Title of Paper:

The Public Speaking Skills of Pundits in Trinidad

Presenter:

Dr. Kumar Mahabir

Anthropologist & Assistant Professor

University of Trinidad and Tobago (UTT)

 

Conference on

Strengthening the Hindu Family

 

Radisson Hotel Trinidad, Port of Spain, Trinidad & Tobago

October 2 - 4, 2015

Conference Organiser:

10th Hindu Mandir Executives

The Public Speaking Skills of Pundits in Trinidad

Structure and sequence of presentation

  • Introduction – The arrival of Hindus from India to Trinidad
  • The growth of Hindus worldwide – except in the Caribbean
  • The decline in the number of Hindus in Trinidad
  • The disappearance of Hindus in the smaller Caribbean
  • Theoretical framework
  • Methodology
  • The role/duties of pundits
  • The significance of public speaking
  • Profile of the pundits
  • The public speaking skills of pundits

- Content

- Presentation

  • The seven principles of public speaking
  • Suggestions for greater success
  • Conclusion – Adaptation of Hinduism in Trinidad

The Public Speaking Skills of Pundits in Trinidad

Introduction – The arrival of Hindus

from India to Trinidad

  • Between 1838 and 1917, over half a million Indians were transported as indentured labourers to the British, French and Dutch colonies of the Caribbean region.

  • The majority of the migrants came from regions in North India such as Bihar (14%), Uttar Pradesh (80%), and East Bengal (now Bangladesh), Central India, South India and Punjab (6%).

The Public Speaking Skills of Pundits in Trinidad

The growth of Hindus worldwide – except in the Caribbean

  • The number of Hindus around the world is projected to rise from slightly more than 1 billion in 2010 to nearly 1.4 billion in 2050.
  • However, slight decreases are forecasted for sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America and the Caribbean.

The Public Speaking Skills of Pundits in Trinidad

The decline in the number of Hindus

  • When Indians arrived as indentured immigrants in 1845, 85% of them were Hindus, 14% were Muslims, and 1% was Christian. Today, 40% of the Indians are Hindus.

  • In Trinidad and Tobago, Hindus now number 18% (240,000) of the total population of 1.3 million persons, a decline by 4% from their 22% ranking in 2000.



The disappearance of Hindus in the smaller Caribbean

  • 4354 Indians (majority Hindus) went to St. Lucia, 3200 to Grenada, 3000 to Belize, and 2472 to St. Vincent. All have been converted.

  • 337 Indians went to St. Kitts, 315 to Nevis, and 321 to the Danish colony of St. Croix. Not a single Hindu can be found today


The Public Speaking Skills of Pundits in Trinidad

Theoretical framework

  • The Sadharan-ikaran Model of

communication.

  • As part of Indian poetics,

sadharan-ikaran is a Hindu theory

of communication.

  • When translated from Sanskrit into

English, it means “generalized

presentation.”

  • Sadharan-ikaran proposes that the

speaker and the listener should

attain oneness, harmony and mutual

understanding.

The Public Speaking Skills of Pundits in Trinidad

Methodology

  • The data – oral presentations – were sourced from two forms of media:

(1) Television, and

(2) YouTube

  • I tried to choose a cross-section of pundits representing various organisations and age groups.

  • The pundits chosen were local, male and Indian.

  • For analysis, I recorded the 1st two minutes of their discourse.

The Public Speaking Skills of Pundits in Trinidad

The role/duties of pundits

  • Their duties include a wide-ranging portfolio.

  • Basically, pundits perform pooja which includes rituals done at homes, temples, celebrations (e.g. Divali, Shiva Raatri) and at ceremonies (e.g. weddings, cremations).

  • They recite verses from memory from the scriptures in Hindi and Sanskrit.

  • They are scholars and teachers in Hindu theology and philosophy.

  • They are skilled as musicians and singers. They chant mantras and strotas.

  • They provide counselling to people with problems.

The Public Speaking Skills of Pundits in Trinidad

The Significance of Public Speaking

Basic reasons:

  • To inform and educate

  • To inspire and persuade

  • To entertain

The Public Speaking Skills of Pundits in Trinidad

Profile of Pundit Sunil Seetahal Maharaj

  • At 33, Sunil Seetahal-Maharaj has 12 year’s experience as a pundit.

