Like Mahatma Gandhi, his life was his message. And thousands paid tribute to his life and work to help the poor, the displaced, the sick, and the vulnerable.
Basdeo Panday was the first person of the Indian diaspora in Trinidad and Tobago, and perhaps the Caribbean community to have been accorded a state funeral and the first Hindu at it, for his life and accorded always respected and practicedHinduism as his religious beliefs.
When in November 1995, the newly-formed National Alliance for Reconstruction (NAR) swept into power, he had the nation waiting at President’s House for there were no other religious books for him to swear Oath of Allegiance as Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade as the Office of the President scampered in Port-of-Spain for a copy of Bhagvad Gita, and only then when the copy was procured he swore the Oath of Allegiance.
Panday’s daughter Mikela in her announcement from Jacksonville, Miami, she said. “In life and death he was a fighter. He passed with his boots on. Keeping everybody on their toes with his wit and humour” He was a devout Hindu at it, and in his countless speeches he quoted extensively from the Bhagvad Gita. He died on New Year’s Day. January 1, 2024 and at his funeral on Tuesday January 10, his funeral was steeped in the Hindu traditions, and as he had no son, his four daughters. Mikela, Niala, Vistala and Nicola performed all various rituals, and they all led by Mikela.
Panday was the fifth Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, 1995-2001, and the first person of East Indian stock to reach the level of governance. Approximately 145,000 East Indians were brought here, to enhance agricultural development and indeed other parts of the world, namely Guyana, Suriname, Fiji, Mauritius and Africa. Panday was an actor who acted the film on Gandhi, “Nine Hours to Rama”, among several others.
President Christine Kangaloo in her address at the funeral services at Southern Auditorium for the Performing Arts(SAPA) in the southern city of San Fernando: “We lost a man who lived his life to the full and who, in the course of doing so, set the national landscape on fire”.
Prime Minister Keith Rowley said that he made his mark indelibly on the nation. Former Minister of Finance and later Minister of Foreign Affairs, Winston Dookeran declared he was a person to grasp the moment, and he grasped the moment in all different ways. “I think what was said todaywas true, he remained who he was, from the beginning to the end.” Panday had fought many battles and had encouraged him to get in politics. Panday was honoured with this country’s highest honour, the was the,” Honour of Trinidad and Tobago”.
Secretary of Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha, (SDMA)thiscountry’s premier Hindu organisation, has announced that the Shiva Boys Hindu College will now be named the BasdeoPanday Shiva Boys College. “The renaming is not just symbolic, it is an affirmation of the cultural identity, a celebration of our shared heritage and recognition of a contribution of those who have shaped the destiny of our nation. “
And in a statement on how Hindu funerals are executed, President of the Lord Ganesh Ustav, Pundit Sunil SeetahalMaharaj said Hindus believe in the rebirth and reincarnation of souls, therefore. Not too much emphasis is place on the body during the last rites, and while Hindus mourn the passing of their loved one, they also celebrate the onward journey of the soul to the next incarnation, which they see as a step closer Nirvana (Heaven).
“Whatever rituals are performed are done in such a way that the body is laid to rest, but all emphasis in Hinduism is placed on the soul. In a Hindu funeral ceremony, according to our beliefs, the body is invested with the five senses and five elements so at the beginning of the funeral, we indirectly pray to God, asking God that the five elements, trapped in the body be returned from the source from which they came”, Pundit Maharaj noted.
Pundit Seetahal Maharaj said that rituals performed in honour of the dead and worship are done to Lord Krishna, and water sprinkle about the body symbolises a bath, and the chandan(sandalwood) placed on the forehead on the forehead, ears, throat and wrists is symbolic of the five senses. Fragrance is sprayed on the body to prepare it to be offered back to Lord Krishna, while the waving of arti (waving of a ceremonial light )serves as a mark of respect.
In Trinidad and Tobago, cremation has become prominent for Hindus get rid of the dead ones, and there are four cremation venues- Shore of Peace, Waterloo, Cunupia and Mayaro. Panday was cremated at the Shore of Peace, where thousands assembled to pay their last respects.