April 21-27, 2014

Ancient Culture Clashes with Modern Laws in Jamaica Bay

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    NEWSLETTERS

    As the population of Hindu immigrants has grown in Brooklyn and Queens, so have the offerings they place in Jamaica Bay, duplicating the ritual offerings placed in the Ganges River in southeast Asia.

    But here, the good-intentioned religious symbols they place in the water don't wash away. So it has now become tradition for local Hindus to come out on Earth Day and clean up the bay.

    This year, about 120 Hindus showed up.

    “There’s been a lot of complaints that our offerings have been washing up on the beach,” said Hindu Sherry Bachan. “It kind of makes us look bad.”

    Ganges West

    [NY] Ganges West
    Hindu Earth Day

    It’s a delicate balance -- bridging the gap between ancient ritual and tradition with the laws and regulations of a modern and adopted state. 

    “These things are seen as pollutants, but in Hindu cosmology these things are pure thing. We come here and we see Jamaica Bay as so beautiful as part of the Ganges," said Hindu elder Dhan Paul Narine. "This is a duplication of the Ganges but at the same time we have a responsibility to keep Ganges clean, which is Jamaica Bay.”

    This is the fifth Earth Day the Hindu community has come together with Park Rangers to clean up the newfound spiritual waters. The joint effort, according to Ranger Kathy Krause, has been nothing short of amiable.

    But anytime you combine immigrant traditions with a new country, there are obstacles to overcome -- and it isn’t always smooth.      
     
    “Our parents think it's intolerance and we [the younger generation] say 'No it's not.' It’s just adherence. So there is a slight culture clash,” said Rohan Narine.

    What was at first a major problem at the beach has slowly become more manageable. The washed up offerings and trash found on this Earth Day, were comparably few -- things that only took about an hour to clean up.

    You can follow Katy on Twitter @katytur4ny