stock was burned during the London blitz and,
though there is no record of any such fire, it is true that the original edition is
impossible to come by. It is only in 1970 that the book becomes readily available
when re-published by Heinemann in its Caribbean Writers Series. Even then, some
Guianese "jumbie" appeared to be dogging Mittelholzer's steps for the back cover
informed the reader that the author committed suicide in 1958 when in fact he did
so in 1965. [And we may be bold to say that the jumbie must still be at work today
for the date of publication on the Sahib symposium brochure has magically become
1948. The power of Guyanese jumbie-men seems to have no limits!]2
However, if the date of publication is elusive the internal dating of the novel is
straightforward, for although the story in itself seems timeless there are various
dates and markers to indicate that the period depicted was contemporary. Refer-
ence is made to Hitler and Mussolini (p. 85) though the terms of reference are not
part of our discourse here. Reference is also made in the novel of the British
Guiana Scholarship that Geoffery, one of the characters, covets avidly. We know
that the creation of such a scholarship to enable promising local boys to go to
England to study was discussed as early as 1899 and we know for certain that such
a scholarship existed in 1925 for N.E. Cameron mentions both these dates in his
Guide To The Published Works Of A Guyanese Author published in 1966.
Internal evidence is also supplied by the fact that Geoffery, like his father some
twenty years earlier, used a car to impress his female entourage. This may seem
trite but attention must be drawn to the fact that the drama played out in the novel
is not simply "pre-war" but takes place in "pre-war British Guiana" and that the car,
the supreme status symbol, was extremely rare.
Our intention though is neither historical nor geographical. Suffice it here to say
that British Guiana, the only British colony on the South America continent, in the
jaws as it were of its giant neighbours Venezuela and Brazil and bordered to the
south by Dutch Guiana, though not physically an island, has always been assimi-
lated to the islands of the Caribbean and has always been considered socially and
economically as part of the West Indies. And cars were still a status symbol when
British Guiana came of age so-to-speak and gained independence to become
Guyana in May 1966.
Mittelholzer spatially limits his novel to the Corentyne, a specific area of British
Guiana which was (is) divided administratively into three provinces all named after
their rivers, Essequibo to the North, Demerara, Berbice to the South. The river
Corentyne forms the border with what is Surinam (Dutch Guiana) today. The scene
is set therefore at the extreme limit of the colony.
On this huge South American continent we must zoom down into New Amster-
dam the only town other than the capital, Georgetown, in this vast country. A small
town of timber and sun, lazing not far from the equator on the banks of the Berbice
river, provincial in the worst sense, colonial in essence and there we shall find the
author of Corentyne Thunderscribbling book after book, delving into the life around
him for his material. What motivating force guides him, what fever inhabits him,
what courage gives him the strength to face up to the English speaking publishing
world, he, a self-taught, wholly self-cultivated, swarthy "native" is not part of this
study but who he is concerns us here.
Born on 16th December 1909 in New Amsterdam, Mittelholzer is born "a
swarthy boy" of parents who could have passed for white. We know from the
autobiography of his first nineteen years entitled A Swarthy Boy (Putnam 1963)
that his father, a confirmed negrophobe was sorely disappointed with him and thus
was born a colour complex that was to burden, nay torture, Mittelholzer all his life
until his suicide by fire in a Farnham (U.K.) wood on May ith 1965.
"East Indian life in pre-war British Guiana Edgar Mittelholzer: Corentyne
The date, the book, the place, the author.
Mittelholzer surely would appreciate this reversal of the title's contents to arrive
finally at the subject the "East Indians", for in this way the adage that was to
become slogan in his Kaywana trilogy, complex in Sylvia, obsession in his leitmotif
books and mental sickness in his final books "blood will out" is justifiable here for
don't the English claim that the Welsh always put the cart before the horse!
On the eve of independence in the 1960 British Guiana census the following
figures were produced:
Portuguese 7,700 3
East Indians 268,000
Creoles / Mixed 64,020
The racial categories are not the point of study here. In a colony that thrived on
sugar and whose history is the history of the plantation and slavery the numbers of
Blacks and Creoles are self-explanatory. The 268,000 East Indians, by far the
largest proportion of the population, needs elucidating.
When slavery ended in the West Indies in 1838 the Blacks fled the plantations
to form negro villages, some of which exist today, or to make a meagre living as
free men in the small "towns" anywhere rather than suffer the ignominy of the
plantation. It had been naively assumed that they would continue to provide a
cheap labour force. The whole Caribbean economy based on sugar was about to
collapse and had to be maintained come what may. Cheap labour was sought
elsewhere; in turn, poor Whites, Chinese or Portuguese from Madeira were "im-
ported" but none could endure the severe conditions of the plantation and they
quickly set about fleeing to the towns to set up small shops. Even today these
categories are frequently small traders.
The seeds were thus sown for what was to become known as indentured
labour, a scheme invented and implemented by the British government. The
sub-continent of India was the obvious source of cheap labour. Lured by giant
hoardings in the big Indian cites, particularly Calcutta, the starving poor were
tempted by the promise of a new land of plenty, by the offer of a return trip to British
Guiana in exchange for a certain number of years working for a pittance on a sugar
plantation. Between 1838 and 1917 238,970 Indians entered British Guiana, many
with the intention of never returning to their homeland. Unlike the Blacks who had
been forcefully dispersed as slaves, the East Indians remained a close-knit com-
munity bringing with them, and maintaining to a certain extent, their religions, Islam
and Hinduism, and their culture. Most of all, they were never slaves. By dint of hard
work, scrimping and saving many managed to buy a small plot of land and thus was
set up the social-racial pattern of the colony with the coloured Creole population in
the towns and the East Indian on the land.
Mittelholzer chooses solely East Indian characters in Corentyne Thundei. His
pivotal figure will be Ramgolall, the aged cow-minder who
"arrived in British Guiana in 1898 as an immigrant
indentured to a sugar estate. He had worked very
hard. He had faithfully served out the period of his
indenture and now at 63 years of age he minded
cows on the savannah of the Corentyne coast, his
own lord and guide" (p. 9).
Through the ramifications of Ramgolall's offspring we can see how the East
Indian community establishes itself and in what conditions they live for Ramgolall,
twice-married, twice-widowed, has produced several children and grandchildren.
Ramgolall himself, now a man of sixty three, has lived the typical life of an East
Indian labourer and in him and through him we learn of the hardships endured by
his like and kin.
..."for he had had to work very hard... The rain
had soaked him and the sun had dried him. He
had walked knee-deep in mud, surrounded by
clouds of mosquitoes. The ague of malaria had
shaken him and the fever had scorched him so
that his anguished brain dreamt weird visions.
Angry shouts from the overseers he had borne
without a murmured word, without a frown. He
had nearly been beaten to death in a riot when
the labourers went on strike. Many had been shot
by the police, many had been wounded" (p. 31).
He managed to buy a few cows that graze on the savannah and now lives in
extreme poverty on the income from the cows' milk. He is "weak from age and want
of good food" (p. 11).
He lives with his two young teenage daughters Kattree and Beena who share
his bare mud hut, who sleep on mattresses made with rice-bags and newspapers,
who go hungry and barefoot and have only one dress each. Ramgolall, we are told,
wears only a loincloth! The trio cannot read or write, have no notion of dates, tell
the time by the sun on the savannah and eat only rice fish from the canal They all
suffer from hunger and want and, when ill, look after themselves for medicine costs
money. Through them we learn of the extremely poor medical service in the colony
at the time for the non-white population. When Ramgolall suffers from a bout of
"Beena asked him if she should hoist the sick flag
(this being a rag of cloth tied to the top of a
bamboo pole that, in times of sickness, had to be
set up by the side of the road so that the Govern-
ment medico of the district should know that there
was someone ill and drop in when on his daily
round). Ramgolall groaned and shook his head.
'Na, Bettay. Na!' he gasped weak. 'No hoist sick-
flag. Me too pore. Na able pay doctor"'.
Yet, they are for the most part, carefree, happy and resigned. They have no future
- they have no anger!
Ramgolall's daughter by his first wife has brought glory and satisfaction to the
old man. She is Sosee, the well-established mistress of Big Man Weldon who, we
are told, "could almost pass for white". Although Weldon has taken her to live with
him in his large spacious, well-furnished house, he nonetheless despises her and
uses her almost as a slave. She has given him seven children. Ramgolall is proud
of her social status even though she and the children have orders not to visit him.
He is especially proud of the eldest son, Geoffery, who is so white that his cousins
call him a "bakra boy". He goes to school in Georgetown, to Queen's College, the
only school for boys of importance in the colony. Geoffery hopes to win the Guiana
scholarship to go to England to become a doctor or a lawyer! Dream or reality? Dr.
Cheddi Jagan, a dentist by profession, a pre-independence Prime Minister and the
present- day President of Guyana, is the son of indentured labourers. (The West
on Trial, ed. Michael Joseph, 1966).
Baijan, the eldest son by Ramgolall's first marriage, is also illustrative of the
Indian community. He has left the Corentyne at an early age to live and work in the
Northern province of Essequibo which enables Mittelholzer to bring him into the
story at a late stage as a sort of "deus ex machina"for he has become rich. He is a
rice-miller who becomes a Christian in order to marry into a rich family of East
Indian rice-millers. We read,
"He was to be married with Christian rites not with
Hindu. He had turned Christian. In February of
last year he had got baptized... 'it carry more
influence in business when you is a Christian',
Baijan explained" (p. 143).
His future in-laws, the Ramjits had long ago abandoned their East Indian cultural
"Ramjit was a big churchman in Essequibo. Since
he was young he join... Church. ... him
churchwarden. He talk wid estate-manager an' 'e
shake hands over an' over wid de Lord Bishop of
Guiana... All Ramjit's children, Baijan said, had
been baptized in the English church and given
English names..." (p. 144).
This was a common procedure in British Guiana.
All the characters in Corentyne Thunder except for the occasional onlooker are
Indian whether they be Ramgolall's descendants, friends, fellow farmers, or gate-
porters or policemen. Nowhere does the writer bring in any representative of the
other communities. He simply implies that the lawyers in Georgetown with names
like Luckloo, Burlock, De Freitas, Van B. Stafford, Woolford, cannot be Indian in
But, how Indian are these Indians?
Reference is made to Calcutta and indentured labour in the opening lines of the
book. Ramgolall muses on the old "Pagwah" festivals (p. 15). References are
made to Indian foods like "rotf' (p. 51) and regular "curry-feeds" are held at which
the "Tadja drums" are played (p. 49). We learn that Moonsammy was good player
of the "sitarand serangee" (p. 135).
The jealousy that creates the central drama in the novel comes about in part
because Boorharry, the murdered man, is a Brahmin... "Jannee... could not excuse
Boorharry for being a Brahmin" (p. 19). There's a passing reference to language
spoken for we learn that Boorharry breaks into a wild song, "a song partly in
English and partly in Hind..." (p. 46). We note that certain rites are maintained like
the celebration of the ninth day after a person's death (p. 136). Above all we realize
how 'clannish' the Indian community is, meeting only with Indians, marrying In-
dians, requesting help of Indians, supporting fellow Indians in distress etc. The
whole weight of the diaspora is fully appreciated in the book.
How true a picture is this therefore of the Indian community? Edgar Mittelholzer
was born and bred in New Amsterdam. He belonged to the coloured middle-class:
knowing how impermeable Indian society was it seems obvious that his view must
be distorted by the hearsay and cliches bandied about within that class. Mittelhol-
zer, in his appendix to A Swarthy Boy in fact says "Indeed, sad to relate, it was my
own class-people of coloured admixture but of fair or olive complexions who
dispensed any colour snobbery...It was my class which looked down upon the East
Indian sugar plantation labourer ("coolies" we call them, whether they were
labourers or eventually became doctors or barristers or Civil Servants)". And the
Indians in Corentyne Thunder are constantly referred to as "coolies" even by
Geoffery part "coolie" himself. They are said to be misers and to live in poverty
while hoarding up money in their homes and we note that Ramgolall is in fact a
miser, the owner of a canister full of coins and to a certain extent rich; he certainly
has no valid reason for bringing up his two daughters in such a state of deprivation.
The East Indians are said to be wily and Beena is referred to as that "sly lil
coolie bitch" (p. 63), when she kicks over the milk churn containing milk watered
down with dirty water from the canal to prevent its being sampled.
