HOSEIN CELEBRATIONS IN ARIMA
Francis Morean@ 6th December 2018
(This is the twelfth in a series of articles being published here by Francis Morean with the focus upon the history of Arima.)
During the last celebration of Hosein in Trinidad, I provided historical examples to demonstrate that the observance of this festival was once much more widespread in Trinidad up to the 1950s. Based upon oral sources I have learnt that it also took place at Roxborough and Argyle in Tobago.
I did not mention Arima because at the time I could not find all my notes about the celebration taking place here. I still have not succeeded however I have decided to share this short piece today about Hosein celebrations in Arima. By the time Hosein comes around next year I may do a more detailed piece.
Hosein celebrations in Arima began late in the 19th century. The earliest newspaper record I can find at the moment is from 1906 where one newspaper reported that “The Indian Fete known as the Hose or Hosein took place on the 6th instant.
Not surprisingly “Guanapo St was the place of general meeting.” Around 1849 to 1850, the then Governor, Lord Harris, had instituted a number of changes in Trinidad as a whole and in Arima in particular. The Government had cleared and laid out the area called Guanapo Street, providing lots for new settlers. This area became known as “Over The Bridge” and afforded housing for many of the poorer citizens of Arima and environs. By the late 19th century an enclave of East Indians settled in that part of Arima and that is still reflected in the names of some of the streets such as Calcutta Street and Thanno Lane, which branched off from Guanapo Street.
What was surprising to me however the size of the crowd that was reported at that time. The article stated that “The number aggregated for the admiration of the beautiful Chateaux, including other natives, was nearly 3,000. There was a striking scene. At the arrival of each band the one which was considered the leader would advance to the new corners subsequently three bows with the hoses had been made; at this conclusion they were permitted to pass and arrange themselves in order.
The tradition of gatka or gadka was also observed. “The stickplayers deserve great credit for their dexterity. In short they went through their enjoyment most amicably.”
By half past four their expensive “handywork” was “pressed down in the deep of the Arima River and homeward bound they with hearts quite free.
It baffles me that Hosein celebrations have simply disappeared from communities where so many people gathered to observe the rituals. It may well be due to the fact that it was celebrated by certain families or individuals and as those persons aged or passed away, the tradition died in the communities.
According to the late Lawrence Sorxano, the last celebrant of Hosein in Arima was Rojan Khan.
“Rojan Khan lived on Longden Street. Eventually they sold the property and a friend of mine who lived in the States built over on the spot.
This was the pre-war flowing into the post-war period. With his passing that was the end of it. He was solely responsible for it. He has a grandson still alive in Arima. He works with a security firm in Arima. He drives a pick-up for the company.
The tadjah procession would go down to the Arima River by the ice factory. From Maturita going back to the Intake was Torrecilla Estate. Up to 50 to 100 people would be in the procession. You must remember that Arima was mainly Catholic and there were not many people in Arima. They had 1 (one) big moon and 1 (one) small moon and the tadjahs. They were works of art. They also had 1 (one) big tadjah. It was elaborately dressed. They used a lot of coloured paper and different colour celluloid. I never witnessed the construction. They used a lot of gold paper in it. They would have two rods and the tadjah was on the 2 rods in the centre and men would carry it. It is a beautiful thing. All I know is that where they went to discard whatever they had to discard was down by the river.”
This brief peep into Hosein celebrations in Arima took us to the Arima River and the Ice Factory. Among the next few articles in this series, I plan to share a few articles about river bathing in Arima, about the old Ice Factory and about the historical and social significance of the Intake to Arimians.