GREETINGS BY Dr. SURUJRATTAN RAMBACHAN
Namaste! It is with profound pleasure that I embrace this opportunity to extend warmest congratulations to Paramacharya Pt. Hardeo Persad on the celebration of his 50th year as a Pundit and a Spiritual Leader and the recognition accorded to him by the NCIC as Chief Guest at Divali Nagar 2017.
Dedicating 50 years of one’s life to the service of one’s community is an expression of a deeper level of commitment to Human Development and by extension the shaping of individual and community values which ultimately prospers a Nation.
The serving of one’s Community is one of the noblest acts of sacrifice which gives meaning to the word yagna which when translated means: “sacrificing one’s best skills, resources and talents for the benefit of the Community”. Pundit Ji’s life has been a Yagna. I first met him while we were both students at University of the West Indies in 1969. It was a challenging time for Hindus at the University and in the Country. Hindus did not enjoy the respect as would have been expected in a Nation in which they made up close to 25% of the population and were seen in a generally derogatory manner and as an appendage to the society.
Although Divali was a National Holiday, the University rejected attempts by Hindus to celebrate it on the Campus. It was in such an environment that I became the first President of SPIC (Society for the Promotion of Indian Culture) and Pundit Ji became known as UWI Pundit. He was an integral part in the fight for Hindu dignity at the highest seat of learning. I recall very vividly inviting him to be part of a Radio Programme in 1970 which was a great experience for both of us and I believe was the first radio experience.
The birth of SWAHA was a defining moment for Hindus as it was part of the general Hindu drive for consolidating the position of Hindus and gaining National Recognition. It was also a time when the drive to convert Hindus was rampant and when attempts were made to make Hindus believe that their religious practices and values were lesser valued than the Christian traditions. The work of Pundit Ji and SWAHA help to stem the tide of conversion. They influenced young people and Hindu professionals to stand with pride and to know that they did not have to reject their Hindu faith and by extension themselves to grow and succeed in this Country.
Pundit Ji and SWAHA also contributed to the transformation of Hinduism in a Foreign Land through reforms on how Hindus are presented and understood. He continues to touch many lives and I am sure the contribution is far from over. 2017 also marked 50 years for the Saraswatie Kirtan Mandali. My 50 years of experience makes me really appreciate what Pundit Ji would have encountered with success.