They are said to be dirty and though Beena and Kattree bathe everyday in the
canal Ramgolall never washes and seems totally ignorant of any idea of hygiene.
"The water Kattree fetched was fresh water, but
not clean. It looked cloudy, for there was mud in it,
mud and vegetable matter; perhaps, too, even
some of the germs that gave one the sickness
called dysentery, or the worse one, typhoid fever.
But Ramgolall did not think of these things, hardly
ever having heard of disease germs and not
being naturally4 clean in his habits" (p. 25).
We are, in due course, informed that they are dirty in their eating habits,
"Sukra served out the curried mutton and rice and
the roti into tin plates that were still greasy from
the last meal..." (p. 51). And, naturally, Beena and
Kattree have never used cutlery! "The cutlery and
crockery proved very baffling, for they were ac-
customed to eating with their hands out of
saucepans" (p. 149).
They are accused of incestuous relationships; fathers are said to deflower their
daughters. In Corentyne Thunder, Geoffery, Ramgolall's grandson, will make Kat-
tree, Ramgolall's daughter by his second marriage, pregnant.
Anyone who has lived in Guyana, even in the sixties will have heard such
remarks and been given multiple examples as 'proofs'.
Another source of information for Mittelholzer was the newspaper. Tales of the
interior or isolated parts of the colony were reported with lurid details. Indians seem
to "cut up" other Indians with their frighteningly long and sharp cutlasses for very
little reason. Perhaps Mittelholzer uses a reported 'fait divers' in his book when
Jannee cuts up Boorharry. Such fait divers could frequently be read about in the
Guyana Graphic even in the sixties.
We are indeed then in the presence of the Black man's vision of the Indian
community. We might make the obvious contrast with V.S. Naipaul's A House for
Mr Biswas (1961) when, through the eyes of Naipaul-the Trinidadian East Indian,
we see the Indian community from within. However we must hasten to add that the
portraits offered are not purely caricatural for thanks to Mittelholzer's narrative
technique the characters have a life of their own. We must add also that even if the
author makes use of rumour and hearsay at no time do we feel any condescension
on the part of Mittelholzer himself though some might say that the "almost White
Geoffery", the most disdainful character in the book, is, ambiguously enough, partly
a self-portrait. Mittelholzer nonetheless shows us how East Indian culture is being
splintered; is being even shattered, is becoming "West Indianized".
As exiles in the West Indies the Indians carry within them an Indian that no
longer exists. To repeat what I said in an article in 1972 shortly after my departure
"Si les Indiens de I'lnde n'ont pas eprouve le
besoin de se manifester aussi nettement, c'est
qu'ils ont apporte dans leurs bagages leurs
religions: I'Islam et I'Hindouisme. L'un et I'autre
ont un aspect totalitaire qu'on ne saurait negliger;
ils sont a la fois religion, morale, traditions, arts,
voutre code social. N'ayant jamais ete marques
au fer rouge de I'esclavage, les Indiens ont con-
serve une certain dignite et se sont tenus a
I'6cart du reste de la population a I'exception
d'une mince frange de commercants, pour qui la
conversion au christianisme, au catholicisme sur-
tout, representait un pas vers le monde du Blanc,
monde de I'Argent, du Pouvoir, du Succes.
Toutefois, les Indiens n'ont apporte qu'une cul-
ture hybride, sans bases solides, centree autour
du mythe de "Mother India". Mondes close,
desuets, mal adapts a la Guyane, les deux
communautes, musulmane et hindoue, ont peu a
peu perdu le sens de leurs cultures telles qu'elles
existent en Inde. Ce ne sont plus que simulacres
gestuels, vides de tout contenu. La forme a
survecu au fond, provoquant un malaise don't
I'aboutissement logique se trouve chez I'6crivain
trinidadien V.S. Naipaul, d'origine indienne, le-
quel renie cette culture".5
We know that when Naipaul went on his long trek in quest of his East Indian
identity he was totally unable to identify with anything be witnessed in India (cf. The
Middle Passage, 1962). We also know that he denied the existence of any West
Indian culture. Both he and Mittelholzer were thus poles apart, for Mittelholzer, by
giving us a British Guianese vision of British Guianese East Indians is contributing
to the establishment of a West Indian culture- and this in 1938-1939, long before
any idea of West Indian culture had been formulated... and since vindicated with
Derek Walcott's Nobel prize for literature.6
NOTES AND REFERENCES
1. The term East-Indian is used to differentiate between the local Amazonian Indians, the
Arawaks and Wai-Wai for example i.e. the Amerindians and those who entered British
Guiana from the sub-continent of India.
2. A jumbie the spirit of a dead Dutchman said to people the Guyanese interior. The
Dutch were reportedly the cruellest slave masters.
3. The Portuguese, of poor immigrant origin, are always classed separately from Whites of
4. Author's emphasis
5. Frances Williams, "Etudes Anglaises: Introduction a la literature guyanaise", Un-
published manuscript, 1972.
Translation of text by Dr. E. Wilson, Dept. of French, UWI: If the Indians from India did
not feel the need to assert themselves as aggressively, it was because they brought with
them from India their religions: Islam and Hinduism. Both have a totalitrian side which can-
not be ignored, they are at one and the same time religion, morality, traditions, arts-in
short a code of living. Never having been branded by slavery, the Indians have kept a cer-
tain sense of self and have remained aloof from the rest of the population, with the excep-
tion of a small fringe group of merchants, for whom conversion to Christianity-, to
Catholicism in particular represented a step in the direction of the "White man's world",
the world of Money, Power and Success.
Still, the Indians brought a culture which was a mere hybrid, with no solid foundation,
centred around the myth of "Mother India". Closed Worlds, obsolete and out of step with
Guyana, the two communities, Muslim and Hindu, gradually lost the meaning of their cul-
tures as they exist in India. They have become empty semblances, void of all content.
Form has outlived substance, giving rise to a malaise which reaches its logical conclusion
in the Trinidadian writer, V.S.Naipaul, who rejects his Indian origins.
6. A linguistic study of the creole use by Mittelholzer's East Indian characters is neces-
sary to distinguish whether the author uses the creole of the coloured class or whether he
reproduces the creole of the East Indian. Linguistic studies are however rare. For the pur-
poses of the novel the creole used is highly successful.
Interview with Ismith Khan
Q: Can you give me an idea of your family background?
A: I was born in 1925 at 48 Frederick Street, in Port of Spain, Trinidad'. My
father was born in Indian and came to British Guiana (now Guyana) with his father
who had a military career in India. I think that my father must have been in his teens
when his family moved from Guyana to Princess town, Trinidad. I come from a
Muslim family: my mother was very religious; my father wasn't, and so, as a boy, I
only went to the mosque on the high holy days as my father did.
Q: Why did your father leave India in the first place?
A: Because of the Indian "Mutiny"2 in 1857, soldiers were called upon to shoot
fellow Indians, and some of these soldiers turned their guns on the British instead.
My grandfather was one of these soldiers. Consequently, he was on the run from
the British authorities. That is why he decided to leave India. I happen to know that
my family left from Kanpur Railway Station, but I don't know how they made it to
Q: Your father and grandfather were probably recruited by one of the
"arkhatis" who were sent around scouting for anyone feeling discontent in
India, so they could tell them fantastic stories about the Caribbean, and
induce them to emigrate.3
A:As I understand it, my grandfather did not come as an indentured immigrant;
he came as a man with some means and skills.
Q: He paid his way to come?
A: Yes. I do not know the details; but he paid his own way and brought his
family. He never worked on a sugar cane plantation; he worked as a jeweller as
soon as he got to Guyana. As a matter of fact, I think that he had contempt for those
Indians who, he felt, were brow beaten by the Raj: he was very rebellious. He felt
that indentured immigrants were cowering, and unable to stand up for their rights.
Q: I can see the parallels in Kale Khan in The Jumbie Bird.4
A: Yes, that novel is semi-autobiographical, and some of its details are what I
heard growing up. My grandfather, for instance, took part in the Hosay riots of
1884, in San Fernando.5 He was shot in the leg, and was supposed to have shot
Q: Did you and your family, including your grandfather, all live in the
same house in Port of Spain?
A: My grandfather came to live with us when he was quite old, and he lived
downstairs in the back room of my father's jewellery establishment. There were five
children. I was the only boy, and I came in the middle.
Q: You were educated at Queens Royal College6 (QRC)?
A: Yes. My father was a very forward looking person. He wanted to send my
eldest sister abroad to become an optometrist; but she got married instead. My
second sister did not display any interest in going abroad to study; so as the next
in line, I was sent to QRC. If I am not very familiar with Islamic tradition today, it is
because, to some extent, it was felt that girls should take religious instructions and
study the Indian classics, whereas boys should go to western schools.
Q:And how was your time at QRC?
A: This was during the late 1930s and early 40s when the school had largely
English boys, and only a few East Indians and Blacks. The teachers were also
English, although, perhaps due to the Second World War, there were some local
ones. I passed the Cambridge School certificate exam, then went to the United
States to study engineering; but after about a year I saw that I was never going to
be an engineer. I went back to Trinidad and joined the Trinidad Guardian as a
reporter, while Sam [Selvon]7 was there. Then came back to the U.S. in 1948.
Q:Where did you come to in the U.S.?
A:l had a scholarship at Michigan State University.
Q: How did you get the scholarship?
A:My first wife who was the daughter of one of India's early revolutionaries, and
she had come to Trinidad as an anthropologist to study Indians and the indenture
system for her Master's dissertation. We met when I went to interview her for the
Guardian. She was able to arrange for me to come to Michigan State University.
Q:Was your wife Muslim?
A:No. Her father's name was Saliendranath Chose. He was a good friend of
Subhas Chandra Bhose,8 and he had fled India in the 1920s because he was
caught making hombs in the basement of the University of Calcutta. He came to
the U.S. and married his secretary, who was American. Later the British felt he
could come back to India, and they made him President of the University of Dacca.
so his daughters went back to India when they were teenagers and then returned
to the United States when they were ready to go to college.
Q: After Michigan State, what happened?
A:l was at Michigan State from 1948 to 1952. Then I went to New York. I had a
scholarship at the New School for Social Research.
Q: Had you got a degree by then?
A: No. I was short by two courses. But I had what was called a Divisional Major
in the Social Sciences sociology, anthropology, psychology and economics.
When I went to the New School for Social Research in New York, they said I had
to choose one social science, so I chose sociology. I thought it would help me to
become a writer not of fiction but of journalism, seeing that I already had some
practical experience in journalism at the Guardian. But while I was at the school, I
took some fiction workshops and became so fascinated with that kind of writing,
that I decided that was what I wanted to do.
Q: It was partly accidental that you took up fiction?
A: Yes. It was pure chance that the New School for Social Research had those
writing workshops. When I went there, Norman Miller,9 had just graduated, and
used to come back to visit, as I did myself after I became published. As a matter of
fact, my professor encouraged me to teach Creative Writing there, which I did on a
part-time basis. But I was still on a student visa, and would have gone on to get a
Master's degree, except that my wife got a job with the Department of Far Eastern
Studies at Cornel University and we moved there instead. By that time, I had
already started writing The Jumbie Bird. Then my wife's programme at Cornel
closed down, and in 1956 we went back tc New York, where I worked for the New
York Public Library for a number of years, while doing part-time teaching at the
New School for Social Research. I also completed The Jumbie Bird.
Q: How was the novel published?
A: Through my professor, I got the names of publishing houses in new York
city and approached them myself. There was always interest, but there were
problems. Dodd Mead were willing to publish it if I toned down the dialect, but they
felt that they could not give me a contract. Then I met a literary agent, who
happened to have good connections in England and the book was first published in
England by MacGibbon and Kee. It was also published in New York a little later by
Q: It is curious that you should live in the U.S. and have your first major
work published in England. As you know, many West Indians writers Sam
Selvon, George Lamming, V.S. Naipaul and others10 had gone to England
and were getting published in the 1950s. There was a British historical
connection, and cultural appreciation of the creole language to which
Americans were perhaps less sympathetic.
A: They still are.
Q: Did you ever think about moving to England at that time?
A: I seriously thought of going to England, but dreaded it because I felt that
people like Sam [Selvon] and George [Lamming] were really living in squalor. I saw
Sam frequently when he came to the United States on fellowships. He would tell
me about the circumstances under which he lived, and I thought that although I
lived in a tenement in New York, at least I had heat and hot water.
