By Paras Ramoutar
Port-of-Spain, Dec 1 (IANS) The much-revered Dharmacharya of the Hindu community in Trinidad and Tobago, Pundit Uttam Maharaj, has died at the age of 70 years following a brief illness.
He served for 13 years as the spiritual leader of the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha(SDMS) which is the major Hindu group led by Satnarayan Maharaj, secretary general.
He served the people of this country with great distinction and respected all religious groups with great respect and distinction and dignity.
Pundit Maharaj had a special love for the children of all religious groups and was an educator and teacher of the Hindi, Sanskrit,arts, music and culture, himself being an accomplished sitar player, and adjudicated in several competitions with the Ministry of Education.
He served as President of the Hindu Parishad Council, an arm of the SDMS.
Pundit Maharaj was married to Indra, daughter of the late Pundit Krishna Maharaj whom he succeeded as Damharmacharya.
Tributes continue to pour in from different sections of the religious fraternity, civic, cultural, and government officials.
Pundit Maharaj hosted a weekly programme of Radio/TV Jaagriti highlighting the virtues and mechanics of Hinduism.
Former Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar noted that Pundit Maharaj will be sadly missed not only in the Hindu community, but in the nation at large.
“Pundit Maharaj will be missed, and it is my hope that his legacy of devotion to his faith and service to the people will live on. “As a religious and spiritual leader, he called on people of all faiths and background to live in harmony, peace and love as dispensed by the creed of Hinduism. His message is important, as there is a great need for our citizens to unite and work together to develop our nation and shape a brighter future for us all.”
Former Minister of Foreign Affairs, and now Professor in International Affairs at the University of the West Indies, Winton Dookeran hailed Pundit Maharaj , “as a nation builder through his religious and humanitarian work for the people. He has become one of our nation’s top icon.”
Surujdeo Mangaroo, Public Relations Officer of the National Council of Indian Culture(NCIC) hailed Pundit Maharaj who never wavered in the pursuit of his religious commitment.
“Pundit Maharaj was totally dedicated to uplifting the spiritual and secular status of all peoples,” Mangaroo said.
There are over 350,000 Hindus here and almost 500 Hindu mandirs across the nation, and that all religious festivals such as Divali, Nau Rattan, Shiva Raatri, Phagwa, Kartik Nahan among several others.
Pundit Mahaarj was given a big send-off with top officials of every sector of the national landscape on Saturday morning at Mosquito Creek, a couple miles from his Rousillac home where he lived all his life.