Hindus from Guyana make religious offerings at Jamaica Bay in Queens

Guyanese Hindus use Jamaica Bay to follow their religion and cause disapproval of some community members.

About the video:

Richard Prasad knelt bare-footed in the gray sand on the beach of Jamaica Bay. It was a Sunday morning. Prasad, 46, and his friend had been trying to light two candles that were sitting in two small clay bowls. His friend managed to light a match. Both held their hands over the bowls, until finally, the flame lit up.

Prasad is a part of the Guyanese-Hindu community of Queens, which uses the bay as place for worship. The water of the bay is seen as a form of god, to which the people offer food, flowers and sometimes cloths. The offerings shall be washed away to the Atlantic Ocean, that is connected to the Indian river Ganges through the Pacific and Indian Ocean. But because of the tide in New York harbor, the offerings end up on the shore again. In the past few years, the National Park Service and some environmental watchdog groups have raised concerns about the protection of Jamaica Bay’s environment.

“The problem is that many of the things that Hindus leave are not bio-degradable,” said Dan Riepe, who calls himself the Jamaica Bay Guardian. Riepe is part of the Jamaica Bay Research and Management Information Network, an environmental watchdog group that patrols the Bay regularly.

Prasad said he comes to the bay often and collects the paper plates from the water every time he offers something.

Behind the Scenes:

After I went to the beach and met some Hindus there, I followed one family to a temple in Queens. Me and my film partner witnessed a Hindu ceremony with music, prayers, rituals and more music. The ceremony was set to last several hours, so we took a break after two, when the priest approached us and asked us to participate in a blessing. Each of us was given a cup of milk, which we had to pour over a stone to offer it to the god. Then we had to take a candle and circle it three times in front of a Hindu goddess statue. The priest told us that this is one of the highest blessings one can receive in Hinduism.


Jamaica Bay Research and Management Network nbii-nin.ciesin.columbia.edu/jamaicabay/

National Park Service

Guyanese Press on Hindus in Jamaica Bay


Richard Prasad: I migrated to the U.S. over 25 years ago and I still practice Hinduism, although I was brought up Christian. My foreparents came from India and they settled in Trinidad in Caribbean. We pray to the gods and ask for guidance and protection. And then we come to the beach with our fruits prepared.

Prasad: You know let me break the camphor.

Richard Prasad: Mother Ganga is god in woman form. And we offer to her and plead and ask for our forgiveness.

Man: Before there used to be a lot of crabs over here and since they have been doing it on such a regular basis, I don’t know if that could contribute to it, but there are not a lot of crabs over here in the summer time anymore. are polluting the water a lot. They gotta do what they gotta do, but I don’t think it’s appropriate.

Prasad: Back in the Caribbean, Trinidad or Guyana we are used to just go into the ocean or the river, worship and just leave everything there. You know just banked up on the side but here in the United States it’s totally different. And we understand that.

(hindu family preparing ritual)

Melissa: It’s like .. every year once a year we do it. .. ehm.. Mama, what is this about?

Mother: It’s our religion.

Melissa: Yeah.

Mother: We make offering to...

Kevin (Melissa’s brother): to the ocean.

Mother: to the mother of ocean.

Edward Singer: A lot of them leave the cloth, I pick them out of the water if I am here and I put them in the garbage.

Prasad: If they could be more lenient with the fellow Hindus , we don’t have much space to go to worship in New York. They are not used to our way of worshipping.

Prasad: We need this place to come to and worship because this is our culture this is our form of religious experience. So we have to do this. If they could be more lenient with the fellow Hindus , we don’t have much space to go to worship in New York.

Melissa: Relief. Like no one is around. Just water.

Prasad: We need this place to come to and worship because this is our culture this is our form of religious experience. We need to come to the ocean, We need to come to the beach.

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