I Was a Worshiper of a Hindu Goddess
As told to “Awake!” correspondent in Guyana
CAN you visualize the scene? The rhythmic beat of the goatskin drums seemingly compelled everyone to leave his Sunday chores. Young and old teemed the village streets. They swayed to the percussive strains, craning their necks to catch a fleeting glimpse of the Hindu goddess Kali. A white cock had been killed, the gushing blood being swallowed by the priest. And now Kali and the cock were being transported to the temple, accompanied by drums and colorfully costumed figures.
After the temple ritual, the crowd moved to a nearby area where the priest performed his incantations while two other youths and I stood motionless in the center. We were awaiting possession by the spirit of Kali. Then suddenly the two other boys started to tremble and wriggle. As the drumming reached a crescendo, they began twisting their bodies in wild abandon. They seemed to be in a trance. I was frightened, and found refuge among the crowd until the procession drifted back to the temple. That day Kali claimed only two mediums. I was to have been the third.
How did I happen to be there? Well, after the abolition of slavery in Guyana in 1838, the sugar plantation owners recruited natives from India to work on the estates for a contracted time. It was under such an arrangement that my parents, born in the State of Madras on the eastern coast of India, came to the then British Guiana during the turbulent 1914-1918 years. I was born in 1925.
Thus from birth I was exposed to the beliefs and practices of the religion as engaged in by the Madras people. The worship of Kali, Hindu goddess of destruction, was popular with the people of my village as they attributed to Kali the power to heal all kinds of illness, including those described as incurable by the doctors. The villagers believed Kali could grant fertility to barren wombs and also possessed the power to exorcise demons from stricken worshipers.
The ceremony I just described was by no means my first experience with such rituals. When I was three years old I became involved in my first Kali ceremony.
It was customary for boys at an early age to have their earlobes perforated and their heads completely shaved. The crop of hair was then dedicated to Kali. Running around the village of Albion on the Courantyne Coast, I evoked no curiosity among fellow East Indians. And even European plantation owners showed a lack of surprise, having by then grown aware of this Hindu custom.
My father gained great fame in the territory as a maker of idols, and up to a few years ago a huge image of Kali stood in the village as a testimonial to his skill. The goddess that may father carved wore a glistening crown. In her right hand was a three-pronged fork, and the left hand clasped a short sword by the hilt. Her legs were crossed in the meditative style of the Hindus.
Of course, from boyhood days I assisted my father in the carving of images, and my facility in the art grew with my age. I became deeply involved in the worship of Kali.
I Find an Answer to My Question
I was constant in the services of Kali because of submission to my parents and the atmosphere in our home and community. However, when I became a young man I would wonder from time to time if this form of worship was right in the sight of the Supreme God. Sometimes I even questioned my father about the matter. He would always attempt to justify his religious actions by stating that his parents had the same religion and he knew no other way of worship except what his foreparents practiced in India.
My father insisted that if I wanted to prosper in life, I would have to remain a worshiper of Kali and uphold this religion. But as I grew older, I went to Kali services basically as a matter of family formality and tradition.
My question remained unanswered: Was this form of worship right in the eyes of the Supreme God? Would I remain a worshiper of Kali all my life? A simple invitation helped me to find the answers.
On a Sunday afternoon in 1946 one of Jehovah’s Christian witnesses encouraged me to attend one of their meetings at their Kingdom Hall. I was curious and decided to go and find out what it was all about. Imagine my surprise upon entering the building to discover that there were no idols around.
The Witness who invited me recognized me and immediately came over and welcomed me. We sat together during the program. I listened attentively as the speaker dealt with the subject of those who would enjoy heavenly life. The information I heard was new to me and I wanted to learn more. For example, during this talk I learned that only 144,000 would go to heaven.
What I learned was different from my beliefs. I believed that the way to heaven was by a series of reincarnations. So after the talk I asked the Witness next to me to explain further what the Bible says about the matter. He arranged to have a study of the Bible with me in my home. This I eagerly welcomed. The things I learned from the Bible were reasonable, and in time my curiosity about the Bible changed to faith in the Bible.
The Witness was persistent in inviting me to meetings, and as I went my knowledge began to increase. I learned that the way to heaven was by God’s personal selection and by means of a resurrection to spirit life on the basis of the ransom sacrifice of Jesus Christ, God’s Son. I was especially thrilled to learn from the Bible that, apart from the 144,000 destined for heavenly life, there would be a “great crowd” of people of all kinds who would enjoy endless life and happiness right here on earth. This strongly appealed to me.—Rev. 7:4, 9; 21:3, 4.
As time passed, I came to understand that the name of the true Almighty God is Jehovah. I learned from the Bible that Almighty God does not approve of image worship. The Bible is clear: “I am Jehovah. That is my name; and to no one else shall I give my own glory, neither my praise to graven images.” “Little children, guard yourselves from idols.” (Isa. 42:8; 1 John 5:21) My question that I had long entertained was answered: It was not right in the eyes of the Supreme God for me to worship the idol goddess Kali.
Sharing Bible Truths with Others
From time to time, I would try to tell my father about the many delightful things I was learning from the Watchtower and Awake! magazines and various Bible study aids published by the Watch Tower Society. But my father would furiously object. Often he threatened me with personal injury. For a time my father’s hatred of my new way of worship abated, and he would read some of the Society’s magazines. I became hopeful that he too would change to pure worship, but my hopes were later dashed to fragments when he became a fortune-teller and delved deeper into occult practices—things condemned by God’s Word the Bible. (Deut. 18:10-12; Gal. 5:19-21) My father would even ask me to engage in some of these activities, but I would refuse and retire to another room or leave the home altogether.
Gradually by means of my home Bible study and by attending meetings and by speaking these truths to others I increased in faith and knowledge of the Bible so that I decided to symbolize my dedication to the only true God by water immersion at a district assembly of Jehovah’s witnesses in Georgetown in 1954.
Meanwhile, I had married and my wife accompanied me to that assembly. She was moved by the talk given by the Watch Tower Society’s president, who was then visiting the country. She was also impressed with the love and unity that prevailed among the Witnesses. Thus upon our return home, she began to investigate the Bible. Soon she was joining me in true worship, helping others to learn about the Bible’s message. I counted it a blessing when, later, she too dedicated her life to the true God Jehovah.
Surely I have many blessings as I help others to learn about the true God. My eldest daughter is enjoying the work of preaching God’s truths from the Bible full time, and I have fine privileges in a congregation here in Guyana. How grateful I am that I found the true worship of Jehovah, and that I ceased being a worshiper of Kali.