History shapes empires and revolutions but Vijay Maharaj has reduced it to comic relief. It is unfortunate that a leader cannot develop a personality of his own. Like his father Sat Maharaj, Vijay Maharaj continues in the bravado era of Bhadase Sagan Maraj when such swashbuckling sound off had currency and an audience.
V.S. Naipaul has lamented the absence of history in India. While that may be so from a western academic standpoint, the Hindus have recorded their history in the puranas, the epics, itihasas and the Vedas. History is also recorded in songs, music, dances, stories, rituals, paintings, architecture, customs and even cuisines and fashion. Do you know that the marriage vows our Hindu dulaha and dulahin take today are the said vows that Ram and Sita took?
Coming out of foreign domination for more than 1,000 years, one would have hoped that Indians would have been at least truthful in telling their history. Regrettably, many of our historians have chosen to bend facts to suit political expediency. This is very well played out in the documenting of the history of India where the Islamic reign is painted as glorious and progressive to build a Muslim vote bank whereas the Chola, Vijayanagar, Maratha and Sikh empires are downplayed.
According to the Gospel of the PNM Dr. Eric Williams is the Father of the Nation. The contributions of others are yet to be acknowledged by the State. One is tempted to ask why is the Public Library in Port of Spain not being named after Nobel Laureate V.S. Naipaul? After serving in political life for more than 40 years, there is yet to be a public institution named after Basdeo Panday, a former Prime Minister.
Strangely, the PNM is not in this alone. This attitude was amply demonstrated in the handing over ceremony of the newly built Arima Hindu School by the Minister of Education last Thursday 17th November 2022. To explain the association of the name Doon Pandit with the Arima Hindu School Vijay Maharaj said that in the 1920s a man by the name of Tota who had three sons built a school with board in Arima and he wanted the help of a pandit, and so they got Doon Pandit from Las Lomas to come to Arima. And that was Vijay Maharaj’s explanation for the association of Doon Pandit with the Arima Hindu School, the first Maha Sabha Hindu school built in 1952.
Doon Pandit was a popular faith healer. He was famous across the land, and it was public knowledge that he healed Lady Shaw, the wife of Governor John Shaw. Born in Las Lomas in 1900, Doon Pandit migrated to Arima after purchasing the De Verteuil Estate. He relocated his family to Arima because he wanted to have access to schools for his children’s education which Las Lomas did not offer.
In 1940 Doon Pandit founded the Pandit Parishad and for ten consecutive years was returned as President. Wanting to open schools to educate children Doon Pandit started classes at Las Lomas and paid a teacher to conduct classes. At Arima he started the Gandhi Ashram in 1946 and ran a breakfast shed that provided free lunches to children. Pandit Teeluckdharry, a disciple of Doon Pandit, also ran a school at Five Rivers, Arouca.
Seeing the Muslims, Kabir Panth and Arya Samaj granted permission to operate schools, the Pandit Parishad approached the Director of Education and was turned down on the ground of two rival Sanatanist bodies- the Sanatan Dharma Board of Control and the Sanatan Dharma Association. The challenge for the Parishad was to unite the two bodies.
In 1949 Doon Pandit was awarded the MBE for his work among the lepers at Chacachacare and that gave him clout in the community. He took the initiative to invite the two Sanatanist bodies at the Arima Temple. The leaders agreed to dissolve the respective bodies and Bhadase was the most eligible candidate for the post of President General of the newly formed Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha. He was not only an elected representative of the Legislature but also President of the sugar workers union and a wealthy businessman well-known for his generosity to the Hindu community.
The first six schools that the Maha Sabha opened in 1952 were those pioneered by the members of the Parishad long before the formation of the Maha Sabha – Doon Pandit at Arima, Goberdhan Pandit at Siparia, Pandit Jankie Persad Sharma at Debe, Pandit Teeluckdharry at Tacarigua, Siew Sookhan at El Dorado, and Chanka Maharaj at San Juan. It is not by accident that four of these schools are named after these early pioneers of the Pandit Parishad!
History cannot be wished away or swept under the carpet. It will always be there for us to use it to our advantage or ignore it to our disadvantage.