Pandit Ami Chandra Vidyalankar (1900–1954) came to Fiji, from India in 1927 at the behest of the Arya Samaj, which wanted to improve the education standard of Fiji Indian students and promote Arya Samaj in Fiji. He led a busy life in Fiji, being an educationist, Arya Samaj preacher, labour leader, football administrator, scout leader and marriage officer. He furthered the cause of Hindi in Fiji by compiling a series of text books used to teach Hindi in primary schools. He served as a member of the Legislative Council of Fiji and was loved and respected by all communities in Fiji.
Contribution to Education in Fiji
Chandra, a graduate of Gurukul Kangri University in India, arrived in Fiji on 22 December 1927 and was enthusiastically welcomed by the Fiji Indian community at the Suva Town Hall. After a brief sojourn at Suva, he started teaching at the Gurukul Primary School in Saweni, Lautoka. In 1928 he became the Principal and under his leadership, boarding facilities were established at the school with 45 boarders out of a total population of 140, including 25 native Fijian students. During his time as Principal, the school made remarkable progress and he was commended by the Governor, Sir Murchison Fletcher. In 1930 he went to Suva where he was instrumental in the establishment of Arya Samaj Girls School at Samabula. Later, he went to Ba, establishing another school, Arya Kanya Pathshala (Arya Girls School). In 1950, he opened a post primary class for youth using volunteer professionals from a cross section of society in Ba. This became the forerunner of the Dayanand Ango Vedic College of Ba in 1952.
While in Ba Chandra was also recruited by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company (CSR) to teach company employees and overseers to speak proper Hindi and understand Indian culture. His greatest contribution was the series of books, Hindi Ki Pothi (Hindi Readers), that he published to enable Indian students to learn Hindi easily. These readers were compiled for students of different levels in primary schools and were used in Fiji for over twenty years.
He was the founder of the Fiji Teachers Union in 1929 and its first President. He was mentor of many of the early trade unionists and was the inspiration behind the formation of the Chini Mazdur Sangh (now known as the Sugar General Workers Union) and the Gold Mine Workers Union of Vatukoula. He was seen as a person who could be trusted by all sections of the Indian community, for when the Kisan Sangh split into two factions in 1943, both sides agreed to have the union's books audited by him. He was the president of the Fiji Industrial Workers Congress (now the Fiji Trades Union Congress), an umbrella organisation representing all but one of the unions in Fiji. He promoted multi-racial trade unions and opposed the participation of any trade union in politics.
Founder of Ba Football Association
Member of Legislative Council
He was also a nominated member of the Legislative Council, from 1947 to 1950 and worked closely with Vishnu Deo.
On 16 March 1954, only three days after his death, the Fiji Industria Workers Congress, of which he was the President, set up and opened a fund to erect a building in his emory on the family land in Samabula, Suva (but a building was constructed for this purpose by the Arya Pratinhdhi Sabah of Fiji.
On 28 August 1956, during the Arya Samaj Golden Jubilee celebrations, he was posthumously awarded with the Dayanand Medal for Meritorious Service.
In 1957, the people of Tawakubu, Lautoka honoured him by establishing a primary school, which in his honour was named, the Ami Chandra Memorial School.
He was a man of great scholarship and humility and when he died in a plane crash in Singapore, on 13 March 1954, on his way to England as the guest of the British Trades Union Congress, Fiji Indians suffered a great loss as he was also being touted as a future successor to Vishnu Deo. Reporting his death, the Fiji Times stated that, "He was a good citizen, wise in counsel, wide in sympathy, lofty in ideals and one who gave himself to the service of his fellow men."
Chandra was married to Sarvati Deviji and had four daughters; Saroj, Jyan, Pushpa and Om.
(A poem By Mr Hari Ram, the then Permanent Secretary for Education Fiji and Son In Law of Pandit Amichandra Ji Vidyalankar on the passing away of Pandit Ji en-route to India in a plane crash in Singapore on 12 March 1954.)
The Vanished Smile
He is no more- the dearest man of all. The kindest man that ever trod the earth, The noblest soul that ever flesh enshrined, The humblest mind despite its learning sound; Our most dear and beloved man, With a healing smile lingering on his lips, All the day and all the year round.
O ! gone is that man and gone that smile, That lit a thousand dimming lives; That smile that turned our sorrows into joy; As the morning sun turns darkness into sky, Such was that smile, so rare that smile, For its perfume pierced our hearts and souls And drove despair with gleams of hope.
But gone is the man and vanished the smile; No more are those tiny, kindly hands, That folded themselves together- Like petals of a rose before its final fall- In his humble greetings to each and all.
O dear man ! your life was like a flower, But you perished in a hellish blaze, With all thy dear hopes turned to ashes. Death calling without prelude or warning. In one fleeting moment all was over. And in thy heart was one dear hope Of two young lives now cruelly left behind, He is no more, he is no more.
Gone is that man – forever gone. And vanished is his smile. Could not all our desperate calls Make fate, once, once alone erase What was on Life’s Sheet scrolled But I read in his death A great and noble purpose, That we may learn from his departed soul And live better men.
O ! must it be that fate must rule our lives? That we must only lie as scattered leaves To be blown at fate’s slightest stir? O ! we cannot even call our lives our own Let alone wishing to live our way. O ! who was it who wrote “I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.” When fate doth steer the ship of life. And when on two angels’ incensed wings His soul was brought to Heaven’s Door The narrow Gate did fling itself ajar And his noble soul became a Heaven’s star.
O dear departed, death-deceived man ! If you soul can hear our desperate human calls Know this much from us all, That if there was a stain on they soul Our spring of tears have washed away; And vanished is not thy lingering smile, For in our hearts it will forever linger on.
- Kanwal, Jogindar Singh (1980). A hundred years of Hindi in Fiji. Suva, Fiji: Fiji Teachers Union. p. 79.
- Sharma, Guru Dayal (1987). Memories of Fiji: 1887 – 1987. Guru Dayal Sharma, Suva, Fiji. p. 182.
- Sir Vijay R. Singh, Speaking Out, Knightsbrook Publications, 2006, ISBN 0-9775166-0-1
- A.P. Sharma, A History of Fiji Kisan Sangh, Vicas Press, Lautoka, Fiji, 2005
- Industrial associations and local politics.
- M. Prasad, Sixty Years of Soccer in Fiji 1938–1998: The Official History of Fiji Football Association, Fiji Football Association, Suva, 1998
- Fiji Times, 4 March 1955
- "Death of Ami Chandra". Fiji Times. 26 March 1954.
- "Pandit Ami Chandra Family". Arya Samaj Centenary Volume (1904–2004). 2004. p. 59.
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