Did you know that at least 35% of the population of Trinidad have Indian roots? Their cultural influences can be seen all over the country but especially in the south. Indian influences in Trinidad not only run in the food (roti, anyone?) and music (I love the tassa drum) but also in some architecture. One great example is the Waterloo Temple, or as it is more romantically known, the Temple in the Sea.
There once was a man who had a dream. This man was called Sewdass Sadhu. His family had moved to Trinidad as indentured servants in the early 1900s. During his life, Sadhu dreamed of building a Hindu place of worship like the ones he frequented during his trips back to India. He built a temple in 1947 on unused land. Unfortunately for him, while the land was unused, it was still private land and the owners (a large sugar company) demanded its destruction. In addition, he was apparently fined two years’ worth of wages and sentenced to 14 days in jail.
This experience did not stop Sadhu, however. If they didn’t want him to build on the land, he would build in the sea! And that is what he did for 25 years, starting in 1948. The story is that day after day, he and his trusty bicycle would carry stones and other materials needed for the temple’s construction in the sea. Sadhu built an island, and then he built the actual temple. Alone.
Over the years, the temple got damaged by erosion but in 1994/5, the government stepped in. The temple was reconstructed to make it more stable and permanent, just in time for the 150th anniversary of Indian Arrival Day (i.e. commemoration of the arrival of Indians to Trinidad). A causeway was also added to ensure the temple was accessible during higher tides.
Unless there is a special ceremony or event happening, you’re likely to have the temple to yourself. In the parking lot, check out the statue of Sewdass Sadhu before heading for the simple yet pretty temple. You likely won’t be able to go inside but there is enough on the grounds to catch your eye. There are various statues and carvings of gods, colourful prayer flags, and the remnants of offerings scattered around. Just remember to take off your shoes if you go past the temple steps!