Calls are being made for the late Satnarayan Maharaj, long-serving Secretary General of the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha to be given a state funeral. They came hours after the Hindu leader died on Saturday morning at Medical Associates in St Joseph, eight days after he suffered a stroke.
Among those making the call was the spiritual head of the Satya Anand Ashram of Aranguez, Pundit Satyanand Maharaj, as he expressed condolences to Maharaj’s family and members of the Maha Sabha. He said Maharaj’s achievement as Secretary General of the largest Hindu organisation in T&T will be his crowning glory.
“Having had the opportunity to work from 1997 to 2017 with Mr Maharaj, I can say he has contributed greatly to my growth and development as he did to many others. To know Sat Maharaj was to like, respect and fear him in the same breath,” the pundit said.
“Maharaj oversaw the transformation of the Maha Sabha and held his teachers and pundits to the highest standards of performance. There was no doubt that he spent all his time protecting the Hindu community from what he perceived as State-sponsored attempts to destroy Hindu culture.”
Commenting on the controversy which often surrounded Maharaj, the pundit said: “Mr Maharaj was not perfect nor did he claim perfection but saw himself as the gatekeeper of Hinduism.”
He said a state funeral was in order because “by lifting the Hindu community, Maharaj lifted the national community.”
Also making a call for a state funeral was opposition activist Devant Maharaj, who said: “The family may or may not accept the offer but the State should make the offer none the less.”
He added: “Given the immense contribution, Sat Maharaj has made to the development of Trinidad and Tobago in culture, education, religion, media, and overall national development his passing is deserving of national recognition.
“Presiding over 43 primary schools, 5 secondary schools, 24 pre-schools, over 3,000 teachers, 200 pundits, 150 temples and a radio/tv station Sat’s funeral will be massive with or without State support but the State will be petty if it does not find an appropriate manner that marks the passing of this great national icon.”
Maharaj’s passing was announced early yesterday in a statement by Radio and TV Jaagriti.
“We are extremely grateful to everyone for their dedication of prayers and offerings of support in varying forms and fashion,” the statement said.
“As per Hindu traditions, Sri Satnarayan Maharaj was under the protection of Tulai Leaves and he also drank holy water from the most revered Triveni River. In his dying moments, he clasped a copy of the Hanuman Chalisa which he always kept in his possession when he was alive.”
His passing was described in the statement as “entirely free of any pain and suffering and was a smooth transition from this mortal world.”
Maharaj was a devotee of Lord Hanuman which in Hinduism is the god of strength, which matched his life of fighting for the Hindu and East Indian communities.
Up to late yesterday, there was no word on funeral arrangements for the late Maha Sabha Secretary-General. However, throughout the day tributes poured including from President Paula-Mae Weekes, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, Opposition Kamla Persad-Bissessar and leaders of various religious denominations.
Roman Catholic priest Msgr. Christian Pereira said he “had the opportunity to react and relate with him both as Episcopal Vicar for Education and as a member of the IRO.” He said Maharaj had often worked alongside the RC community to ensure that the rights of denominational school boards were protected.
Pereira added: “He invested heavily on preparing school leaders and we thank him for his commitment to what is best for the nation. Often misunderstood and maligned he relentlessly pursued his commitment to what he believed to be best for the nation.
“We certainly need many more leaders of his calibre and trust that his passing will be an awakening for all our people who seek the best interest of the nation to cultivate that zeal and enthusiasm for what is noble and best in our respective traditions.”
Head of the Islamic Front Umar Abdulah also extended condolences.
“We have lost another of our patriots, another son of the soil, one who chose his way of life to be in service to the people of this great nation. Some of us may not have agreed with his opinions, some of us may not have connected with his personality, but we can all agree that he stood as a man for the growth and development of our national culture that is Trinidad and Tobago,” Abdullah said.
He added: “We know him to be outspoken and an upholder of the truth. Whilst he stood firm and held on to his beliefs, he managed to maintain a unique and mighty personality; a respected leader amongst his peers in the religious society of our country, an honourable man with huge aspirations.”