Professor Hari Adesh. Photo: Phoolo Danny-Maharaj
By Phoolo Danny-Maharaj
ADORNED by rows of multi-coloured carnations, roses, chrysanthemums and other flowers, the orange-clad body of Guruji, Professor Hari Shanker Adesh, founder of the Bharatiya Vidya Sansthhaan (BVS), rested on the specially woven bamboo frame on the stage at Adesh Ashram, where for decades before he sat and delivered his lectures.
To the chanting of sacred mantras, his shishyas (devotees) offered flowers and bowed as a last physical tribute for the positive impact he had on their lives for more than half-century. His body was brought into the hall by male devotees-pallbearers to the background recording of his composition Prabhu mujhe bhakti do, praan do, Shakti Do – O prabhu, – kindly grant me life, strength and thy devotion, so that I may live my life as it ought to be – sung by his daughter Surabhi.
Prof Adesh’s “best friend” and first Trinidadian he met on arrival from India on November 17, 1966, Hans Hanoomansingh described him as a “Light that would shine for generations to come.” He equated Prof Adesh’s life, work and accomplishments to the fulfillment of Rabindranath Tagore’s poem Where The Mind is Without Fear.
The internationally celebrated poet, writer, philosopher, composer and spiritual Guru, who lived in other countries, but chose Trinidad as his home passed away at the Adesh Ashram in Aranguez on Sunday evening and was cremated at the Shore of Peace on Wednesday. He was 84.
Prof Adesh left behind an extensive and rich legacy of music, poetry, literature, philosophy, text books, children books and seven epics, the most written by anyone.
He served this nation and by extension the world through the propagation of authentic Indian music, Hindi, art, drama by offering free classes for educational, physical and spiritual development.
Besides the BVS, he also founded the American University of Hindu Knowledge (AUHK) in Florida which offers up to Ph.d courses.
His final rites were attended by mainly devotees and friends.
Condolences were offered on behalf of the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha (SDMS) by Dharmacharya Pandit Dr Rampersad Parasram, who appreciated the “seeds that he sowed which brought good fruits to all of Trinidad and Tobago and the world.”
Asha Mor, the last person who interviewed him for Vishwarang, an international virtual literature and arts festival, described Prof Adesh as “a Maharishi” (great saint) who left a vacuum in the world that none can fill for many generations.
Tributes poured in from all over the world for the benevolent world-teacher who had received numerous awards from governments and groups worldwide, including the Padma Bhushan (the third highest award in India) from late President of India Abdul Kalam Azad and the Humming Bird Medal (Gold) from the Government of T&T for his distinguished service to nation in all fields including nation building, culture, religion, music, literature, Hindi, education. Through his Hindi textbooks, he has promoted the culture of Trinidad and Tobago, other Caribbean islands and other countries around the world.
Because of Covid-19 travel restrictions, Prof Adesh’s son Vivek Shankar Adesh and daughter Surabhi Adesh Goberdhan, daughter-in-law Kadambari Adesh, son-in-law Ravindranath Goberdhan; grandchildren Sankalp, Pratyush, Sameeksha, Pragati and Neeharika were unable to travel from the USA to be in T&T for his last rites.
Emotions ran high as they participated in the funeral service virtually through Zoom and YouTube.
Dr Nirmala Adesh, observed the family tradition by not attending the last rites of her husband. She looked on as his body was brought into the compound, but she was urged to view the rites through the live stream.
In the physical absence of Vivek Adesh, BVS executive member Dr Marvindra Maharaj shaved his head as is customary and performed the final rites which were conducted by Pundit Haresh Maharaj.
At the completion of rituals at the Ashram, Prof Adesh’s body was carried by the male devotees to the hearse at the beginning of Oudhai Trace, Aranguez.
Just as they brought in the body, devotees lined the street holding up large orange flags. But instead of playing music, the devoees simply sprinkled flowers on the body as it was taken to the hearse, while chanting, Raam Naam Satya Hai (Truth is the name of Raam), which suggests leaving everything to God.
The funeral procession from Aranguez in the North to the Shore of Peace, Mosquito Creek, South Trinidad took just over an hour. There was no playing of songs/bhajans on loudspeakers or any singing as in some other funerals. The hearse was plain and without fanfare of colourful wedding-type decorations seen in Trinidad within recent times. There was a peaceful calm throughout.
At the cremation site, the male devotees of Prof Adesh gathered around and removed all the flowers from the body, while Pundit Maharaj completed the final rituals. The body now bearing only the Tulsi garland around the neck was covered with wood, clarified butter (ghee), googol and camphor to hasten the burning process, before being placed in the middle of the pyre.
With a water-filled clay pot on his right shoulder, Dr Maharaj circumambulated the pyre several times before the pot was broken to allow the water to flow out symbolising a complete separation of the atma (soul) from the body.
He then lit the first camphor near the body on the pyre before lighting other areas as he circled the pyre for the last few times. Within minutes the whole pyre was ablaze and was left to burn itself out.
Looking on with other devotees, as the wood burned and fell from the pyre, one could not help but remember the story of the young 30 year old who was persuaded against his wishes to leave his birthplace of Kashmir, India to work in Trinidad, a place he knew nothing about, and who was described as a “film-star” when he first arrived. With time, he came to love this island and its people so much that by their affection and dedication to him and learning, he was motivated to bring out his best work to give to the world.
It is for the love of this great soul, that his devotees stood quietly under the shadows of a lightly overcast sky with slight intermittent drizzles, high winds and sturdy earth. They looked on as the pyre blazed on the banks of the Shore of Peace, in the county of St Patrick, overlooking the meeting of the Godineau River with the waters of the Gulf of Paria.
The flames ignited fast and furious, taking along the smoke into the air and returning the body to the five elements – thus completing cycle of life and death or the earthly sojourn of sadguru Professor Hari Shanker Adesh.
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