The ceremony I’m about to describe is commonly referred to as the Jhandi in this area, also referred to as 7 Curry. The same (or similar) ceremony can be done under several different names and Jhandi can sometimes be used to refer to a different ceremony. This post is simply about the ceremony I observed and for ease of conversation, I will be referring to it as Jhandi throughout the rest of this post.
Jhandi is a Hindu celebration practiced primarily in Caribbean countries such as Guyana (and Trinadad). The Jhandi is a time of thanksgiving for family and sometimes friends, bringing them together in unity. They recognize multiple of their gods in thanksgiving, today seemed with a focus on Hanuman, Shiva, Ganesh, and Lakshmi. They happen several times per year and are traditional when moving into a house (or completing building one) or celebrating something similar. People sponsor the celebration in their local Mandir, but most frequently it is performed in their homes. I was fortunate enough to be able to observe one of these celebrations this morning. But this is not when the preparation began.
For the last several days the wife/mom who will be hosting the Jhandi prepare’s dozens of foods, unpacks and readies the ceremonial dishes, clears the house of any animal products, etc. The hosting husband/dad of the house prepares by making the space available, as seen below you need a large open space where you can sit on the floor.
This morning the Pandit (Hindu priest/preacher/ rabbi equivalent) and his wife arrived to conduct the ceremony.The ceremony can last anywhere from an hour to days. It is filled with prayer, scripture in what sounded like songs (sometimes accompanied by a gong or conch she’ll trumpet), and offerings. Watching the family experience these elements together was really touching. It was obvious this brought them together and made me feel closer to them. Especially with the host mom, after watching her labor in preparations for days there was something satisfying in seeing her replenished by the ceremony. Several flags are blessed and then placed in front of the home. The ceremony ends with food – 7 curries – all vegetarian and delicious on top of rice served in a lily pad: balange (eggplant), pumpkin, bagee (spinach), catahar, potato/channa (chickpeas), edoe, and dahl. Fruit is also served along with various sweet dishes including Roat (which is basically sweet deep fried roti with cherries and raisins inside). The fires and incense lit during the ceremony can be left burning all day as a purification process.
The women in the host family cover their heads with a hernie (scarf) during the ceremony, but guests have the option to cover or leave their head uncovered.
Down to the smallest detail, there is symbolic significance. There was a lot of use of fire and bathing (sprinkling water, washing hands in lime water, drinking milk and honey from your hand) various things in what I understand to be representing purification.
Most of the ceremony was in Hindi, but the majority of what he said in English were universal things that could have been easily said by clergy of any religion