Q: From your novels I get the feeling that you are culturally dispos-
sessed in the sense of not belonging to one settled culture. You also married
someone who is culturally dispossessed through the ambivalence of having
an Indian father and a non- Indian mother. Did that created problems between
you and your wife?
A: We did not have any problems; but there was a great deal of discussion
about identity. I think we both realized that we were outside the mainstream of any
traditional culture or religion. I think that we clung to each other for as long as we
did because we were outsiders, while everybody else seemed to have a sense of
belonging. I wondered whether there might not be something wrong with me as an
individual in a psychological sense. Perhaps I still feel that way; but at this stage of
my life, I think that I will simply have to learn to live with isolation and alienation,
loneliness and boredom. They have always plagued me. All I can say is I do not
think that there is anything wrong with me. If, through my study of the social
sciences, I used to think these problems could be overcome, I can now see that
they will never be overcome.
Q: These problems have less to do with you as an individual than with
either a universal human condition, or a specific cultural one in Trinidad a
A: I often use one term to describe my situation "my historical past" which
encompasses all that I have lived through historically, socially, geographically.
Q: Was the second novel The Obeah Man easier to write or get published?
A: It was both easier to write and get published.
Q: As you have already mentioned, The Jumbie Bird is semi-autobiographi-
cal. It is, a novel about identity, which was fashionable literary form in the 1950s
when Selvon, Lamming and others were writing similar novels. The 1950s was a
time when the British Caribbean colonies were trying to assert their separateness
from Britain, and their separateness from their African and Asian origins in order
claim their own identity. From the point of view, The Jumbie Bird deals with
perfectly normal preoccupation. But there is something special about the novel
which I don't see, for instance, in Selvon's work or in V.S. Naipaul's: the preoccupa-
tion with India. The characters of Selvon and naipaul talk about identity too; but
Kale Khan asserts the power of his Indianness and the value of connectedness
with India in a way that is unique in Caribbean literature. This strong feeling for
India pervades the novel.
A: My entire family were very Indian. We frowned upon any anything and
anyone who attempted to assimilate western traditions whether in food, dress or
social terms. I was brought up to feel, and I still feel this way today that I am from
India, no matter where I may be or go.
Q: You see the contradiction: that you are Indian, and yet you are not
fully Indian. You are westernized, in fact, whether you like it or not, and do not
even speak an Indian language.
A: I do not speak the language, and I was not sent any where to learn to speak
it. But I love Indian music, and my younger relatives listen to Indian film songs
although they do not understand the words. I prefer the Indian classical music. My
father played several Indian instruments. He used to import harmoniums to
Trinidad from India.
Q: We are caught in this ambivalence of having Indian origins, perhaps
even feeling Indian, and yet living in a situation where Indianness was
dominated by creole or western manners. In The Jumbie Bird you mention
rootlessness when Rahim tells his wife Meena: "We ain't belong to Hindustan, we
ain't belong England, we ain't to Trinidad..." (p. 54). Whether we call this a sense of
not belonging, cultural rootlessness, or lack of identity, it was essentially an
awareness of a new identity produced out of the mixing of several cultural traditions
in the Caribbean. This was increasingly recognized after the 1950s, after Inde-
pendence. Your first two novels described the Trinidad situation accurately by
illustrating the rootlessness of not belonging to any of the three places that Rahim
mentions India, England or Trinidad. You also show three generations of attitudes
in Kale Khan, Rahim and Jamini. The Obeah Man is similar too. In these two
novels, you've revealed the darker reality under the bright, tropical liveliness of the
Caribbean. Now, you have lived abroad since the 1950s and observed the darker
reality for example, of materialism affecting Caribbean immigrant communities in
North America. But in your fiction in The Crucifixion which comes twenty-one
years after The Obeah Man I do not see you engaging with the immigrant
community as Sam Selvon does. As you know, Sam has been writing about
Caribbean immigrants in England for a long time.
A: I am not familiar with the Caribbean immigrant community in New York
largely because they would all be Black. I live in Brooklyn on the edge of the (Black)
West Indian community; and I do not know any East Indian community.
Q: I believe there is a large Indo-Caribbean community in New York City.
A: To tell you the truth, it probably has to do with me. I have little in common
with recent immigrants to the United States. Most of my friends are artists, painters,
sculptors, or writers, with whom I can feel a sense of community. They are, like
myself, people who stand outside of their own cultures, and I find a kinship with
them that I do not find with my fellow West Indians.
Q: the fact that you do not interact with this contemporary Caribbean
community in the U.S. means that your literary subject goes back to a
Trinidad that you knew four decades ago, as in The Crucifixion. The world of
The Crucifixion is not all that different from the world of The Jumbie Bird on The
Obeah Man. There are some differences, for instance, Independence has hap-
pened in The Crucifixion. Doesn't create a publishing problem to write now about
Caribbean subjects of forty or fifty years ago? Would publishers be interested?
A: When I came back from Trinidad to New York in 1962, I was so angry that I
decided I would never write about the Caribbean again. The reception of my first
two novels was not positive enough. it is as though I said to myself I am going to
punish them by not writing about the Caribbean, without knowing who "them" was.
I have written a novel set in New York in the 1960s. I have not shown it to more than
one or two publishers, and they tell me quite frankly that I write much better about
the Caribbean. I still have the manuscript it is two-thirds done, and I would like to
go back to it. I also have some short stories that are set in the U.S. But I was really
devastated by the reception of my books, and by the failure of my continued efforts
to get The Jumbie Bird republished.
Q: That is a great pity; for your powers as a novelist have not diminished
at all. The Crucifixion proves this it has the zest and vigour of the creole language,
as well as the humour and energy of characters like Miss Violet. The jokes are
wonderful and left me helpless with laughter, for instance, the one about the
one-legged man whose unerring aim with his crutch made him the most feared thief
of chickens which he could spear no matter how fast they ran. It is amazing that you
could remember the humour so well after forty years. It is as fresh as anything
written by Selvon or Naipaul in the 1950s.
A: I was talking to Austin Clarke in Guyana at Carifesta in 1972 and he
asked me how Sam [Selvon] and I captured the music of the creole language so
well. I do not know the explanation. If I were married to a West Indian who spoke
creole, or if I mixed with West Indians socially, that might explain it. But I hear the
music of the language to this day. I like to think of myself as bilingual speaking
both standard and creole English. The Crucifixion exists in two versions, an
unpublished one completely in standard English, and the published one in which
the chapters alternate between standard and creole English. The publisher
preferred the second version because, he said, he had to consider his readers.
Q: You now appear to be reconciled to the unfair way in which your first
two books were received. What do you think about younger writers like Neil
Bissoondath" and Caryl Phillips12 who are writing about Caribbean im-
migrants in North America and England?
A: I wonder how they can write about places Canada, England, the U.S. to
which they may not have a strong sense of belonging.
Q: That is a problem: that is why they consider themes racial dis-
crimination, discontinuity, exile, alienation which may appear similar to
those of the fifties' novelists, but are really quite different. Their sense of
disillusionment is much stronger because emigration is not the solution it
was, however illusory, to characters in the fifties' novels. Your first two
books, for instance, might express a lack of identity or firm sense of belong-
ing; but they are still rich and full blooded. Kale Khan has such a striking,
cantankerous personality! There is no other character like him in West Indian
literature, not even Mohun Biswas an Indian of such strength, flamboyance
A: Another thing is that I am hearing more and more, usually from women, how
well I have represented my female characters, compared with other West Indian
Q: Yes. There is Miss Violet in The Crucifixion, and earlier characters such
as Binti whose independence and resilience are quite unusual for a woman
protagonist, especially an Indian one, in West Indian literature. There is Meena
also, who is strong in her own quiet, more conventional way. Yet Kale Khan is
sexist, not that you advocate sexism, but you report the sexism that would have
been part and parcel of Kale Khan's character alongside his more admirable traits.
A: That is true. I have tried to represent the society as accurately as I possible
can. If my readers see sexism, that does not mean I am advocating it. Incidentally,
when I was at Berkeley, I had a student who specialised in gerontology, and she
was very interested in Kale Khan and how the society treated him as an older
person. In Trinidad we had many people like Kale Khan; they might have been
colourful or nasty; but they were not going to be beaten down or locked away in any
old people's home. they had spunk and spirit.
Q: You've expressed that very well in The Jumbie Bird, and I think it will gain
more recognition as times goes on.
A: I am glad that The Jumbie Bird was recognized in the Caribbean education-
al system, by being selected as one of the texts on the Caribbean Schools Exam
list. Some writers probably don't live long enough to see that kind of recognition
1. Although Ismith Khan was born in Trinidad, he has lived in the United States since
1948. He is the author of three novels: The Jumbie Bird, Hutchinson, London, 1961; The
Obeah Man, Hutchinson, London, 1964; The Crucifixion, Peepal Tree Press, Leeds, 1987.
he has also written many short stories.
2. "The Indian Mutiny" is the name given to a revolt against British rule that included much
more of the Bengal army in India in 1857. The action began as a mutiny, but became
widespread enough for some historians to regard it as the first Indian war of independence.
3. Indians who were recruited in this way came mostly from the United Provinces in north
4. Ismith Khan, The Jumbie Bird, Hutchinson, London, 1961; Longman, Essex, 1985.
5. In October 1884, in San Fernando, Trinidad, the celebration of Hosay, a Muslim festival,
led to riots in which the police killed thirteen Indians and wounded many more.
6. Queens Royal College, commonly known as Q.R.C. was a prestigious secondary
school for boys run by the government.
7. The Trinidad Guardian is the leading daily newspaper in Trinidad and Tobago. Samuel
Selvon, Ismith Khan's friend, is a distinguished West Indian author.
8. Subhas Chandra Bhose (1897-1945) was as Indian nationalist who opposed Ghandi's
policy of non-violent resistance toward British rule in India. For a short while Bhose led a
provisional government of India under Japanese sponsorship.
9. Norman Mailer is an American writer, famous for such books as The Naked and the
Dead 1948); The White Negro (1958), and An American Dream (1961).
10. See Note 7 for Sam Selvon. Like Selvon, George Lamming and V.S. Naipaul both
emigrated from the West Indies and established successful literary careers in London in
11. Neil Bissoondhath was born in Trinidad, but lives in Canada where he is a leading
novelist and short story writer. Caryl Phillips who was born in St. Kitts, grew up in England
where he still lives. He is a novelist, playwright and author.
Stewards of Creation Covenant: Hinduism and the Environment*
The rape of nature over the centuries by the Hindu, Buddhist, Christian and
Islamic nations around the world has already caused several environmental dis-
asters, many of which are irreversible. The present trends do not augur well for the
future as global warming and destruction of biodiversity are regarded as no more
than hypothetical preoccupations of the prophets of doom. The 1992 summit in Rio
de Janeiro, Brazil, has recognized the fact that industrial, agricultural and economic
development should be environmentally sustainable and must ensure the conser-
vation of biodiversity.
The preservation of environment is only as difficult as understanding or even
appreciating its metaphysical, physical and ecological complexities. The struggle
for survival in many societies has apparently superseded their religious and cultural
traditions of living in harmony with nature. In other societies, religious myths and
parables about the origin of universe have rendered them incapable of com-
prehending it holistically. Consequently an environmental exploitation syndrome
has been induced in people who have general contempt for the animate and
inanimate. It is not surprising, therefore, that the United States of America, as the
victim of such myopia and the greatest contributor to global warming, has refused
to sign the international Earth Summit agreement.
How much have the beliefs and teachings of various religions contributed to the
destruction of our environment and how can the process be reversed are some of
the dilemmas of the rational theologians and environmentalists around the world.
For, it has now dawned on us that no teaching or practice can become a tradition
unless it is attached to TAT SAT, or That Truth. Spirituality must therefore be the
basis for the understanding and management of our environment.
Paper presented at Stewards of Creation Covenant
United Theological College, UWI, March 1992
The task of re-inculcating traditional values or introducing alternate ones needs
concentrated efforts and time, given the vicious maze which we have created
around us. Religion and science must grow together and complement each other.
Superstitions, dogmas and narrow (or mis-interpretations) of original teachings
which, in their antiquity, have lost meaning and purpose, have molded attitudes
which cannot be justified by logic or science. Scientists, on the other hand, also
have serious limitations since they venture to explain the infinite with a finite
approach. Their theories are developed by logical rationalization of the acquired
proof. However, the acquisition of proof and its analysis are dependent entirely
upon the intelligent interpretation of information from the five sense organs which
are themselves finite and a transitory part of the universe. The whole exercise may
thus be inadequate for comprehending the complex universe. The problem is
further compounded by the limitations of our languages in describing the infinite''
2, 3, 4.
