Hindu leaders and workers can learn much from the life of Doon Pandit. He was a Hindu volunteer that worked tirelessly for Sanatan Dharma. It was his work that laid the foundation for the formation of the Maha Sabha, its Pandit Parishad and its school building program. If there was any star boy in the Hindu community, it would be Doon Pandit and no one else. His finesse, style and human touch placed him in a pedestal above all that came before and after him.
Born 1900 in Las Lomas, Doon was a devout Hindu from a boy. His attitude to service was encouraged and molded by his father Surjan. When the brothers were young, the father invited a Sadhu from Cumuto to bestow on them the sacred thread or janev- a rebirth or search for spiritual knowledge.
After the passing of Surjan, Doon became a chela of Tewarie Baba, a Brahmin and friend of Surjan and a resident of Tacarigua. Tewarie Baba taught Doon everything he was able to learn-pooja bidi, chanting of mantra, puja and rituals, astrology and spiritual healing.
After marrying Basso, Doon settled in Tacarigua and started panditai before returning to Las Lomas to take charge of the family mandir. It was while living with his young family that many sick people, including lepers, began arriving at the mandir seeking his healing touch. Doon Pandit miraculously healed many of them and became a national celebrity after he healed Lady Shaw, the wife of John Shaw, the Governor of Trinidad and Tobago.
By the mid-1930s Doon Pandit migrated to Arima where he purchased a large tract of land. He constructed the Arima Hindu Mandir and continued attending to his healing practices. In 1940 Doon Pandit together with Ranjit Kumar and Bhola Pandit stated the Hindu Mahasabha and launched the Gandhi Ashram which provided education and a free meal to every student. The start of the 2nd World War disrupted the plans of the Hindu Maha Sabha and its many projects had to be shelved.
During the Second World War there were food shortages. Doon Pandit embarked on a campaign to encourage farmers of Bejucal and Las Lomas and other parts of central Trinidad to grow more rice. This was a successful project and the government was pleased.
In 1946 Governor Sir Bede Edmund Clifford granted permission to Doon Pandit to work among the lepers. Doon Pandits, his brother Karoo, cousins and other volunteers journeyed every week to Chacachacare to engage the lepers in satsangh. During the course of time a Hanoman Murti was installed in a designated part of the compound which later developed into a small mandir.
In 1949, the year following the end of the war, Doon Pandit was awarded an MBE (Member of the British Empire.) This accolade was a proud moment not only for Doon Pandit and his family but the entire community. At Grant Memorial School in San Fernando, Doon Pandit was celebrated. At the Arima Mandir he was honoured by his devotees and several prominent people including C. B. Mathura, editor of the Indian Weekly. At the Monarch Cinema, Bhadase Saga Maraj organized a massive show to honour Doon Pandit. With humility Doon Pandit accepted the accolades. Committed to the welfare of the people, Doon Pandit used the MBE to leverage state officials to win benefits for the people. In Las Lomas he made representation for water, a reliable public transport service and postal service.
Recognizing the need for Hindu children to have an education, Doon Pandit started communication with Sidney Hogben, the Director of Education. Six schools were identified for opening. Director Hogben suggested to Doon Pandit that the two Sanatanist organisations-the Sanatan Dharma Board of Control and the Sanatan Dharma Association- be united into a single body for permission to be granted. This led to the formation of the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha and its school building program.
Doon Pandit founded the Pandit Parishad in 1949 that united all pandits from throughout the island. With the cooperation of Pandit Basdeo Missir, Jankie Persad Sharma, Pandit Teeluckdharry and others, Doon Pandit influenced the construction of mandirs throughout the country -Las Lomas, Tacarigua, Arima, Five Rivers, Debe, Siparia, Curepe, Lopinot and Laventille.
No Hindu worker has surpassed the contribution made by Doon Pandit. His pioneering spirit laid the foundation for the Maha Sabha, its school building program and the Pandit Parishad. His magnanimity of heart and social skills played a significant role in winning the hearts of diverse minds to work for the welfare of the people.