The Lion House in Chaguanas, the ancestral home of the Capildeo family (maternal relatives of writer V. S. Naipaul), is another nominee for the National Trust Heritage Preservation Awards on December 28, 2009 at the ballroom of the Hyatt Regency. It is nominated in the category of Best Kept Historic Building (large). The National Trust of Trinidad and Tobago described it thus on its press release:
Built between 1924 and 1926 the Lion House stands on the Main Road in Chaguanas. It is the only building of its kind in the Western Hemisphere. Conceived, designed and constructed by the late Pundit Capildeo, it is the standing symbol and memorial to the indentured Indian immigrants who came to Trinidad from 1845. It is the story of one indentured immigrant’s success and bequest to the nation.
Pundit Capildeo was born in 1873 in his family’s village in the state of Uttar Pradesh, East Central India. His relatives can still be found in the village, as they have for the past seventeen generations. In 1894 he left for Trinidad with nearly six hundred other immigrants from Calcutta.
Pundit Capildeo broke out of the bonds of indentureship and became a highly respected and successful Pundit, ministering to Trinidad’s Hindu community. Over the years he also became a successful landowner, businessman and cane farmer.
In 1924 he began the construction of the Lion House which he completed in 1926 and named it Anand Bhavan or the Mansion of Bliss. That same year, he left on one of his many trips to India. Pundit Capildeo never returned to Trinidad, dying during the course of his visit. Surendranath Capildeo, Attorney at Law, completed the restoration of the Lion House at his own expense, so that it continues to stand today.
The Lion House was the meeting place for travelers from all over Trinidad who were passing through Chaguanas and was also an early community centre for the residents of Chaguanas and surrounding areas.
Photo: the National Trust of Trinidad and Tobago and the Heritage Foundation.
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