Sant Dharmacharya Guru Pt.
Bhadase Sagan Maraj
February 19, 1916|
Caroni Village, Trinidad
|Died||October 21, 1971
Caroni Village, Trinidad
Trinidadian and Tobagonian (1962-1971)
|Nationality||Trinidadian and Tobagonian|
|Political party||Democratic Labour Party (1957-d.)|
|People's Democratic Party (1950-1957)|
|Spouse(s)||Vijanti Maraj (1931-?)
Two other wives
|Father||Matthew Sagan Maraj|
|Relatives||Satnarayan Maharaj (Son-in-law)|
|Alma mater||Caroni Canadian Mission School
Pamphylian High School Tunapuna
|Occupation||Politician, Pundit, Religious leader, Businessman, Wrestler, Author|
|Known for||Founder of the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha|
HE Sant Dharmacharya Guru Pt. Bhadase Sagan Maraj MP was a Trinidadian politician, Hindu leader, wrestler, businessman, and author. He founded the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha in 1952, which grew into the major Hindu organization in Trinidad and Tobago.
Maraj was born as Bhadase Sagan Maraj in the county of Caroni.
Maraj's father was a devout Hindu, even fanatical. He developed his over-riding ambition to improve the lot of the Hindus from him. But before he could help the Hindus, Maraj himself had to be strong enough and was a violent man who used violent methods to achieve his wealth and his place in society. As he would say: "A weak man is a liability in a fight."
When Maraj was a young boy his father had been shot and killed while he was on his hammock on the porch of his home reading the Bhagawad Gita. His uncle was also killed when they tied him to a stone and threw him into the Caroni River.
Maraj started off to his first million dollars by digging sand for construction purposes in the Caroni River.
This was only the beginning, for soon the young Maraj had bought a truck and was in the transport business. The advent of the Second World War and the arrival of the American Armed Forces in this country threw Maraj into the big league.
He was one of the biggest contractors on the American naval base at Chaguaramas and when the order came for the Americans to pull out their task force from that country, Maraj was able to buy out large areas of the base that were being deactivated. Maraj was not yet 30 when he counted his first million dollars. This was a real rags to riches story. From then on there was no stopping him, for Maraj was now equipped to fight the Hindu and Indian cause. When Maraj was elected to the Legislative Council in 1950 there was no Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha. Hindu schools were only a dream and illiteracy among Hindus was about 50%.
Civil society activism
In early 1952, the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha was formed and this organisation was given permission to build and operate their own schools and with his typical bravado, Bhadase declared "By September, we will have six: schools." The cynics laughed because Maha Sabha did not even have a plan for a school but Bhadase was as good as his word. September saw the establishment of six Hindu Schools. The story did not end there for Bhadase had the Hindus mobilised and on the move.
Hindu schools were mushrooming everywhere to the charge that Bhadase was building cowshed schools, which were unhealthy and physically unfit for children to be educated, he declared, "It is better to have a child receive an education in a cowshed than none at all". The then government arranged to assist and fund the building and operations of Hindu and other religious schools in Trinidad and Tobago.
He was elected to the Legislative Council in 1950, founded the People's Democratic Party, and later merged it into the Democratic Labour Party, which he led between 1958 and 1960 (when he lost control of the party to Rudranath Capildeo). Bhadase (as he was most widely known) continued to be active in politics until his death, often opposing Capildeo and other members of the DLP. After Capildeo's Chaguanas seat was declared vacant in 1967 Bhadase won the seat in a by-election boycotted by the DLP.
The year 1958 saw Bhadase Maraj at the pinnacle of his glory. He had just won the Federal Election with his newly formed Democratic Labour Party. His sugar union, All Trinidad, was strong and vibrant. The Hindus were now riding high. But the mighty physique of Bhadase soon succumbed to ill health. The strenuous battle of the 1958 Federal Election had by then taken its toll. In 1959, the cry was soon heard, "Bhadase is dying." His supporters deserted him and his opponents rejoiced.
Bhadase was able to survive this first bout of illness but he was never again the same driving and dynamic Hindu force. And when he finally died on 21 October 1971 the headlines screamed, "WILL THE MAHA SABHA SURVIVE BHADASE?"
When the DLP boycotted the 1971 General Elections Bhadase organised the Democratic Liberation Party to contest the election, but all of his candidates were defeated when the DLP leadership brought out their supporters to vote for the People's National Movement candidates rather than see Bhadase's party win. He died several months after the election. His son-in-law, Satnarayan Maharaj succeeded him as leader of the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha.
Today after his death, the Maha Sabha to which he devoted so much of his life and personal wealth still lives on trying to provide the Hindu Leadership which Maraj gave them during the fifties. The greatest obituary to Big Bhadase came from Augustus Ramrekarsingh who wrote in the Trinidad Express on 21 October 1971 "More than any other single individual, Bhadase made the Indians proud of their heritage in a society which was Christian and Afro-Saxon, hence hostile to them."
- Sam Pope Brewer (11 February 1955). "Race Issue Curbs West Indian Ties; Parley of the British Colonies in Caribbean to Study Factor Hampering Federation". The New York Times.
- Robert M. Hallett (1 February 1957). "'Learning to Be West Indians' - Intermarriage Banned". The Christian Science Monitor. (via ProQuest archive)