Geeta Vahini-a deserving presence in the upcoming Hindu Mandirs’ Conference
In 1990, at the age of 21, Geetaji was trusted to national attention when she sat on the singhasan to deliver discourses on the Ramayan for seven nights. Many orthodox Hindus objected to the elevation of a female to that sanctuary. They viewed such a move as adharmic. Raviji, the then Spiritual Head of the Kendra, stood steadfastly by his decision and ensured that Geetaji performed her role on the Singhasan. Many who defied orthodoxy and went to the Kendra were impressed by the breadth and depth of knowledge of this female Hindu youth.
Initiated Geeta Vahini and Spiritual Head of the HPK in 2009 on returning home after five years of religious and cultural studies in India, Geetaji is a Committee Member of the Conference organisation planning the upcoming Hindu Mandirs’ Conference of Trinidad and Tobago (HMCTT) scheduled for the 7-9th December, 2018 at the Bisram Gopie Bhavan, Divali Nagar, Chaguanas,
A few aims of the HMCTT are to connect and network leaders of Hindu organisations and mandirs; to identify needs of mandirs and fulfil them; to encourage mandirs in national, civic and ecological engagements, etc. The Chair of the Conference is newly appointed Independent Senator Deoroop Teemal. He is also the President of the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh-Trinidad, Vice Chairman of National Council of Indian Culture (NCIC) and Chairman of Divali Nagar, 2018.
A student at Longdenville Presbyterian School and Holy Faith Convent, Couva, Geetaji was recruited by Raviji to participate in a Sangh Shiksha Varg (Youth Development Camp) sponsored by the Hindu Seva Sangh Inc. in 1986. Impressed with the knowledge gained Geetaji went on to train as a Shikshak or Youth Leader.
After her graduation from Holy Faith Convent Geetaji intensified her involvement with the Sangh and the Sunday morning devotion that Raviji initiated at the Longdenville Mandir in 1984. She was later introduced to pottery design and painting. This project revealed a creative talent within her. Her decorated khalsas, deeyas and other pieces were well received in many quarters. In 1991 she was the recipient of the Trinidad Express Youthfest Award when her booth for Speciality Arts came first. “This was quite a moment for me. It helped to build my self-esteem and self-confidence,” said Geeta.
When the Hindu Prachaar Kendra was born its initial project was a two-year (1987-89) missionary course. Students from across the country were enrolled for the project. Also on board were students from Guyana and Suriname. Geetaji participated in the two-year residential program with much enthusiasm and optimism. Under the supervision of Raviji, other tutors included Swami Aksharnanda and Ravi Dev of Guyana and Paraig Sookoo of Trinidad, etc. ‘I benefitted tremendously from this program. Moreover, it increased my commitment to serve Hindu dharma,” said Geetaji
After the two -year missionary program Geetaji worked with the Trinidad Guardian Newspapers. Her social and cultural involvement saw her working as an assistant radio host in a program titled Desh aur Dharam (1995-97).
In 1997 Geetaji resigned her work at The Guardian to become a full-time social worker. In 1999 and 2001 two projects were launched by the HPK: Baal Ramdilla Camp and Pichakaaree respectively. Geetaji assumed the role of chairman of both projects. Recognising her need for formal training in Creative Arts, Geetaji pursued a one-year course in Festival Management at the Creative Arts Centre, St Augustine Campus, The UWI (2001-2002). Equipped with new knowledge and skills Geetaji went on to serve as chair of these two projects until 2004 when she left for India to pursue religious studies.
Between 2004 and 2007 Geetaji pursued courses in Vedanta Studies at the Suddhananda Ashram at Chennai followed by one year of research at the Sankat Mochan Foundation, Tulsi Ghat Varanasi.
Armed with knowledge Geetaji returned and took charge of the Pichakaaree Festival and the Annual Heritage Vacation Course, a forerunner to the annual Baal Ramdilla. Always innovative, the HPK introduced Indian Arrival Day Memory Festival in 2011 with Geetaji as manager of the event and in 2012 she began serving as co-ordinator of the Annual Nav Ratri Utsav.
Born Sumarie Geeta Harrymungal at Amaroosingh Street, Geetaji is married to Krishna Ramsingh who supports her in all her endeavours. No stranger to Hindu work, Krishna is much involved in the many projects of the Kendra.
Geetaji certainly follows in the footsteps of Raviji by taking Hindu Dharma outside the confines of the traditional Hindu community. She was active in teaching Hindu students at primary and secondary schools during the periods on the time-table for religious studies. For several years she served as a teacher in summer camps for Hindu youths in Florida, USA.
Since 2002 Geetaji has been a teacher of a semester course titled Hindu Trinidad for students at several US universities. In 2016 Geetaji became the first ever Ramayan presenter at the National Gas Company’s Bocas Lit Fest. Newsgram, a well-known online paper described her presentation as ‘an Indian event for the first time in the history of the Lit Fest in Trinidad and Tobago.’
Geeta Vahini is a much deserving inclusion in the Planning Committee of the upcoming HMCTT. Her commitment to the Hindu community is demonstrated not only in her studies and accolades but her direct involvement in the training of our Hindu youth through the annual Baal Ramdilla and Heritage Vacation Courses.
In addition to the Youthfest Award Geetaji also received a Youth Award from the Ministry of Youth, Culture and Creative Arts in 1991. Other awards were bestowed on her from the following organisations: GOPIO (2010); Longstanding Service Award from the Pacific Lutheran University, Washington, USA (2014); Idakeda Group Award for 25 years of Community Service (2016) and Haathon Ke Sewa Award in the field of religion, arts and culture (2016).
Interestingly, while she teaches Ramdilla Theory and Performance, she is also the master make-up artist and costume director. Geetaji’s versatility and creativity knows no limit. And we cannot forget that she was the Pichakaaree champion in 1992 and 1995. Such talent, versatility and commitment to dharma deserves a presence in this much needed and relevant HMCTT 2018.