Hinduism and Universe
It is imperative at this stage to introduce certain aspects of Hinduism and its
offshoot, Buddhism, which are relevant to the present discussion. Unlike Judaism,
Christianity or Islam, which may be linked to a magnificent edifice built by an
architect, Hinduism is like a gigantic tree5, developed from the seed of reflective
and sentient Higher Knowledge or paravidya of the sages and nourished by nature.
The founders of Hinduism (ca 3,000 B.C.E.), always perceived spiritual quest
for the Universal Truth in the beliefs and rituals of the pre-vedic and non-vedic
societies. They were recognized as stages in the evolution of a natural theology
and incorporated into the lofty and all-embracing scheme of Vedic monotheism.
Hinduism may thus be regarded as a commonwealth of religions which accepts
every religious thought and practice, that ever was or will be, into its syncretism.
The Hindu concept of unity of purpose in the diversity of religious beliefs and
practices, provides a sense of fellowship in time and space, to all animates and
Vedic teachings which have molded the attitudes of its followers towards
science and environment are summarized hereunder2' 3'4:
1. The separation of scriptures the SRUTI (the unalterable knowledge
revealed to the sages and compiled in four Vedas), from the SMITI (philosophical
commentaries on the Vedas, including stories, social codes etc. which may be
modified to provide contemporary interpretations to Vedic teachings). It permits
acceptance of philosophical treatise and scientific theories as Smritis. So far,
scientific discoveries have only validated Vedic principles6, 7,8.
2. Recognition of two levels of knowledge the lower Vidya obtained by the five
sense organs and intelligence, and the higher paravidya acquired by the sentient
powers which are in all of us at varying levels2,4. Vidya and paravidya enable one
to explore the universe sentiently and mystically, rationalize the experience and
knowledge logically and intelligently, cultivate spirituality within the sentient and
rational, while keeping spirituality as far above the rational as the rational is above
the purely sentient9
3. Recognition of universe as Desha-Kala-Nimitta or space-time-causation,
which is beyond the causation of vidya and within the realm of paravidya9, (p. 95).
4. Principle of Relativity between the Absolute truth (Brahman) which
transcends time and space and the relative truth (universe) which cannot
transcend time and space, hence is dependent upon when and where.
5. Theories of creation which trace the origin of universe from Brahman or
VOID, without any distinction between the inanimate and animates at creation,
hence the pantheism. The Arambhkar (void) theory is the centre of attention of
contemporary scientists. 2,6.
6. The principle of interconvertibility of energy and matter as the basis for
creation and dissolution, which was only recently validated by the contemporary
physicists 6 7.
7. Kapil's (ca 800 B.C.E.) theory of release of energy in quantum or sparks,
which has been refined by the twentieth century quantum physicists.
8. Cyclic nature of creation and dissolution of universe, the animates and
inanimate being created and annihilated continually.
9. Presence of an awareness in the inanimate6' 7. and to the extent that they
all follow certain laws of nature; soul in all the plants and animals and transmigra-
tion of souls among the animates, depending upon Karma.
The inanimate and animate may still be distinguished arbitrarily on the basis of
the quality and quantity of awareness (A), consciousness (C), instinct (I), intel-
ligence (INT) etc. Thus the inanimate have A; A + C + I can be found in all the
animates; A + C + I + INT in some animals; A + C + I + INT superconsciousness
10. Separation of the "cosmic, divine and immortal soul" from the "mortal body".
11. Reincarnation of soul at a spiritual, social and physical level which is
determined by the cumulative score of the karmas of one's previous lives.
These Vedic principles have been developed into hypotheses and theories by
philosophers of different eras, personified into various mythological deities,
popularized through stories and parables, depicted iconographically, glorified in
paintings, choreographed into dances, composed in music and poems and incor-
porated into religious rituals and cultural traditions. For instance:
1. Sage Kapil (ca 800 B.C.E.) developed Sankhya philosophy with the Prak-
ritivad theory of physical evolution which perceives Brahman with twenty five
TATTWAS or THATNESS: twenty four being the Prakriti or the universal Physical
principle (subtle and gross elements) and the twenty fifth being the PURUSHA or
the Psychial principle which vitalizes Prakriti for creation. Only recently (19th.
Century) Lamark and Darwin have further elucidated just such an aspect of Kapil's
2. Gautama, Kanada and other philosophers of the era (ca 600 300 B.C.E.)
proposed the Arambhvad theory of creation from VOID which is gaining much
credence among the contemporary scientists2' 8.
3. Kanada's Atomic theory which states that the universe is made of only
indestructible atoms and voids6, .
4. Elevation of various inanimates- elements of nature (ether, air, water, fire,
sun) moon, mountains and rivers to the status of deities, because they influence
events in the universe though under the regulatory control of the Deity-Brah-
Various prayer rituals and traditions have further reinforced the philosophy of
oneness in universe. A devotee would offer daily prayers through the sun; a yogi
would start his/her morning exercises by facing the sun, while most use a shape-
less stone (lingam as a symbol of the formless Brhaman. Likewise, the sky, earth,
air, water and fire are the five essential witness at a Hindu wedding.
5. Introduction of reverence for all forms of life by associating some with certain
essential human virtues. Thus cow is revered as a symbol of Mother Earth, which
depicts motherhood, selfless sacrifice, gentleness, and tolerance. 3, 10, 11 Similar
importance is attached to plants like basil, peepal, banyan, mango etc.
6. The doctrine of oneness with the animates has been reinforced by the
mythological tracing of human evolution from fish. God is said to have reincarnated
first as a fish, up the evolutionary scale to the midget-man and finally, as man.10,
7. The doctrine of Ahimsa (non-violence) towards all forms of life, which sanc-
tioned vegetarianism as the purest dietary practice centuries before any other
society adopted it.
8. Developing the science of Yoga and transcendental meditation at least 3,000
years ago for attaining paravidya and mystic insight into the universe. The treatise
on Yoga were finally written by Patanjali around 250 B.C.E.
9. The command of feeding an animal and a plant as two of the five essential
yajnas (rituals) of daily prayers, following the worship of the Deity, reading of
scriptures, and reverence for one's guru and elders.
Vedas and Creation
Though various verses in the Vedas explore the creation of universe, none is
perhaps as vivid and lofty as verse X: 129 of Rig Veda (ca 2,500 B.C.E.). It reflects
the pious skepticism of a finite mind about the infinite, and creates the concept of
God's omnipotence and subtle pantheism which transcend into distinct
Not Aught nor Nought existed; yon bright sky was not, nor
heaven's broad roof outstretched above
What covered all? What sheltered? What concealed?
Was it the waters' fathomless abyss?
There was no death, yet there was nought immortal,
The only one breathed breathless by itself,
Other than It, there nothing since has been,
Darkness there was, and all at first was veiled in gloom
profound-an ocean without light -
The germ that still lay covered in the husk then first came
love upon it, the new spring
Of mind-yea, poets in their hearts discerned,
Pondering, this bond between created things
And uncreated. Comes this spark from earth
Piercing and all-pervading, or from heaven?
Then seeds were sown, and mighty powers arose-
Nature below, and power and will above-
Who knows the secret? Who proclaimed it here?
Whence, whence this manifold creation sprang?
The gods themselves came later into being-
Who knows from whence this great creation sprang?
He, from whom all the great creation came,
Whether his will created or was mute
The Most High Seer that is in highest heaven,
He knows it- or perchance even He knows not.
(translated by Max Muller and adopted from Durant)8
The theory of the One Divine Principle behind all the creations in the universe is
best projected in the following hymn to Purusha, the Psychial principle of Braham
(Rig Veda X: 90).
A thousand heads hath Purusha,
A thousand eyes, a thousand feet,
Covering the world all around,
He yet exceeds it on all sides.
This Purusha all that yet Hath Been,
and all that is to be:
the Lord of immortality as well as
of creatures who grow of food,
Mighty is His greatness;
Yea, Greater than all creation is Purusha,
All creatures together are but one fourth of Him,
Three fourth of Him is Eternal and in heaven,
With three fourth Purusha went up;
One fourth of His was again here.
Then He extended on all sides,
into the animate and inanimate.
From Him, the Self was born,
again Purusha from the Self was born,
He soon spread eastward and westward over the earth,
When gods prepared the sacrifice,
with Purusha as their offerings,
Its oil was spring, the Holy gift was autumn;
Summer was the mood.
From the great general sacrifice,
the dripping fat was gathered up,
He formed the creatures of the air,
and animals, both wild and tame.
When they divided Purusha,
How many portions did they make?
What do they call His mouth, His arms
And His thighs and Feet?
The priests were His mouth,
of both His arms were the warriors made.
His thighs became the merchants,
His feet produced the workers.
The moon was generated from His mind,
and the sun from his eyes,
Storms and fire from His mouth were born,
and winds from his breath,
From His naval came mid air,
The sky was fashioned from His head,
Earth from His feet, and from His ear, the region,
Thus was formed the world
The hymn asserts that Purusha (the Highest Personal Principle, the Supreme
Spirit in Brahman All that Hath been) is the final universal divine principle behind
all the creation, draws no distinction in the origins of the animates and inanimate or
of different social orders,3' 11 and attempts to personify the Absolute.
Pantheism, oneness of animates and inanimates and cyclic creation and dis-
solution of universe are not just metaphysical principles for the scholars but are
part of daily prayers and practices. The following Vedic verses are chanted every
day in Hindu prayers.
"He upholds radiant regions, the sun, earth and
other inanimate bodies. He sustains happy
ethereal regions and salvation. He brings into
being from elementary matter and dissolves into
elementary matter the heavenly bodies in the
"0, Lord of all subjects, You pervade all these
"He is Supreme among all animate and inanimate
of the world".
"I make this oblation in the name of the Divine
Being Who pervades the sun and other luminous
bodies and the atmosphere...".
Hindu Theories of Creation
Hindu philosophers during ca 1,000 500 B.C.E. developed the vedic principles
into two majortheories of evolution: the Asatkaryavad/ArambhvadAVoidtheory, and
the Satkaryavad theory which was later subdivided into Prakritivad and Mayavad
The Astakaryavad/Arambhvad/Void Theory
Naya (by Gautama, ca 300 B.C.E.), Vaisheshika (by Kanada, ca 300 B.C.E.)
and Buddhists philosophers of the same era, proposed that nothing exists except
the indestructible atoms and void and creation and dissolution takes place because
of the combination and dissociation of atoms by Adrishti (the invisible force). Thus
everything has a new Arambh or beginning which comes from void as expressed
Cause + Arambh from Void = Effect (Universe)
Lord Buddha reportedly saw no need of an Intelligent Deity as the Creator and
Regulator of the universe. However, later adherents of the philosophy did identify
Brahman as the Cause. The creation from VOID is currently gaining greater
acceptance from scientists at the expense of the theories of Genesis and Big
The Satkaryavad Theory
The Prakritivad or Dwaita Philosophy. Kapil, who predates the Arambhkar
philosophers by centuries developed the Prakritivad theory which perceived Brah-
man with twenty-five Tattwas or realities, twenty-four of these were termed Prakriti
and the twenty-fifth as PURUSHA. Prakriti is defined as the Universal Physical
Principle, which through its evolutionary guna or virtues, produces intellect, the five
subtle elements. Mind the five organs of action and the five gross elements3' 8
The PRAKRITI which makes up the universe are arranged as follows:
1. SUBSTANCE or the universal physical principles.
2. INTELLECT (Buddhi) the power of perception.
3. SUBTLE ELEMENTS. Five sensory powers.
4-8. Sight, Hearing, Smell, Taste and Touch.
9. Mind or Manas (power of conception)
10-14. Five Organs of Senses, corresponding to 4-8 above; Eye, Ear, Nose,
15-19 The Five Organs of Action: Larynx, Hand, Feet, Excretory, Generative.
20-24. THE GIVE GROSS ELEMENTS OF UNIVERSE; Ether, Air, Fire &
Light, Water, Earth.
