Arya Samaj in Guyana
The teachings of Swami Dayanand reached Guyana in the early 1900s but it was the arrival of missionary Bhai Parmānand in 1910 that led to the growth of Arya Samaj throughout the Colony. The Ārya Samāj doctrine rejects the idea of caste and the exclusive role of brahmins as religious leaders. The movement preaches monotheism and opposition to the use of images in worship as well as many traditional Hindu rituals.
In 1921 the first Ārya Samāj was formed and the movement continued to gain impetus as more people started to appreciate the Vedic teachings. The arrival of a second Vedic missionary, Pandit Mehtā Jaimīnī in 1929 led to centralised control and organisation of the Ārya Samāj. Other missionaries arrived in 1935, and in 1936 Pandit Bhaskarānand arrived and remained in Guyana for ten years organising the various Samājs. The American Aryan League, the parent body for all the Ārya Samājs in the country, was established in 1937 and registered under the friendly societies ordinance in 1938. A building to house the headquarters of the League was also established. Pandit Usharbudh Arya arrived in 1955 and one of his greatest contributions was the establishment of the Ārya Vīr Dāl, an organization meant for the youth.
In 1975 the Ārya Samāj in Guyana had 40,000 members, with 35 Ārya Samāj branches affiliated to the American Aryan League. In 1968 the American Aryan League also assumed the name Guyana Arya Pratinidhi Sabha. In 1969 this organisation had received official recognition of the government of the new independent state of Guyana led by Forbes Burnham. Regular prayer meetings are held at the various meeting halls. There is a council of priests, Arya Pracharak Mandal, which ensures that the activities of the Samaj is conducted in accordance with the scriptures. In 1973, the Ārya Vīr Dāl was revived. Now it received the name Guyana Aryan Youth League as well. It coöperates with the parent body in the achievement of its objectives and plays a major part in organising weekly services. The American Aryan League also runs a primary and a post-primary school.
Political problems and Division
After 1975, however, the board of the Guyana Arya Pratinidhi Sabha wished to loosen its ties with the People's Progressive Party (PPP) led by Cheddi Jagan to adopt a politically more independent policy. Jagan was an East-Indian and his party was, in fact, the party of the great majority of the Guyanese East-Indians.
In these years the PPP opposed Burnham's government vehemently. Many members of the Guyana Arya Pratinidhi Sabha did not agree with the new policy of the Sabha and they decided to establish a new organisation, called Guyana Central Arya Samaj, which would side with the PPP again.
Today the Guyana Central Arya Samaj has become the biggest umbrella organisation of all Ārya Samājīs in Guyana. It took over the headquarters of the Guyana Arya Pratinidhi Sabha and it has 29 affiliated Ārya Samāj branches and ten associated Ārya Samāj branches all over Guyana.
- Nardev Vedalankar and Manohar Somera, Arya Samaj and Indians Abroad, Durban: Atlas Printers 1975, p. 35.
- Lajpat Rai, A History of the Arya Samaj, Revised and Expanded by Sri Ram Sharma, New Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers, 2nd edition 1992, pp. 71-150.
- Ron Ramdin, Arising from Bondage: A History of the Indo-Caribbean People, Londen: I.B. Tauris Publishers 2000, pp. 185-186.
- Nardev Vedalankar and Manohar Somera, Arya Samaj and Indians Abroad, Durban: Atlas Printers 1975, pp. 161-162.
- Nardev Vedalankar and Manohar Somera, Arya Samaj and Indians Abroad, Durban: Atlas Printers 1975, pp. 159-160.
- J. G. de Kruijf, Guyana Junction: Globalisation, Localisation, and the Production of East-Indianness, Amsterdam: Dutch University Press 2006, p. 96.
- Website of the Guyana Central Arya Samaj, http://www.thearyasamaj.org/guyana, accessed 5 April 2015.