For any nation or civilization to prosper, it must be built on foundations of a moral and ethical character, as this character must be built on the principal element of its strength and as well, it is the only guarantee for its permanence and prosperity.
To my mind, this summarizes the life and character of Gurudev Prof. Hari Shanker Adesh, whose works as an international philosopher, thinker, author, poet and scholar, continue to blossom in the hearts and minds of our populace, an who engineered the Bharatiya Vidya Sansthaan (Institute of Indian Knowledge)Trinidad and Tobago in 1966. He died on Sunday evening, December 27, at the age of 84. He was a recipient of the National Humming Bird (Gold) Medal in 2001 for his dedicated service to Trinidad and Tobago.
Since 1966, Prof Adesh has been working tirelessly and selflessly in the promotion of Indian Culture and has offered classes in Hindi, music, religious knowledge, dance and music. There is no doubt that he single-handedly sowed the seeds in structured learning which have engendered Trinidad and Tobago’s first renaissance in Hindu Thought, since the arrival of our forefathers between 1845 and 1917, and which have ignited a new spark and appreciation.
Trinidad and Tobago are fortunate to have had the intervention of Prof. Adesh in the promulgation of Hinduism and its several components, all of which have given our country the worthwhile fabric to build and promote the concept of diversity. Our landscape is fully enriched by his intervention as thousands of nationals from varying socio-economic, cultural and ethnic backgrounds have benefitted immensely from his teachings.
Then Minister of Finance, Winston Dookeran, in an address marking Prof. Adesh’s 75th birthday noted: “Our concept of nationhood requires a synthesis that must be developed from the bosom of the aspirations of all our people in society, and the values of inclusiveness, the values of diversity and the values of pluralism are foundation blocks, which are of quintessential importance for the full flowering of the human mind, especially our young people.”
I would like to refer to the life of and works of Indian Nobel Laureate, Rabindranath Tagore, one of Prof Adesh’s noble countrymen and which continue to spur all mankind in the four corners of the globe as I see great relevance to what both of them have undertaken to spiral mankind on a new pathway in life’s journey.
Tagore, in his life and in his expressions, worked on the premise that education and philosophy are intertwined and that how he was able to work on his own and at the same time, repeat it in the reality before him. He did not run from reality or hide in his poems of philosophy. He applied the value of philosophy to the actual practice of politics as it existed then, and over a century later these are still challenges we grapple with.
These are the same challenges that even India grapples with, but in my view, it is his contribution in setting the philosophical foundation of the freedom that he contributed significantly, that India’s democracy has remained so much alive and so well, in spite of its diverse challenges over the last 70 years. It is a reflection of how to make a society and a nation endure the challenges of the future. What Tagore did in India has spilled over to Trinidad and Tobago, through the mortal hands of Prof.. Adesh. We in Trinidad and Tobago did not fully understand and appreciate his works, and if we did, our society would have been greater prepared for the challenges it faces.
My interpretation of Prof. Adesh’s contribution was more than just literature or religion. He was more concerned about the psychological and spiritual development of the people, and through this process, our nation and its people would have been a triumphant one, away from the frills of discontent, deceit and displeasure.
Prof. Adesh and his wife came from the Kashmir Valley, India and was seconded to the Indian High Commission through the auspices of the Indian Centre for Cultural Relations (ICCR), and following his stint there, he was besieged with requests to remain in Trinidad and Tobago and decided to yield to the requests.
One of Prof. Adesh’s major writings was the release of the 1,500-page book to the Hindu God, Lord Rama. At the launch, he said that with the blessings of his parents, his life had been, “immersed in Lord Rama and the Hindu religious text, the Ramayana. He wrote several publications, all of which have enriched the Hindu Literature stock as they are all respected and encyclopedic reference points.
Prof. Adesh has shown us the way to elevate ourselves and to improve the human condition through Indian Culture and Indian Thought, and through his works here, he has become an international icon.