25. PURUSHA, the SPIRIT, the UNIVERSAL PSYCHIAL PRINCIPLE
which is ineffective by itself but vitalizes Prakriti to attain its evolution
ary Gunas. Kapil's theory of creation and evolution emphasizes that:
(i). Brahman is both Matter (Prakriti) and Cosmic Energy for creation
(ii). The need of the Self (animates) generates the function (senses)
and the functions produce organs. (Lamark reiterated the same
principle in the nineteenth century).
(iii). Inanimate objects are evolved in the same way as animate
organisms, and are thus aware of themselves.
(iv). Energy or SPIRIT is released from Purusha in quantum or spark;
each spark is then free and independent to act according to its Gunas
(NIRISHWAR SANKHYA VIEW) or may be regulated all along by
Brahmin (ISWAR SANKHYA VIEW). Contemporary quantum mechan
ics does confirm the characteristic release of energy in quantum.6, 7.
(v). Both Brahman (Purusha) the Creator, and the Created (Universe)
are real. This Duality of existence is called Dwaita philosophy, which
The Mayavad or Adiwaita (Monoism) Philosophy.
Vedic philosophers had immediately accepted Kapil's philosophy except dual-
ism but it was left to the great sage Sankara (200 B.C.E. or later but before 800
C.E.) to forcefully reiterate Vedic monism and indoctrinate the Hindus with the
(i). Two infinities or truths, the Cause and Effect or the Creator and the
Created cannot exist side by side.
(ii) The Creator is the Eternal and Absolute Truth which is Infinite and
transcends Time and Space.
(iii). The created (universe) is a Relative truth which can not transcend
time and space, hence it is MA YA or cosmic illusion because its reality is depen-
dent upon "when" and "where".
(iv). The relative truth or maya or universe is created and dissolved
regularly in cyclic phenomena.
(v). The multitude of sparks or quantum of energy from Brahman are
like rays from the sun, materializing as inanimate or animates.
(vi). Brahman, The Eternal Truth, The Pure Consciousness in both
Purusha and Prakriti: Prakriti is the Magical Power of Brahman and the Cosmic
Energy which is convertible into Matter.
(vii). Prakriti has three gunas or Virtues sattwa, rajas and tamas;
domination of one over the others leads to the manifestation of Ishwara (God),
jiva (soul) or the world of objects.
(viii). Brahman appearing through the predomination of Prakriti by
sattwa (purity) is Ishwara or Purusha, and Maya. His creative will or lila works
upon tamas to evolve material world for providing resources for the evolution of
(ix) Brahman manifesting through the predomination of prakriti evolves the five
tattwas (subtle elements), which through a complex process of computation,
produce the world of objects, both animate, and inanimate.
(xi). Soul is indestructible, but the objects in the universe are created and dis-
solved regularly; plant, animal and human bodies are discarded and the souls
Hindu philosophers prefer to use the term projection rather than creation in
describing the universe, since it projects the nature of Brahman. Yogananada12
explained that the universe emanated from Intelligent Cosmic Vibrations or
thoughtrons of the Infinite; the finite forms of matter are created secondarily by
arrangements and combinations of certain basic forms eg. cells from molecules,
molecules from atoms, atoms from electrons and protons, electrons and protons
from lifetrons, and lifetrons from thoughtrons. In other words, the thoughtrons
compose the ideational or causal universe, from which emanates astral universe
of lifetrons the intelligent life energy, from which emanates the physical universe
of gross atomic energy.
Hindu Mythology and Creation
The creation of universe and the common origin of animate and inanimate have
been explained in various mythological stories. A popular one from Brihadaranyaka
Upanishad (I,IV) traces the common origin of the animates from the universe,
which at the beginning was SELF alone;
He looked around and saw nothing but Himself
and proclaimed, "This is I". The Self then burnt
down all evils which were around Him and be-
came a person. unhappy for being alone, he
wished for company. He grew and became an
embracing couple. The Self than divided into two
husband and wife or man and woman. Other
animals were born from them,10' 11 she turned
into a cow to hide from him, but he found her by
becoming a bull. She then became a mare and he
turned into a stallion.
A simple story in Manu's Shastra (ca. 250 B.C.E.) depicts the universe before
creation as unperceivable, unknowable and unattainable darkness which was
immersed in cosmic sleep. Then the Self-Existent appeared with the creative
power, dispelled the darkness and made the great elements and the rest discern-
ible. He then developed the will to create, created cosmic waters and placed his
seed in them. The seed developed into a golden egg, like a sun. In that egg, He
Himself was born as a Golden Brahman and remained there for one whole year .
The Divine Creature then divided Himself into two halves which developed into
heavens and earth. Between them developed the atmosphere, waters and eight
points of horizon. Then by joining minute particles with immense energy, He
created all the animates and inanimate.10 11
Hindu mythology had proposed its own scheme of origin of higher forms of life
from lower ones, which was provided with scientific evidence by Darwin in the
nineteenth century. The story claims that God in the role of Lord Vishnu had
reincarnated Himself on many occasions in different parts of the world, as history
repeated itself. The last nine of the twenty-four incarnations are regarded as
important, since their forms represent a phenomenon of physical evolution of a
perfect man from fish, the stages being Matsya (fish) Kurma (tortoise) Varha
(boar) Narasimha (half-man, half-lion) Vamana (midget) Prasuram (man) who
paved the way for Lords Rama, Krishna and Buddha. The tenth one, Kaliki is
expected to appear at the end of the Present Kalayug era.
The Cycles of Creation
Mythology has it that the universe is sustained for 4.32 billion years before
being annihilated or dissolved.10' 11 One universal cycle is one Kalpa; each Kalpa
comprises of one thousand Mahayuga or GREAT AGES, each lasting for 4.32
million years. Each Mahayuga is divided into four Yuga or Ages, during which there
is progressive decline in virtues.
The first Yuga called Satya or Krita Yuga was a period of 1.728 million years
during which righteousness prevailed and everything was in perfect harmony. The
second age or Treta Yuga lasted for 1.296 million years during which righteous-
ness declined by one fourth. Dwapara Yuga, the third age flourished for 864,000
years during which righteousness and virtues declined to half of the Satya Yuga.
The present age, the Kali Yuga began 3,120 B.C.E. and is expected to last for
432,000 years during which there would be phenomenal decline of righteousness
and increase in materialism and natural disasters. In each Kalpa, the Universe
evolves by natural means. There is no final purpose of a universal cycle except that
it is Brahman's Lila or WILL.
Oneness of Inanimates and Animates
The Vedic doctrine of common origin of the inanimate and animates was
popularized by linking the visible and perceivable manifestations of the creator with
Him, personifying them and giving them sacred status.10' 11 First the triad of Vayu
(wind, produced from the breath of the Creator), Surya (Sun, the eye of the
Creator) and Agni (fire, thrice born, first in sun, then in atmosphere and later on
earth) was revered. Later Indira (storm), Prithvi (Mother earth, depicted by cow),
Dayus (sky, depicted by bull) and Chandra (moon) were elevated to deity status.
As pantheism was realized by sentient experiences, divine beauty was per-
ceived even in the adversities and phases of day and night. Thus Rudra (wind and
tempest), Marut (spirit of tempest and thunder), Vivasvat (rising sun), Usha (dawn),
Aswin (morning), Savitri (rising and setting sun), Ratri (night), Kubera (shadow and
darkness) gained recognition as deities.
Mountains, because of their awesome nature, beauty, strength and inacces-
sibility have been regarded as the abode of gods. The Himalayas with Mt. Meru
and Kailash have special significance. As sustainers of life on earth, rivers and
oceans in general and GANGA in particular, are regarded as the holy. In every
region of India, a river and a hill top have attained some sanctity. Even in Mauritius,
Hindus have created mythology around a mountain peak. Annual pilgrimage to the
holy places has perpetuated the sanctity.
Among the animate deities, GANESHA, a short man with elephant head and
riding a rat is invoked before any other deity for the removal of all spiritual and
material obstacles. He is the personification of the spirit presiding over five ele-
ments which constitute the universe. The tusk, trunk, arms etc. have deep sublime
and mystic significance The rat is a symbol of intuitive intellect which is capable
of cutting asunder the net of subtle desires and burrowing into the depth of
unconscious to reveal the glory of the Self.
Mythology has reinforced the metaphysical closeness between animals and
humans by associating certain animals as Vahana (transport) of gods and goddes-
ses and portraying some as half- man. Garuda (eagleman), horse, elephant, ram,
goat, bull, lion, swan, peacock are among the vahans of the divine personages.
Conversely, people with certain animal habits, who overcame their shortcom-
ings by complete surrender to God, became virtuous, and dedicated their lives to
the service of God, were depicted as halfman and halfanimal. Hanuman is
portrayed in Ramayana as a monkey because of his fickle-mindedness 3, but as a
classical example of the Yoga of surrender, he is revered as a deity and his
clansmen Sugriva and Bali are respected. Besides inspiring any unstable individual
to acquire firmness and elevate spiritually, it has given protection to the primates as
no Hindu would ever kill them. Similarly, NAGA- the snake deity of the Naga tribe
of ancient India was incorporated into Hindu mythology by associating it with the
Lord Krishna and as a protector of wealth. At the festival of Naga-Panchmi, milk
pots are put all over the fields and forests to feed the snakes which have gained
universal status. among Hindus.
Vedic Hymns for Environment
Hinduism may be the only religion where specific prayers are offered for peace
and welfare of the animates and inanimates, as exemplified by the following
Supreme Lord, let there be peace in the sky and in the at-
peace in the plant world and in the forests
Let the cosmic powers be peaceful, let Brahma be peaceful,
Let there be undiluted and fulfilling peace everywhere.
Waters, you are the ones who bring us life force,
Help us find nourishment so that we may look upon great joy,
Let us hare the most delicious sap that you have,
as if you were loving mothers.
Let us go straight to the house of the one for whom your
waters give us life and give us birth.
For our well-being let the goddess be an aid to us,
the waters be for us to drink,
Mistress of all things that are chosen, rulers over
all peoples, the waters are the ones I beg for a cure.
Soma has told me that within the waters are all cures
and Agni, who is salutary to all.
Waters, yield your cures as an armour for my body, so that I
may see the sun for a long time,
Waters, carry far away all of this that has gone bad in me,
either what I have done in malicious deceit or whatever lie I
have sworn to.
I have sought the waters today, we have joined with their
O Agni full of moisture, come and flood me with splendor.
May the axe be far away from you,
May the fire be far away from you,
May there be rain without storm,
Lord of trees, may you be blessed,
Lord of trees, may I be blessed.
They who have the ocean as their eldest flow out of
the sea, purifying themselves, never resting, Indra, the bull
with the thunderbolt, opened a way for them, let the waters,
are goddesses, help me here and now.
The waters of the sky or those that flow, those that are
dug out or those that arise by themselves, those pure and
clear waters that seek the ocean as their goal- let the
waters, who are goddesses, help me here and now.
Those whose midst King Varuna moves, looking down upon
the truth and falsehood of people, those pure and clear
that drip honey- let the waters, who are goddesses,
help me here and now.
Those among King Varuna and soma, and all the gods drink
in ecstasy the exhilarating nourishment, those into whom
Agni Of -all-man entered- let the waters who are goddes-
ses, help me here and now.
The environmental dilemma of the "western" world may be attributed to its
double-barrelled Hellenic-Celtic heritage, which on one hand is "teutonic in its
fidelity of observation and tendency to labourious systematization", and on the
other creates "suppleness, mobility, readiness for rapid change, insatiable
curiosity.. (and) haste to challenge, reject, remould, discover new and opposite
truths and to venture upon experiments".1
The teutonic systematization of the metaphysically fluid phenomenon of God-
realization may have created a thick fog for the orthodox Christians which prevents
them from attaining an insight into the metaphysical and scientific truths about
environment. Categories such as animism, pantheism, polytheism etc. were
created, not for explaining aspects of universal relationship between the Creator
and universe, but for degrading those whose philosophies were beyond the com-
prehension of these people. For instance, animism is defined as a faith of primitive
people but yet in the beliefs of some European scholars, spiritual understanding
has been sacrificed for racism. The end result of such a childish exercise of forcing
the Infinite to conform to our finite and conditioned thoughts, has led to the creation
of a conceptually and philosophically confined and static God. Worship of such a
static and confined God, who seems incapable of relating with his own dynamic
creation is regarded by Hinduism as idol worship.
