For those visiting Chaguanas and the west-central coast of Trinidad,
the Temple in the Sea at Waterloo is an attraction that you’ll do well to include
on the itinerary. Constructed in 1947 by a zealous Indian laborer named Seedas
Sadhu, the original Waterloo Temple met a quick demise at the hands of the government.
Sadhu would not be deterred from realizing his ultimate goal of erecting a sacred
Hindu temple on the coast, however, and he again took to the task. Some called
Sadhu mad at the time, but it’s not likely that those people realized how prolific
his temple would become. It’s amazing what you can do when you put your mind
to it, and the Waterloo Temple in Trinidad is a fine example of human persistence.
To this day, some of the best sugarcane fields in Trinidad and Tobago
are found near Chaguanas
and the sleepy village of Waterloo. East Indian indentured laborers were among
the foreign workers that were brought into Trinidad and Tobago to work the sugarcane
and cocoa plantations more than 150 years ago. It was in the mid-1800s that
the East Indian laborers began to arrive in Trinidad, and their cultural presence
on the island tells a lot about the entire country’s history.
About 100 years after the arrival of the first Indians, a laborer named Seedas
Sadhu was very much carrying on the work of those who came before him. When
not working the sugarcane fields or on surrounding farmlands near Waterloo,
Sadhu was erecting the Waterloo Temple. Unfortunately, when Sadhu finished the
original temple in 1947, it quickly became a bone of contention with the state
operated Caroni sugar company. Because the first Temple in the Sea at Waterloo
was built on Caroni lands, it was razed just five years after being erected.
Sadhu was even jailed for fourteen days over the entire matter, just to add
insult to injury, but the experience would only serve to fuel his inner fire.
Proud, and more determined than ever, Seedas Sadhu quickly began work on a new Temple in the Sea at Waterloo, dedicating the next 25 years of his life to the endeavor. This time, he would build it in the sea, for all intents and purposes, which freed him from having to get permission from the government or anyone else. With just a bicycle and a leather bag, Sadhu transported stones to the shore to build a small island for the base of the new Waterloo Temple. Once the base was finished, cement was used for the main structure. The octagonal, one-story temple was partly damaged due to erosion from the sea, and it seemed that perhaps the sacred shrine would remain incomplete. In 1994, however, the Trinidad and Tobago government wanted to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the coming of Indians to the country, and part of the plan involved finishing Sadhu’s temple. Government workers were enlisted, and they even added a pier to make sure that the Waterloo Temple could easily be accessed during high tide. At low tide, the Temple of the Seat in Waterloo is surrounded by mud flats. To this day, Hindus in the area use the Waterloo Temple for various religious ceremonies, including weddings, burials (cremations), and puja ceremonies, which involve gifting things to the gods.
For those renting a car, the Waterloo Temple in Trinidad can easily be reached from all the main outposts along the west coast. While it is closest to Chaguanas, in terms of major Trinidad towns, it can also fit into the agenda for those basing themselves in San Fernando to the south and Port of Spain to the north. You can use other forms of transportation to get to Waterloo if you don’t have a car. From Chaguanas, a taxi is the most popular way to go, and if you need to get to Chaguanas first, you can find a bus to get you there from most area towns. You can enter the Waterloo Temple in Trinidad to get a better look at the marble and stone gods, which are painted brightly. Just remember to remove your footwear before you enter, as all visitors to the temple are required to go shoeless.