Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha

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The Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha is the major Hindu organisation in Trinidad and Tobago. It operates 150 mandirs,over 50 schools And has it very own radio station, radio jagriti 102.7 fm Trinidad. It was formed in 1952 when Bhadase Sagan Maraj engineered the merger of the Satanan Dharma Association and the Sanatan Dharma Board of Control. An affiliated group, the Pundits' Parishad, has 200 affiliated pundits. The organisation's headquarters are located in St. Augustine.

The President General of the Maha Sabha is Pt utham Maharaj and the Secretary General is Satnarayan Maharaj, son-in-law of the founder, Bhadase Sagan Maraj.

In 1881, a Sanatan Dharma Association was founded in Trinidad in an attempt to consolidate Hindus and lobby on their behalf. This Association, however, was not known for any significant advances in Hindu organizational development. Other groups existed by the 1920s including the Trinidad Hindu Maha Sabha, San Feranado Hindu Sabha, and the Sanatan Dharma Prabartakh Sabha. But these, too, were not especially dynamic in shaping the course of Hindu history. The most significant advances in Hindu organizational development of these Sabhas came as a response to the Arya Samaj and its missionaries.

The controversies stirred by the Arya Samaj spokesmen acted as a kind of catalyst for the leaders of the Sanatan Dharma community to make greater strides towards effective organization.The Sanatan Dharma Association was incorporated by an act of Legislature in 1932. A conservative group of Hindus established a rival organization, the Sanatan Dharma Board of Control which was also incorporated in 1932. Each of these served to represent the interests of the Hindu community with regard to social action or issues surrounding the orthodoxy; they also served to liase with colonial or parliamentary authorities. In 1935, in a move to demonstrate greater legitimacy, the Board became formally affiliated with the Sanatan Dharma Pratindhi Sabha based in Lahore,India. Pundits and laymen throughout the island became affiliated with one or the other of the two national Hindu bodies. The Sanatan Dharma Board of Control, for example had branches in 32 villages by the late 1930s.

The greatest development in the Hindu communal activity in Trinidad began in 1952 when under the guidance and direction of powerful Pundit Goberdhan JP of Siparia old Road, south Trinidad (who acted as a representative of the Governor general of Trinidad at difficult times) Bhadase Sagan Maraj united the Sanatan Dharma Association and the Sanatan Dharma Board of Control. In that year Maraj, a self-made millionaire and sugar union leader,merged the two Sanatanist Hindu bodies, to create a much more powerful pressure group and public organization. The new organization, the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha, was incorporated in 1952. The Maha Sabha’s parishad, or council of pundits worked towards a complete coordination of temples activities and the standardization of ritual procedure. Relatively few structured, permanent religious groups existed in Trinidad Indian villages until the advent of the Maha Sabha school building programme. Many temples were constructed or affiliated in addition. In order to ensure uniform teaching and practices, the Maha Sabha published literature to be used at all schools and temples.

Yet foremost on the new organization agenda was education, which its members saw as the key to promoting Hindu unity in all parts of the country, to promulgating the faith among future generations Hindus, and to provide Indians with greater opportunities for social advancement. Between 1952 and 1956 the Maha Sabha built no less than 31 schools all over the island. Today the Maha Sabha operates 42 schools in Trinidad, over 150 temples, and affiliated over 200 pundits.

Under the present Secretary General, Mr Satnarayan Maharaj, the Maha Sabha has modernized all 42 schools and built 5 secondary schools as well as 12 early childhood educational centers. Mr. Maharaj has also revived the observance of Phagwa and was instrumental in the creation of the Indian Arrival Day holiday and annual celebrations. The Maha Sabha introduced a Children’s Cultural Festival Baal Vikaas Vihar and the community has been challenged by this leader to enter into the computer age....

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