Charles Darwin, whose theory of organic evolution had its origins in the 2,800
year-old SANKHYA philosophy was regarded as a challenge to the biblical theory
of Genesis. Western theology, hamstrung by its own systematics, could not see
evolution as the will of the Dynamic Creator. Had his religious and social environ-
ment demanded, Darwin would have introduced spirituality into his theory. He did,
however, link it with the bible to the extent that evolution was seen as a
phenomenon of change which takes place in a linear direction, rather than the
manifestation of a predisposed plan in a cyclic fashion (as taught by Hinduism).
Be that as it may, Darwinism, though narrow in scope ( dealing only with the
physical evolution of the animates) and being devoid of spirituality, has neverthe-
less dominated the thoughts, attitudes, temperament, moral and social values, and
politics of the western world. It has succeeded in having evolved an egocentric,
selfish, materialistic and environmentally insensitive 'Homo sapiens" from the ideal
The dilemma of "western" theologians may thus be attributed to the restricted
metaphysical and mystical understanding of God and universe; how could one
explore the mysteries of creation without recognizing the infinity of the Creator? For
overcoming such self-imposed constraints, Erasmus advised that "wherever you
encounter truth, look upon it as Christianity"14. Albert Einstein in his book The
World As I See It admitted that the religious feelings of scientists are rapturously
amazed by the harmony of natural law, "which reveals an intelligence of such
superiority that, compared with it, all the systematic thinking of human beings is an
utterly insignificant reflection". Swami Vivekananda9 (pp. 366-368) recommends
compatibility of religious and secular knowledge. Radhakrishnan14 recommends
scientific analyses of religious beliefs while being cognizant of the fact that secular
knowledge such as "physics or chemistry has no internal mandate to vouch for its
truth, which religion has". Recognition of natural theology which is based upon the
study of empirically observable facts (and not from claims of exclusive revelations
or traditions) and refinement of religion by the spirit of science14 may be the only
solution to theological dilemma on environment.
Human activities in developing countries do not contribute much to the global
warming phenomenon, though at national or continental levels, they may be
endangering biodiversity. For instance, India with only 2% of world's land mass and
16% of world's population, consumes only 3% of world's energy and emits 3% of
carbon dioxide while U.S.A. has only 5% of world's population but consumes 25%
of its energy and emits 22% of Carbon-dioxide to the atmosphere 5. Nationally,
however, India, the Hindu-dominated country is leading towards a disaster as the
forest cover has been reduced from about 40% at the beginning of the century to
15% at the turn of this century and will decline further to only 3% in the very near
It is imperative, therefore, that industrial, social and economic development
around the world, particularly in Asia, Africa and Latin America where natural
theology is still a significant component of religious syncretism, is environmentally
sustainable. Long before the world realized the impending disaster, Mahatma
Gandhi decreed that "the earth provides enough to satisfy every man's needs but
not any body's greed". Human mind must be trained to dominate over the muscles.
Respect and reverence for God's creation and ability to discriminate.between
wants and needs must be inculcated. The richness and success of an individual
should be judged by the experience of enjoying different creations in situ rather
than in possessing them in vitro.
Hinduism, a natural theology, was evolved over a few centuries, and may be
regardedas a "metaphysical science and psychic technology". It is philosophically,
mythologically and culturally equipped for inculcating spirituality in environmental
management. However, ignorance, overpopulation, poverty, struggle for survival
and the package of Western technology with its inherent exploitative syndrome
seem to mask the environmental sense and traditions in the Orient.
It is tempting to speculate what inspired Monier-William8 to endorse that "there
is no knowledge equal to the Sankhya and no power equal to the yoga", and Arnold
Toynbee' to predict in 1952 (which Houston Smith17 quotes at every opportunity)
that in the twenty-first century "India will conquer (spiritually) her conquerors".
Where religions have divided the people, global strategies for environmental
management ought to foster spiritual and social fellowship among the nations.
What can be a more appropriate end to this presentation that the Shanti Paath
or the verse for peace, with which most Hindus end their daily yajna (prayer).
"May the brighter regions, the mid-way regions
between the earth and sun, the waters, herbs,
vegetation.... the entire universe be free from
harm and conducive to peace and happiness.
May this peace bring in its train, higher peace
(emancipation) which may pervade the whole
ACKNOWLEDGMENT AND DEDICATION
I must follow the Vedic tradition in this exercise by acknowledging my Guru,
H.H. Swami Jotyrmayanandji of Yoga Research Centre. Miami, Fl. 33143. U.S.A.
for accepting me as the medium of transmitting his vast knowledge on the subject
to the readers.
1. Sri Aurobindo, 1923. Evolution, Shri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, Pondichery, India.
2. Swami Prabhavananda, 1979. The Spiritual Heritage of India. Vedanta Press, Hol-
lywood, California. U.S.A
3. Rig Veda; An Anthology by O'Flaherty W.D. 1981. Penguin Books, New York.
4. Shrimad Bhagwad Geeta, Commentary by Swami Jotirmayananda, 1986. Vishwa
Hindu Parishad, India.
5. Sen K.M. 1982. Hinduism. Penguin Books, New York.
6. Capra F. 1985. The Tao of Physics, New Science Lib. Shambhala, Boston. Mass.
7. Zukav G. 1979. The Dancing Wu Li Masters. W. Marrow Inc. New York.
8. Durant W. 1954. The Story of Civilization: Part I Our Oriential Heritage, pp. 309-612.
Simon and Schuster, New York.
9. Swami Vivekananda, 1907. The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda. Vol. 1. Ad-
vaita Ashram, Calcutta.
10. Veronica Ions. 1968. Indian Mythology. Paul Hamlyn Pub. Ltd. London.
11. The World's Great Religions: Vol. One, Time Inc. New York, 1963,
12. Yogananada Paramhansa 1949. Who Made God. Yogananda Satsanga Math,
Dakishineswar. India. (1979).
13. Swami Jotyrmayananda, 1985. Mysticism of Hindu Gods And Goddesses. Inter. Yoga
Soc. Miami. Fl.
14. Radhakrishnan, S.1968.Religion and Culture. Hind Pocket Books, Delhi. pp. 8-10
15. Elmer-Dewitt p. 1992. Rich Vs. Poor. Times, June 1, 1992, p. 18.
16. Ward G.C. 1992. India Wildfire Dilemma. Nat. Geographic, May 1992, pp.2-29.
17. Smith H. 1965. The Religion of Man. Harper & Row, New York, pp. 1-89.
"Ethnic Domination And Reconciliation In Multi-ethnic Societies:
A Re-consideration And An Alternative To J. Furnivall And M.G.
RALPH R. PREMDAS
The theoretical literature on communal politics in the Third World is replete with
formulations on how to solve the problem of maintaining order. Maintaining order
and stability are universally perceived as the primary problem in unintegrated,
deeply divided societies. From the time of Furnivall who first enunciated "the plural
society model", the answer was deemed to reside in a system of domination.1 In its
early formulations, the plural society was considered to be characterized structural-
ly by the presence of "distinct racial sections with an elaborate western superstruc-
ture over native life".2 Without such a superstructure, the society "must collapse
and the whole system crumble into dust".3 In effect, societal integration in the
colonised plural society was maintained because of the political and economic
domination of the colonizer. Furnivall's "domination model" was justified and
legitimate on the proposition that the ethnic sections constituted "a medley, for
they mix but do not combine"4 and that this segmented condition required an
"umpire" to maintain elementary order. Nothing was said about alternatives to
colonial European minority domination or the policies of divide and rule practised to
justify continued colonial domination. To be sure, Furnivall anticipated that turmoil
would become a reality in a post-independence context unless the society was able
to organisee a common social will".5 What is important to us, however, are the
overall conditions which made "domination" and "control" by a minol;ty feasible in
the plural society. A fuller development of Furnivall's domination model would have
pointed to the existence of a number of factors which facilitated control. We shall
note these at greater length later but it is crucial to mention a few of these
structures at this point. First, cultural pluralism by itself does not inevitably lead to
a demand for supervision or control by a third mediating party.6 The fact must be
emphatically registered that the "third party"-- the colonizer-- had a vested
interest in promoting its "mediation" role. This, in turn, underscored colonial policy
that aroused and agitated communal groups to be conscious of their identity and
interests. It was the colonizer who instigated self- conscious segmentation. In
laying out the pre-requisites for domination by a third party or mediator, it is
important to identify the policy of divide and rule as a sine qua non in the total
scheme of colonial domination exploiting the divisions in the society. Second,
domination and control became easy because of the dependence of the dominated
group on the colonizer for its economic existence. The colonial economy became
export-oriented built around one or a few crops which were marketed at cheap
prices to metropolitan centres. The re-design of most colonial economies from a
subsistence structure to one that was monetized, specialized and highly dependent
on external markets placed the levers of control in the hands of the colonizer. Not
only economic structure was rendered dependent but so were political and to a
lesser extent, social organizations linked to the new colonial state for favours. In
time, the values of the colonizer became pre-eminent in allocating resources and
these too assisted in rending domination easier. Finally, the colonial state was
centralised and backed up by a powerful arsenal of coercive means to execute the
will and policies of the colonizer. Together then, colonial domination was made
possible not just by the fact that a plural society existed, but especially followed
from the practice of divide and rule, coupled with economic dependence of the
colonized and the use of superior force by the colonizer. We shall argue later in the
text that the persistence of these features-- a dependent economy, centralization,
and a monopoly of coercive force- in the post-independence period would also
facilitate the emergence of a repressive regime. In effect, the nature of control in
the pre-independence colonial system would bear an essential structural continuity
with that of the repressive post-colonial state. They both sought stability by exploit-
ing communal structure but found this easy or tempting to do because of structural
features which were bequeathed by the colonial state.
Furnivall was followed by a wide variety of theorists who in addressing the issue
of stability in communally bound states posited different domination and control
models. M.G. Smith spoke of the need for some sort of "central regulative organiza-
tion" which would differently incorporate the structure of pluralism to maintain
Smith developed this idea of ethnic domination closely following in the footsteps
of his intellectual mentor, Furnivall. Said Smith:
"Even in a plural society, institutional diversity
does not include differing systems of government.
The reason for this is simple: the continuity of
such societies as units is incompatible with the
internal diversity of governmental institutions.
Given the fundamental differences of belief,
value, and organization that connote pluralism,
the monopoly of power by one cultural section is
the essential pre-condition for the maintenance of
the total society in its current form. In short, the
structural position and function of the regulative
system differs sharply in plural and other
societies. Institutionally homogeneous societies
develop a variety of institutional motivations
toward conformity with social norms; institutional-
ly split societies lack these common motivations
and tend to rely correspondingly on regulation.
The dominant social section of these culturally
split societies is simply the section that controls
the apparatus of power and force."8
Furnivall and Smith were not the only scholars to have fallen into the facile trap
of confusing description with prescription. It is fallacious to argue that because
multi-ethnic societies tend to throw up ethnically repressive regimes that that is the
way these societies should be governed.
Leo Kuper pointed to a system of domination which strengthened and exploited
the diversity among the subordinate communal groups while promoting intercalaryy
structures" to mediate and control group contact.9 Work by Van den Berghe
described stable governance in plural societies as "pluralistic despotism" (South
Africa's version as "Herrenvolk democracy") marked by political subjection, coer-
cion and economic interdependence.'0 Heribert Adams describes his control
model as "pragmatic race oligarchy" under which communal domination is
thorough-going and constantly modernised to extend its rule.11 Milton Esman's
"institutionalized dominance" stresses monopoly of privilege by the dominant group
while the dominated groups are isolated and kept under close political control.12
Finally, Rabushka and Shepsle in designating their type as "dominant majority
configuration" emphasized the role of the majority communal group using violence,
rigged elections and repression as the mode of rule.13 In all of these models, the
common features are the acceptance of some sort of communal domination as
almost inevitable in multi-ethnic states. These authors differ mainly in the form that
domination will take and the instruments that would be utilized for effective control.
Colonial Interests and the Domination Model
According to the old orthodoxy, politics in most post-independence Third World
countries has been communally-bound and violent leading to the establishment of
repressive regimes in which one ethnic group tended to dominate the lives of the
others. In this scenario, the predictions of the plural society theorists were propheti-
cally fulfilled. But was it inevitable that colonial politics be succeeded by bitter
inter-ethnic strife? What role did the practice of colonial rule play in this outcome as
well as the role of the institutions bequeathed at independence? Let us quickly look
at each of these in turn.
