We love our Dharma and country equally – Dr. Persaud on Dharmic’s 45th anniversary

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Today marks the 45th anniversary of the Guyana Hindu Dharmic Sabha (GHDS), the country’s largest Hindu organisation, with its current leader saying the organisation is as committed to its principles as it is to Guyana.

“We are and we will continue to be the Dharmic family: the Dharmic family that has spawned leaders, women and men; the Dharmic family which continues to provide a platform for young people; and the Dharmic family that has never stopped walking and serving selflessly those in need,” Dr Vindhya Persaud, President of the Sabha said at celebrations held Sunday in Georgetown.

“We not only love our Dharma, we not only remain faithful to Sanathan vedic Dharma, but equally so, we love Guyana,” she told hundreds who attended the event at the Dharmic Sanskritik Kendra in Prashad, which is named after her father Reepu Daman Persaud, the founder of the organisation.

In photo – founder and then President of the Dharmic Sabha, Pandit Reepu Daman Persaud (Left)and others at the body’s 25th anniversary celebrations (GHDS photo)

“I stand very humbly as a daughter of a man from humble origins, who came from the logies, came from poverty, and this is what he built with you,” she said.

Prior to the formation of the Sabha on Jan 8, 1974, the Guyana Sanathan Dharm Maha Sabha was the main voice for Hindus in Guyana.

Persaud served as assistant General Secretary from 1956-1960 and as General Secretary from 1961 to 1969, having joined the organisation at the age of 20.

In turbulent political turmoil of the 1960s, Persaud fell out with the leadership of the Sabha over his refusal to support any linkage to the then Government.

“Religious practices suffered and essential staples in the Hindu/Indian diet were banned; many Pandits and others in the leadership of the Sabha joined the PNC,” said Savitri Sukhai, the Secretary of the Sabha.

On September 18, 1969, she said an unconstitutional meeting with non-members of the Sabha in the majority, purported to expel Persaud from that organisation.

He did not accept the expulsion and issued a press statement that he was still the General Secretary.

An ex parte injunction was obtained, restraining him from holding the position of General Secretary and it took a year to be determined, but with massive support via resolutions from every branch of the Maha Sabha expressing confidence in him and representation from the late former Attorney General Doonauth Singh, the injunction was ruled in Persaud’s favour.

But Persaud did not return to Maha Sabha.

The outcome, Sukhai said, was the withdrawal of branches, mandirs and Hindus from the Maha Sabha.

From 1969 to 1974, she said there was no accepted, central Hindu organisation coordinating Hindu activities and providing leadership, resulting in a literal lull.

Many mandirs were closed and some functioned minimally.

With overwhelming support for him at countrywide Yagnas he officiated at, Persaud was petitioned to form a new body.

After much deliberation, the Hindu Dharmic Sabha was formed at the Shri Krishna Mandir at Campbellville in Georgetown.

It was the very mandir that members from across the country took part in a march to the Prashad Nagar venue.

Persons partaking in Sunday’s celebrations (Amanda Richards photo)

“Pandit Reep and his visionary style of leadership, adopted the motto of the Sabha from the verses of the Bhagwat Gita, which defined his life and which he felt would serve as a guide to the membership of the Sabha in the years ahead.

 “…action thy duty, reward not thy concern,” Sukhai stated.

Persaud’s widow Indranie Persaud, and Chandra Gajraj are the only remaining ones of the original committee.

“We honour and treasure these dedicated and remarkable women,” Sukhai declared to a loud round of applause from the audience.

With the formation of the Sabha, new hope was rekindled in the Hindu community across the country.

The first members were drawn from the Better Hope mandir on the East Coast and today,  well over 100 mandirs support the Sabha.

Over the years, regional bodies called Prants were established, starting in Essequibo and then Berbice and Demerara.

The Sabha also has a thriving youth and women’s arm.

The Sabha also has a thriving youth and women’s arm. (Amanda Richards photo)

Until his death in April of 2013, Persaud provided dynamic stewardship and Hinduism flourished and Hindus became proud of their identity, Sukhai stated.

After Persaud’s death, his daughter took over as President.

President of the GHDS at celebrations held Sunday in Georgetown (Javin Singh photo)

Over the years, the Sabha has maintained a national profile with a number of events for the Hindu celebrations of Phagwah and Diwali, Indian Arrival Day, training of pandits locally and overseas, and music and dance shows, most notably Naya Zamana.

The Sabha also runs a play school, a nursery and a primary school, and is about to open a secondary school.

It also built a shelter for abused children in Berbice.

Dr Persaud said the Sabha has managed to harness the passion, strengths, talents, and voices of young people, men, and women and put them in positions of leadership while heeding the counsel of experienced and mature ones.

Harnessing young talents (Amanda Richards photo)
Harnessing young talents (Amanda Richards photo)

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