Thursday December 13, 2018

History

Situated just (7) seven miles off the east coast of Venezuela, Trinidad and Tobago are the two southern-most islands of the West Indian archipelago. The twin island state became an independent republic in 1962 and has a population of approximately 1.3 million inhabitants of which the descendants of East Indians, brought here as indentured labourers during the period 1845 to 1917, now number in excess of 0.5 million.

This group makes up about 42% of the population and is the largest ethnic group in the country. Against tremendous odds, particularly during the indentureship period and the period immediately following, the East Indian descendants managed to retain the culture of the regions in India from whence they came. Cut off from their motherland, the culture retained its original flavour and authenticity, aspects of which can still be witnessed today - more than a hundred and sixty (160) years after they first set foot in Trinidad and Tobago.

In the 1960s, concern for the promotion of Indian culture and the welfare of the Indian artistes began to receive increasing attention. The serious illness of a very prominent artiste with little means of support prompted a gathering of concerned individuals and activists to get together to help the ailing artiste and friend. A meeting was organised by the NCIC founders, Bisram Gopie and Narsaloo Ramaya. They met with others like Moean Mohammed, Farzan Ali, Baldeo Maharaj and other educators and activists. It was decided to form an organisation that would be better able to assist East Indian artistes and promote culture.

The meeting was held on July 19th, 1964 at the Gandhi Tagore College in San Fernando. The name of the organisation was submitted by Shri B. Bhattacharya, an educator from India as, “The National Council for Indian Music and Drama (NCIMD)” and Shri Bisram Gopie was elected its first president. The NCIC has now been in existence for over 45 years and is recognised by the Government of Trinidad and Tobago as a premier East Indian cultural organisation in the country. Many other islands in the Caribbean where Indians have settled but where East Indian culture has virtually disappeared now look upon the NCIC for assistance and guidance in the revival of the culture of their forefathers. The NCIC, with its limited resources, has been able to assist by having cultural exchanges and by providing cultural tutors for short periods of time.

The NCIMD became an initiator of the development of Indian culture and promoted many competitions and cultural activities. Naparima Bowl, Skinner Park, and Himalaya Club became popular venus for activities, amongst them, the annual Indian High Commission Challenge Trophy for Classical Singing and the Prime Minister's Trophy for Orchestration. In 1970, a new president was elected. His name was Hans Hanoomansingh. It was at this time that members felt that there was a need for an all-embracing thrust for the organisation and the name was adjusted to, “The National Council of Indian Culture (NCIC).” A new constitution was drafted and included comprehensive aims and objectives which its members continuously strive to achieve.

Achievements

The NCIC has strived to promote Indian culture in Trinidad and Tobago since its existence and has received many accolades and achievements. Some of these are shared here. The Council has been named on many state-related committees and boards, such as, Queen’s Hall Board, National Carnival Commission, National Planning Committee for Carifesta, Prime Minister’s Race Relations Committee and the Prime Minister’s Committee to determine celebrations for the 150th Anniversary of Indian Arrival. The NCIC has also established working cultural contacts with the islands in which Indian culture is near extinct such as Jamaica, Martinique, Guadeloupe and St. Vincent, Guyana and Suriname.

The most prestigious project of the NCIC is the Divali Nagar which commenced in 1986. As a result of its impact on the cultural landscape of our nation, in 1991 the Government of Trinidad and Tobago granted the NCIC fifteen (15) acres of land specifically for the purpose of developing the Divali Nagar facility and for other community activities. The continued growth of the project further prompted the Government to approve the grant of another fifteen (15) acres of land north of this site. Thirteen (13) NCIC members, past and present, have received national awards at Independence Day for culture and other spheres of interest.Over the years the National Council of Indian Culture has played a pivotal role in many areas of nation-building in Trinidad and Tobago.

Many institutions have awarded and recognised the work of the NCIC and supported its mandate for promoting outstanding and meritorious service to the people of Trinidad and Tobago serving in social, cultural and religious capacities. The organisation has established and maintained a high standard of volunteer service which is respected locally, regionally and internationally.

 

The NCIC has been honoured by:

Hilton Trinidad and Conference Centre

Citizens for a Better Trinidad and Tobago

Hindu Seva Sangh and Couva Tabaquite Talparo Regional Corporation

Chaguanas Borough Corporation

WinTV

Caroni Cricket Association

Gayelle

Coeich Corazal, Belize, CA

Hindu Prachaar Kendra

103 FM

Melody Stars Orchestra

Tassa Association of Trinidad and Tobago

Ayodhya Research Institute, Department of Culture or U.P., India

Perhaps our most prestigious award to date is the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman (Overseas Indian Award) constituted by the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs, Government of India in conjunction with the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (Non-resident Indian Day). This is an honour for exceptional and meritorious contribution in a chosen field or profession, handed out by the President of India.

While the NCIC itself has been awarded the Hummingbird Medal (Gold) in 1973 for its contribution to Indian Music and Drama in Trinidad and Tobago, fourteen (14) of its members (both past and present) have also received National Awards at Independence for their contribution to culture and national life.

They include:

Mr. Bisram Gopie (Community Service)

The Public Service Medal of Merit (Silver) 1971

 

Justice Ralph Narine (Law)

Chaconia Medal (Gold) 1988

 

Mr. Ravindranath Maharaj (Ravi Ji) (Community Work)

Hummingbird Medal (Silver) 1988

 

Dr. Hans Hanoomansingh (Culture)

Hummingbird Medal (Gold) 1990

 

Dr. Vijay Naraynsingh (Medicine/Surgery)

Chaconia Medal (Gold) 1991

 

Dr. Deokinanan Sharma (Culture)

Hummingbird Medal (Gold) 1995

 

Ms. Rosemarie Dipnarine (Social Worker)

Hummingbird Medal (Silver) 2000

 

Mr. Surujdeo Mangaroo (Businessman, Culture)

Hummingbird Medal (Gold) 2012

 

The NCIC has made a highly-respected contribution to the religious and cultural landscape of the country. It has helped to create remarkable cognizance and appreciation for Indian Culture and Hinduism, establishing itself as a household name with pioneers and activists dedicated to preserving and propagating East Indian culture and influence both locally and abroad.

 

 

Above: Some of the awards the Council has received over the years.

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