In the colonial context, the multi-ethnic mosaic that typifies the social structure
of a Third World country was itself a creation of colonialism. In the Caribbean, for
instance, plantation labour imported from different parts of the Third World was
erected. Colonial institutions kept the immigrant groups residentially, occupational-
ly, and culturally apart.14 A body of shared values did not emerge to weld the
disparate peoples into any sort of coherent community. Indeed, the ethnic ele-
ments grew to distrust each other and were systematically manipulated by the
colonial administration into antagonistic relationships. Inter-ethnic competition over
the colonial pie kept labourers from one group from joining other cross-communal
labourers for common action against the exploitative colonial system. Certain
ethnic segments might even have been accorded preferential treatment breeding
inter-group jealously and a history of communal resentment.
Colonial order was maintained by both the policy of divide-and- rule as weli as
by direct institution coercion. The record abundantly shows that over decades of
sharing a common colonial master, the same country, and bound by the same
colonial laws, despite these commonalities, few if any cross-communal institutions
were encouraged to evolve linking the interests of the various ethnic groups.15
Instead, from the ethos of distrust and fear, the colonial master developed the myth
that he was required to protect the ethnic groups from each other. Hence,
Furnivall's "umpire" was but a colonial device deliberately designed to justify its rule
based on carefully nurtured inter-ethnic malaise. This is remarkably similar to the
Hobbesian "social contract" which advocated the necessity of a repressive
Leviathan based on the myth of people in the state of nature living in perpetual war
against each other. Hobbes' interest was, however, well-known. He was an
apologist for monarchical dictatorship. He concocted, as Furnivall did, the myth that
if free peoples were to be left alone without the benefit of their Leviathan colonial
"umpire", everything would be turned into chaos. So a colonial structure warped in
favour of European repression justified its rule over a poor and manipulated Third
World population. The entire colonial administration was economic in motivation
and racist in the means of fulfilling its aims.16
If colonial rule was seeped in racial manipulation which laid the cornerstone of
communal politics, then what role did the institutions of self-government be-
queathed by the coloniser play after independence to perpetuate an environment
of ethnic disunity and strife? In the example of the Commonwealth Caribbean, the
question asks what role did the peculiar political institutions transferred by Britain
play in exacerbating ethnic strife? The institutional bequest from Britain based on
the British parliamentary model encouraged open unrestrained competition for
votes by sectionally-bound parties, pitching one communal group against another,
which resulted in racially polarised politics. Were there alternative institutions that
could have been conducive to different outcomes? In the next part, we look at an
alternative to the zero-sum open competitive model of politics which left many Third
World states with ethnically repressive regimes. We draw our inspiration from a
Caribbean son of the soil, Sir Arthur Lewis, whose model of government offers an
alternative to the openly competitive Westminster model.
The Lewis Model of Ethnic Accommodation
Lewis' point of departure is a sharp distinction made between class societies
and plural societies.17 The former refer to the consensus-bound societies of
Western Europe and North America where political conflict revolves mainly around
limited issues. To Lewis, these societies have long solved the problem of estab-
lishing the central and strategic values in their society. Consequently, political
struggles tend to be moderate and the stakes tend to be limited. Even if Lewis is
mistaken about the level of integration in these societies and the persistence of
ethnic cleavages, the fact remains that for the greater part the fissures in the
European and American states tend to be less deep, persistent and polarised than
in the typical Third World state. To Lewis, the ex-colonial countries of the Third
World are "plural societies", meaning that they are constituted of several complete
societies each with its own institutional structures for socio-economic survival. This
cultural fragmentation throws up intractable difficulties of unity, stability, legitimacy,
justice etc. causing Lewis to conclude that: "The fundamental problem of the Third
World is neither an economic nor foreign policy, but the creation of nations out of
Lewis has set forth his own prescription for democratic success in plural
societies of the Third World. We examine each of the structures he has advocated
(i) Elections and Majority Rule
While requiring elections as an integral part of his democratic framework, Lewis
emphatically rejects the zero-sum aspects of the Anglo-American electoral system
which has been transferred to many parts of the Third World. Under the Anglo-
American electoral model, the victor in elections takes control of the government
and, in so doing, is not required to share the allocation of projects, employment,
and other values with the defeated parties. Called the zero-sum principle, this sort
of competition impoverishes the loser:
"The doctrine asserts the right of the poor to liqui-
date the rich. Politics is what the mathematicians
now call a zero-sum game; what I win you lose.
You have the wealth, I have to take it. European
politics has been operating in this mould for the
past 300 years."19
When the zero-sum principle is engrafted in a culturally fragmented state such
as typically found in the Third World, the implications can be catastrophic. Because
of the lack of an underlying consensus, the fact of losing assumes an aura of a
military rout found between warring adversaries. Zero-sum conflict bears an ex-
clusionary feature and carries symbolic connotations of outright rejection. For this
reason, Lewis condemns the zero-sum feature of electoral systems transferred to
"Translated from a class to a plural society, this
view of politics is not just irrelevant; it is totally
immoral, inconsistent with the primary meaning of
democracy and destructive of any prospect of
building a nation in which different peoples might
live together in harmony."20
Instead of a zero-sum attitude, a more sharing orientation is vital for a
democratic society to survive. Said Lewis:
"It is necessary to get right away from the idea
that somebody is to prevail over somebody else;
from politics as a zero-sum game. Words like
'winning' and 'losing' have to be banished from
the political vocabulary of a plural society."21
In terms of his view on democracy, the zero-sum aspect of electoral politics
violates the idea of access to decision-making and to dialogue and compromise
between government and opposition. Zero-sum politics tend to encourage prac-
tices of suppression and victimisation. Lewis claims that the concepts of "majority"
and "minority" are not understood in the traditions of the Third World and, in
particular, in adversarial competition in plural societies. In Western democracies, it
is argued that a basic agreement underlies competition so that minorities in
opposition are recognized and are consulted and placed in important committees
and offices such as the government-paid "office of the opposition". Lewis con-
demns what he calls "the divine right cf majority rule" as practised in plural
"Now this agreement does not exist in West
Africa. For one thing, the parties have been
reared on an erroneous definition of democracy,
by which it means that the majority is entitled to
rule over the minority. The divine right of majority
rule has played such an important role in the
struggle for independence that many people have
come to believe in it. The idea that the quality of
democracy is to be tested rather by the extent to
which the rights of the minority are respected is
novel. Elections are a zero-sum game. Those
who vote the wrong way are penalised; the roads
in their area are left to deteriorate; contracts are
placed elsewhere; and so on even where
physical violence is not employed."22
Hence, Lewis has re-designed the electoral institution in such a manner as to
eliminate its zero-sum features, while providing for consultation and sharing in the
post-election period. To do this, he has recommended: (i) at the electoral level, a
system of proportional representation that uses the single transferable vote; and,
(ii) at the level of government, a coalition arrangement. We shall examine each of
these in turn. Under proportional representation, minorities gain access to Parlia-
ment proportionate to the votes they obtain throughout the country. To Lewis, this
is vital for "if minorities are to accept Parliament, they must be adequately repre-
sented in Parliament."23 The use of the single transferable vote tends to encourage
candidates to court the second and third preference votes of their opposition. In the
end, electoral appeals tend not to be strident and exclusivist, but to be moderate
and co-operative.24 Such cross-communal courting that exists prior to elections
may be available in the post-election period for coalition-building. To the argument
that proportional representation tends to give rise to an unstable multi-party sys-
tem, Lewis replies that this is offset by the advantages of greater representation of
minorities in Parliament. Besides, a multi-party system sets the basis for coopera-
tion in coalition-building. In rejecting the zero-sum competition implicit in the
first-past-the-post simple plurality electoral system, Lewis underscores the need to
adapt imported European institutions to local circumstances:
"Different electoral systems serve different pur-
poses and suit different situations. A system that
suits homogeneous class societies should-not be
expected to function well in non-Marxist plural
societies. Where cleavage is a problem, one
needs a system which will give minorities ade-
quate representation, discourage parochialism
and force moderation on the political parties."25
The other feature that Lewis recommended to counter zero-sum politics is
coalition government. Lewis stoutly believes in the intrinsic value of sharing access
to decision-making by way of coalition formation. Proportional representation, in so
far as it leads to a multitude of parties, sets the stage for coalition formation. While
he does not think that every minor party should partake in a coalition, he recom-
mends that those groupings with at least 20 per cent of the votes should be part of
the government. Observed Lewis: "Some kind of coalition is indicated because no
numerous and politically conscious group is willing to be ruled by others."
Lewis levels his attack on the one-party system in particular for its lack of critical
coalition features. The single-party systems tend to believe that they cannot build
national loyalty unless they deny representation of access to their opponents. Said
Lewis: "If the politician's approach to politics is to capture the government in order
to benefit one group at the expense of the others, a coalition of all major parties is
impossible." In this context, unity and cross communal loyalty is highly improbable.
"National loyalty cannot immediately supplant
tribal loyalty; it has to be built on top of tribal
loyalty by creating a system in which all tribes feel
that there is room for self-expression."26
"As we have seen, the solution is not the single-
party but a coalition and federalism."27
For Lewis, coalition government holds a key position in any attempt to resolve
the underlying problem of polarised zero-sum struggle in culturally plural societies.
In response to the observation that the major political parties may not be willing to
form a coalition government, Lewis has advocated that a law be enacted requiring
the large parties (say with 20% of the votes or more) to coalesce.28 Clearly, in a
free and open society, this act of coercion poses many problems. Lewis, therefore,
feels that a new attitude towards government in plural societies is required to foster
cooperative and coalition dispositions. Leaders must come to see democracy not
as a conflictual exclusionary game, but as an institution of sharing. Lewis recog-
nises that this will entail in democratic plural societies "a fundamental change in the
political philosophy of those who wield power."29
A final feature of Lewis' model of democracy for reconciling the claims of
antagonistic sections in plural societies is decentralisation. Specifically, Lewis was
addressing the problem of regional disparity in economic development and the
difficulties this will pose in designing an acceptable formula to re-distribute national
wealth. For Lewis, decentralisation of the state so that regions attain high levels of
internal autonomy in self-government solves the problem of the rich subsidizing the
poor. Decentralisation also permits each regional or regionally- based ethnic group
to decide its own priorities in development and to preserve its own cultural identity.
To many Third World nationalists, such a prescription is a threat to national unity.
Such decentralisation, it may be argued, encourages ethno- national extremists to
secede. But for Lewis, his decentralisation prescription for strong provinces does
not necessarily entail a weak central government. A strong centre can be com-
patible and co-exist with a strong periphery. Federalism, for instance, is good for it
recognizes and crystallises internal differences. It is the way to promote maximum
autonomous regional development. Argued Lewis:
"A large country with widely differing regions can-
not be governed well from one town which mo-
nopolises decision-making. Even if political
considerations are excluded, good administration
requires decentralisation of decisions to persons
on the spot."
"All that is asked is a reasonable degree of
provincial devolution. Countries with this kind of
problem need both a strong centre and strong
provincial governments and this is not a con-
tradiction since government functions are so
numerous that there is plenty of room for both."30
Evaluation and Conclusion
The alternative features for democracy in the Third World's multi-ethnic states
advocated by nobel laureate Sir Arthur Lewis have laid the cornerstone of what has
today become known as "consociational democracy". Elaborated upon by Arend
Lijphart, the cosociational features have sought to offer a system of non-confronta-
tional accommodation in the governments in the Third World. Lijphart refers to
Lewis' work veneratingly in acknowledgement as "the Lewis model". Like Lijphart,
Lewis rejects the colonial bequest of competitive electoral systems built around
polarised zero-sum politics. They offered pragmatic alternative institutions which
tend towards moderating and qualifying ethnic distrust and competition endemic in
the Third World environment. For Lewis, the most significant issue bedevilling the
less developed countries is the fact of their multi-ethnicity. Cultural pluralism is the
most pervasive issue marring and making more difficult the tasks of transformation
in the Third World.
The consociational democratic features advanced by Lewis, as also in the case
of Lijphart, elicited a fair share of criticisms. Brian Barry in particular has warned
that the system of elite coalition or collective cabinet accommodation can
deteriorate into a non-democratic form of leadership over the long-run.31 In this
case, stability would be purchased at the expense of ethnic control of the levers of
decision-making. Challenges to the elite status quo may be systematically ex-
cluded in the name of promoting political peace.
