Sat­narayan “Sat” Maharaj

Procession: Sons and relatives of Sat­narayan “Sat” Maharaj lead the procession carrying his body, following yesterday’s funeral service at Lakshmi Girls’ Hindu College, St Augustine.

—Photo: JERMAINE CRUICKSHANK

“Ram Naam Satya Hai!”

The chant, which means “the name of God is true”, rose as the body of Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha (SDMS) secretary-general Satnarayan “Sat” Maharaj was gently placed on the burning pyre at the Caroni Cremation site yesterday.

The chant was followed by a bhajan ­calling upon Lord ­Krishna in the time of need. In Hindu tradition, there are five steps to the pyre. The first stop began at Maharaj’s Champs Fleurs home, and ended at the cremation site, which Maharaj had lobbied for incessantly when he was alive.

Despite the rain, scores of mourners and well-wishers who had braved the inclement weather stood their ground, as they paid their last respects to “Sat”, fondly hailed as a national icon, revolutionary educator, champion of Indo-Trinidadian rights and freedoms, patriot and friend.

When the body arrived at the cremation site, it was taken past a guard of honour, which morphed into a riot of umbrellas.

Since the heavens sent a blessing, ­Maharaj’s body, garlanded with flowers, was borne to the safety of a white tent.

The pyre was placed at the foot of the coffin, which was facing north. As the ritual unfolded, his sons, including Maha Sabha first-vice-secretary Vijay Maharaj and Vindra Maharaj continued chanting and praying before Maharaj’s body was committed to the fire. They performed aarti (the light cere­mony) and havan (ritual burning of offerings) to the sacrificial fire.

Daughters-in-law, ­including Tammy ­Maharaj, hugged each other and wept. Among those officiating were Dharma­charyra of T&T His Holiness Pundit Dr Rampersad Parasram, Navin Omadath Maharaj, Rishi Maharaj, Deodath Persad Misra and about 300 Maha Sabha pundits.

Among the mourners were Works Minister Rohan ­Sinanan; Oropouche East MP Roodal Moonilal; Couva South MP Rudy Indarsingh; Chaguanas West MP Ganga Singh; Lokesh Maharaj, CEO of Radio/TV Jaagriti; Debe Hindu School principal Usha Rampersad; and an avalanche of SDMS school principals.

‘A statue for Sat’

Sporting a hearing aid, Maharaj’s childhood friend, Nanan David, 87, waited for the ­cortege.

On Monday, David had celebrated his birthday. As Indar­singh yelled the questions at him, David said: “We knew each other from boyhood. We grew up in the Caroni. We went swimming and fishing in the Caroni River. He got married and moved to Champs Fleurs. We remained close.”

Asked how he would like Maharaj to be honoured, David added: “I would like a ­statue of Sat.”

The posse who was liming with David included Caroni resi­dents Imtiaz Mohammed and Manan Ramgoolie.

Ramgoolie paid kudos to Maharaj and David, who retired from the Chaguanas Corporation, for pioneering the construction of the cremation site. Ramgoolie said: “He and Sat worked hard to get this ­cremation site up and running.”

Minister Sinanan said: “Sat is Sat. But I had to pay my ­respects to a great life. We were friends. At the end of the day, when the history of Hinduism in Trinidad and Tobago is written, Sat will feature prominently. He left a rich legacy.”

On the rainy weather, Sinanan added: “Whenever some­one great dies, you get weather like this. It was the same kind of weather when his father-in-law (Bhadase Sagan Maraj) died. It had a lot of flooding.”

MP Indarsingh, a past pupil of Caroni Hindu School, said: “Caroni was very dear to Sat’s heart. People have called him a racist, but Sat wanted a level playing field. He was very supportive when Caroni (1975) Ltd closed down. Why would Citadel get a licence in a year’s time? Why would Sat have to go all the way to the Privy Council to get a licence for ­Radio Jaagriti?”

MP Singh said: “My son ­attended El Dorado Secondary South Hindu School. He wanted to be in the Scouts. Devant Maharaj and I went to Sat and presented a proposal to him. Sat embraced it. He was a warrior for his tribe. As a result, Maha Sabha schools have the largest contingents of scouts in the country. The Scouts’ values are in keeping with Hinduism.”

Before, clusters of mourners including Siparia’s Ivan Mungroo and Arouca’s Indar Ramoutar, had gathered under eight tents, three huts and several sprawling samaan trees. Tete-a-tetes focused on Maharaj’s impressive legacy, including transforming his schools, which the late prime minister/historian Dr Eric Williams had referred to as “cow sheds”, into premier ­academic institutions.

Summing up the onlookers’ sentiments, sno cone vendor Leroy Harry said: “Sat was a leader among leaders.”

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