  • He is one of the youngest Maha Sabha pundits

Seetahal-Maharaj studied Hindu theology in India.

  • He hosts a show on Radio & TV Jaagrati.

  • He is a manager at NP (National Petroleum).

The Public Speaking Skills of Pundits in Trinidad

Video 1 - Pundit Sunil Seetahal Maharaj

The Public Speaking Skills of pundits in Trinidad

Profile of Pundit Hardeo Persad

  • Pundit Hardeo Persad has been a practicing pundit for about 50 years.

  • He is the Param Acharya [Spiritual Head] of SWAHA.

  • Pundit Hardeo supervises all SWAHA educational and religious institutions as well as the Vishok Bhavan Children’s Home.

  • He hosts a TV programme on CNC

The Public Speaking Skills of Pundits in Trinidad

Video 2 - Pundit Hardeo Persad

The Public Speaking Skills of Pundits in Trinidad

Profile of Pundit Abhedanand Persad

  • He is the seventh-generation of a line of pundits going back to Madya Pradesh in India.

  • He studied Vedanta Philosophy at the Chinmaya Mission in Mumbai.

  • Pundit Abhedanand studied music and Hindi at Banaras Hindu University.

  • He hosts a radio programme entitled “Surya Namaskar.”

The Public Speaking Skills of Pundits in Trinidad

Video 3 - Pundit Abhedanand Persad Sharma

The Public Speaking Skills of Pundits in Trinidad

Analysis – Content (What)

  • C

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  • I

Analysis – Presentation Technique (How)

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The Public Speaking Skills of Pundits in Trinidad

Suggestions for greater success

  • Use multi-media (PowerPoint, screens, etc.).
  • Heal (jharay) more dramatically.
  • Address problems of devotees – physical, financial, domestic, social, spiritual, etc.
  • Encourage testimonies.
  • Address contemporary issues e.g. crime, kidnapping, job-related problems, alcoholism, suicides, conversion, ethnic cleaning, etc.
  • Make your scriptural stories relevant to here and now.
  • Do NOT monopolise the microphone, scriptures, tracts, etc.
  • Sing less and explain the songs in English
  • Explain scientifically the meaning of rituals, ceremonies, beliefs, etc.
  • Broadcast free on social media (YouTube,etc.)
  • Accept more women as pundits
  • Accept more non-Brahmins as pundits.
  • Campaign for a degree to be offered in Hindu Theology at UWI in the same way as Christian Theology is being offered for decades with our (Hindu) tax-payers money

  • I

The Public Speaking Skills of Pundits in Trinidad

Seven principles developed by public

speaking coaches

  • Think of your speech as a conversation

`between you and one or two people

  • If you make a mistake, don’t stop or

apologize. Keep on going.

  • Before you deliver your discourse, visualize yourself doing it to prevent anxiety

  • Practice to become perfect

  • Personalize your communication with your personal experiences, stories, etc.

  • Think about helping your audience, not

about helping yourself

  • Don’t talk too long. People’s attention span

has dropped from 12 to 5 minutes.

The Public Speaking Skills of Pundits in Trinidad

Conclusion - Adaptation of Hinduism

  • All living creatures have to adapt to survive in a

changing environment. Some adaptations of

Hinduism in Trinidad include:

  • The use of PVC pipes instead of bamboo poles to install jhandees

  • The installation of jhandees in clay pots instead of planting them in the earth

  • The use of chairs and benches to sit in the mandir instead of sitting on the floor

  • The scheduling of Sunday Morning Services in mandirs

  • The use of synthetic plastic leaves to eat instead of natural sohari leaves

  • The use of plastic bags to serve prasad instead of brown paper

  • Etc. Etc. Etic

The End

Thank you
for being here.

Dr. Kumar Mahabir
Contact: 756-4961
E-mail: dmahabir@gmail.com

The Public Speaking Skills of pundits in Trinidad

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Presentation

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The Public Speaking Skills of pundits in Trinidad

Content

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The Public Speaking Skills of pundits in Trinidad

Suggestions for greater success

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The Public Speaking Skills of pundits in Trinidad

The importance of public speaking

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Conclusion - Adaptation of Hinduism

in Trinidad

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