Further it may be argued that Lewis's system of decentralisation tends towards
freezing of regional and other forms of inequality. While allowing each region in the
short-run to enjoy its special advantages behind the device of decentralisation,
over the long- run such disparities may deteriorate into and provoke violent move-
ments for equality. Lewis is loathe to interfere in the free workings of the market
mechanism allowing each person and region to keep what has been earned. This
fits in well with Lewis' overall philosophy of freedom. However, he has offered little
by way of solution to urgent demands to rectify various forms of inequality in
society. His consociational devices are all oriented at maximising freedom as the
most effective environment to stimulate development. May Lewis not have gone
too far in foregoing the use of state policy to contain the widening disparities in
Clearly, Lewis is as innovative as he is controversial. He has utterly refused to
accept the early Furnivall-Smith thesis that only one form of government awaited
plural societies that have obtained independence. He has creatively pointed to
practical alternatives which can at once maintain order and promote justice.
1. See: J.S. Furnivall, Colonial Policy and Practice Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press, 1948, pp. 304-312; J.S. Furnivall, Netherlands India: A Study of Plural Economy
London: Cambridge University Press, 1939 ; and A. Rabushka and K. Shepsle, Politics in
Plural Societies Ohio: Merrill, 1972, p. 12.
6. For a development of this idea, see Arend Lijphart, Democracy in Plural Societies New
Haven: Yale University Press, 1977.
7. M.G. Smith, "Institutional and Political Conditions of Pluralism", in Pluralism in Africa,
ed. by L. Kuper and M.G. Smith Berkeley University of Califomia Press, 1965, pp. 32-33.
9. L. Kuper.
10. Pierre L. Van den Berghe.
11. Heribert Adams.
12. Milton Esman.
13. Rabushka and Shepsle, op. cit.
14. See Ralph Premdas, "Ethnic Politics in Guyana", Ethnic Bulletin.
15. See R. Glasgow, also, Ralph Premdas, "Violence", Plural Societies.
16. For contemporary forms of neo-colonial control systems, see: I. Lustick, "Stability in
Deeply Divided Societies Consociationalism versus Control", World Politics, Vol. 31, No.
3, 1979; S. Smooha, "Control of Minorities in Israel and Northern Ireland", Comparative
Studies in History and Society, Vol. 22, No. 2, April 1980; H. Adam, Modernising Racial
Domination Berkeley: University of California Press, 1971 ; and, Ralph Premdas and
Percy Hintzen, "Coercion and Control in Political Change: The Case of Guyana", Journal
of Inter-American Studies and World Affairs, August, 1982.
17. W. Arthur Lewis, Politics in West Africa (London: Allen and Unwin, 1965).
18. Ibid., pp. 49-50.
19. Ibid., p. 66.
21. Ibid., p. 67.
22. Ibid., 76.
23. Ibid., p. 72.
24. Ibid., p. 73.
26. Ibid., p. 68.
28. Ibid., p. 83.
29. Ibid., pp. 84-85.
30. Ibid., pp. 51-52.
For a discussion of secession and decentralisation, see Ralph Premdas and Jeffrey
Steeves, Decentralisation and Political Change in Melanesia: Papua New Guinea, the
Solomon Islands and Vanuatu (Suva: South Pacific Forum, 1984).
31. B. Barry, "The Consociational Model and its Dangers", European Journal of Political
Research, 3 (4), December, 1970.
(Reviews of these books are invited. Interested persons should write to the
editor quoting the titles) of the books) concerned, prior to reviewing them.)
Caribbean Poetry Now, S.Brown, July 1992, Edward Arnold, Hodder & Stoughton
Economic Development and Social Change :United States Latin American Rela-
tions in the 1990s, A.Jorge(ed) US$15.95(P) 142pp. Jan. 1993
Philanthropy in the Americas:New Directions and Partnerships, Bruce Henderson
(Ed.) US$18.45 (P) Jan.1993,Transaction Publishers, Rutgers-The State Univer-
sity of New Jersey
On the Margins of the Art of Exile in V.S.Naipaul,Timothy Weiss, 256pp,US$29.95
(soft), Jan. 1993, University of Massachusetts Press.
Political Constraints on Brazil's Economic Development (ed. S.Marks)Rio de
Janerio Conference Proceedings and Papers North- South Center, University of
Miami, Transaction Publishers, New Brunswick, USA,1993, pp179
Images of Me: Poetry by Ingrid Zagers, House of Neheshi, St. Maarten,pp.107,
Caribbean Economic Policy and South -South Cooperation, ed. R. Ramsaran,
pp.305, Warwich University Caribbean Studies, Macmillan Press 1993
Trends in Linguistics, Documentation Dictionary of St.Lucian Creole, Jones E.Mon-
desir L.D. Carrington (ed), Mouton DeGruyter, Belin, NY,1991,HB, pp.621
Calabash of Gold: Selected Poems, by Howard Fergus pp.110, Linda Lee Books,
London and Plymouth, Montserrat, 1993
Poverty, Natural Resources and Public Policy in Central America: US- Third World
Povert Perpectives No.17, Sheldon Annis and Contributors, North- South Center,
University of Miami, Transaction Publishers, New Brunswick, USA,1993, ppl 99.
Caribbean Economic Development: the First Generation, ed. S.Lalta and M. Freck-
eton, lan Randle Publishers, Jamaica 1993
Amerindians, Africans, Americans: Three Papers in Caribbean History, (French
and English Translations) ed. B.Higman, Dept. of History, UWI
After the Wars: Reconstruction in Afghanistan, Indo China, Cental America, S.
Africa and Horn of Africa. ed. A .Lake, Transaction Publishers, New Brunswick
Central Banking in a Developing Economy: A Study of Trinidad and Tobago,
T.Farrell, pp.150, ISER, 1990
Difficult Liaisons- Trade and the Environment in the Americas, ed. H.Munoz, R.
Rosenberg, Transaction Publishers, New Brunswick 1993
Caribbean Hoops: The Development of West Indian Basketball, Jay and Joan
Mandle, Gordon Breach, Penn. USA, pp120
Deferring A Dream: Literary Sub-versions Of The American Colombiad, Gert
Buelien and E. Rudin, Birkhauser, Basel ICSELL, 1994
From Kingston to Keyna: the Making of a Pan-African Laywer, Dudley Thompson,
The Majority Press, Mass. 1993
Democracy In The Caribbean, Political, Economic And Social Issues, ed. J.Domin-
guez, Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, 1993.
The Killing Time: The Morant Bay Rebellion in Jamaica, Gad Heuman, U. of
Tennessee Press, pp.197, 1994
V.S.Naipaul : Displacement and Autobiography, Judith Levy, Garland Publishing
Inc. NY, 1995
Dred Talk, V.Pollard, Canoe Press, Kingston, Jamaica. pp.84
Security, Democracy and Development in US- Latin American Relations, Schoultz,
William Smith and Augustus Varas, Transaction Publishers, New Brunswick 1995
Our Rightful Share: The Afro-Cuban Struggle for Equality 1886-1912, A. HeIg, The
University of North Carolina Press, 1995.
Integrating the Americas : Shaping Future Trade Policy, Sidney Weintraub (ed.)
North-South Center, Transction Press, New Brunswick (USA), 1994
Tobago in Wartime, 1793-1815, K.O.Laurence, The UWI Press, pp.288, 1995
Drug Traficking in the Americas, Bruce Bagley, and William O.Walker III,
(Eds.)North-South Center, Transction Press, New Brunswick (USA), 1994
NOTES ON CONTRIBUTORS
is Professor, York University, Ontario, Canada
is a Lecturer, Brown University
is a Reader, Department of Zoology, UWI, Mona
is a Librarian, Medical Library, UWI, Mona
is Senior Lecturer, Dept. of Government, UWI, St.Augustine
is a Lecturer, Francis Marion College
is Senior Lecturer, Dept. d'Anglais, Rennes University
INSTRUCTIONS TO AUTHORS
We invite readers to submit manuscripts or recommend subjects which they would like
to see discussed in Caribbean Quarterly. Articles of Caribbean relevance will be grateful-
Manuscripts should be typed on one side only, double-spaced, leaving ample margin for
editorial purposes. Two copies thoroughly revised with no corrections should be sent. As a
general principle, articles should not exceed 7,500 words. Authors are advised to keep an
exact copy of the version submitted. Manuscripts should be presented with only the title
and the author's name and address on a cover page. The title without the author's name
should be repeated on page 1 of the article. With their articles, contributors should also
include information on themselves, of their positions and affiliations at the time of writ-
ing.An Abstract should also accompany the article.
Sub-titles (cross-heads) should be used to divide the text in such a way that they indicate to
the reader the structure of the article. Sub-titles should be typed in initial upper and lower-
Notes should be kept to a minimum, but where they are included contributors are requested
to comply with the system used in Caribbean Quarterly. Notes are to be numbered
consecutively by means of superior figure 1 onwards ( not renumbered on every page).
Notes should appear at the end of the article instead of on the page on which they occur.
Authors should provide, in a first reference to a given publication, the full name of the
author, the complete main title of the work, place and date of publication and the relevant
page numbers. Subsequent references to the same work can be given in a shortened form.
Tables, Charts, Mathematical Copy
If tables are typed on separate pages their preferred position in the text must be
indicated. Mathematical copy must be clearly set out and correctly alligned. All illustra-
tions (no colours) should be provided in camera-ready form.
Book review headings should appear as follows: authorss, title, publisher, place and date
of publication, also the number of pages and price if possible. Book reviews (except review
articles) should not exceed 2,500 words.
Contributions to Caribbean Quarterly (or publications for review) should be ad-
dressed to the School of Continuing Studies, University of the West Indies, P.O. Box 42,
Mona, Kingston 7, Jamaica, W.I.
All material submitted for publication is read by our panel of editorial advisors, prior to
selection and editorial approval.
FORMERLY BOOKS ABROAD
Founded 1927 as Books Abroad Ivar Ivask, Editor
"If World Literature Today were not in existence, we
would have to invent it. It fulfills the unique role of
bringing information about works little known or
inaccessible in English-speaking Countries."-
"The only publication of its kind, keeping faith with
the all-important lask; the promotion of international
"An extraordinary joumal, one very much needed,
handsomely produced and edited with skill and
discretion. No other journal begins to do what WLT
World Literature Today is the only periodical does routinely."-JoYcE CAROL OATES
which regularly provides systematic and compre- "An almost sensational, unusual occurrence in the
hensive coverage of current literary activity in all the angels at
major and many of the minor languages of the enlire E sh-speaking world."-DAGENs NETE,
world. The "World Literature in Review" Section of STOCKHOLM
each quarterly issue contains some 300 reviews in
English, evaluating the latest in poetry, fiction, dra-
ma, biography, and criticism from more than 50
A Section of Articles and Commentaries bal-
ances the breadth and diversity of the reviews with
analyses of important writers, works, movements,
or trends and with informative surveys of contem-
porary writing in areas as prominent as Paris or as
exotic as Kirghizia.
Special lsuesa locus on individual figures such as
Indo-Anglian novelist Raja Rao and Francophone
Caribbean writer Edouard Glissanl, Contemporary
Japanese Literature, The Literary Diary, The Litera-
ture of the Middle East, and The Nobel Prize 1967-
Individual Subscriptions: $23/year, $40/two years; add $6/year outside U.S.
World Literature Today / 110 Monnet Hall / Univ. of Oklahoma / Norman, OK 73019 USA
Desde Puerto Rico "Homines" public arriculos sobre
el pais y otras parties de America Latina.
Con una vision amplia de las ciencias sociales, esta
revista examine aspects interdisciplinarios de la historic,
economia,folklore, arte, educacidn, political, sociologia, baile,
reatro, sobre la mujer, antropologia, arqueologia y relaciones
internacionales entire otros.
Homines es una revista para investigadores, maestros,
coleccionistas y todas las mujeres y hombres interesados en
la transformation de la sociedad.
Pida una muestra de Homines por solo $8.00 o suscribase
y recibala comodamente por correo dos veces al afio.
TARIFAS DE SUSCRIPCI6N
(2 numero aI al o)
O Puerto Rico ................................................................... $15. 00
O El Caribe, EE.UU. y Cenronerica .......................... $22.00
0 Suramnerica, Europa, otro ........................................... $25.00
0 M uestra 1 ejemplar ................................. $ 8.00
Llene este cupdn y envielo con sa pago, cheque o giro a:
Directors Revirta HOMINES
Decanato de Ciencias Sociales
Apartado de Ciencias Sociales
Hato Rey, Puerto Rico 00919