Rajan Seemungal-a Caribbean Hindu Personality
Renown music teacher, Rajan Seemungal, has recently started a music class at the Bamboo No 1 Mandir, Valsayn (west of Grand Bazaar) on Mondays between 5-7:00 p.m. The class is opened to the public. It is the latest class in a list of classes conducted by Rajan.
Born in 1955 at El Dorado Village, the first among five siblings, Rajan had his education at El Dorado Hindu School, Arima Government Secondary and Polytechnic, Port of Spain.
Rajan enrolled with the Bharatiya Vidya Sanstan (BVS). Founded by H. S. Adesh of India, the BVS offers classes in Hindi and music at its headquarters in Aranguez. ‘When I started classes at BVS my first tutor was Petal Ramganesh. Other tutors were Tara Bissundial, Mohan Samlal and Professor Adesh,” said Rajan.
A dedicated pupil, Rajan was fortunate to always have the support of his parents and siblings. “In 1979 I wrote my final examinations and qualified with a Bachelor of Arts in Sangeet Kalanidhi. My thesis was on Marwa thaat and its Raagas,” said Rajan.
Rajan describes himself as a “volunteer music teacher” who never demanded a fee. Teaching music has taken him across the country. He first started teaching music as a visiting teacher in 1979 at Lakshmi Girls’ College. Soon Rajan services was in demand in several other schools. Simultaneously, he was active in Satsangh at several venues. More demands were made for classes and Rajan was always accommodating.
A skilled gardener, Rajan contributed his labour freely in the family farm. He was also the owner of a red band maxi but spent the greater part of his time going to satsang and across the country teaching classes.
For the past eight (8) years Rajan has been visiting Guyana during the Easter and July-August vacations to teach music. At several mandirs in Berbice and Essequibo regions Rajan has initiated classes. Like a true teacher, Rajan always visits his students taking along gifts. He has provided successfully scholarships to many students through sponsorship from generous members of the local community.
Several social issues plague the Hindu community in Guyana. Rajan identifies a few: a lack of knowledge of Hinduism; few pandits are willing to teach; most people want quick fixes and are lackadaisical in their approach to Hindu culture.
Rajan made recommendations to remedy the situation: “Pandits need to equip themselves with knowledge and skills through classes offered by Dharmic Sabha in Georgetown and Corentyne; the need to tackle social issues such as suicide, unemployment, racism and discrimination, etc and the need to participate in satsangh and other spiritually fulfilling activities.”
Mahesh Govindaswammy, a businessman, of Sand Reef, Albion has been very accommodating to Rajan. He provides transport, accommodation and meals to Rajan when he is in Guyana. From that base in Albion, Rajan has successfully built and strengthen bonds with other Hindus such as Parmanand Singh of Perseverance in Essequibo and Pandit Chavindranaught Deonarine of Doctor Bush in Albion.
Few musicians combine qualifications with talents. For this Rajan is always in demand to judge musical talents across the land. He was a judge in the Prime Minister’s Best Village Competition for more than 12 years. Rajan has also been a judge in the SDMS Bal Vikas and the Sanskritic Sangam since its inception in 1980s. He was also a judge in the program Caribbean Tarang, Tarana Competition and National Tassarama.
Hindu Seva Sangh
Rajan was very active in the Youth Development Programs of the Hindu Seva Sangh between 1985 and 1995 engaging the participants in workshops, satsanghs and concerts. Through its Youth Development Program, the Sangh has inspired scores of Hindu boys and girls to work for Hindu dharma. In 1990s Rajan was head of an initiative to develop a music band for march past parades. This band flourished for several years and was active in many march past parades across the country.
Satya Sai Organization
A bedrock in the development of the Satya Sai Baba Satsang, Rajan has pioneered Sai Satsanghs at several venues: Columbus in Cedros, Chaguanas, Valsayn Sai Centre, Tunapuna, El Dorado and the Port of Spain Sai Satsangh.
This is a forum for children of the SDMS to engage in visual and performing arts. Very committed, Rajan worked with several schools to prepare them for the annual Balvikas Competition. On the day of the competition Rajan is always available to provide musical accompaniment.
Rajan’s father, the late Rampersad Seemungal, was born in Rio Claro. After the death of his mother, his father with the three sons migrated to Port of Spain. His father died and the children were adopted by a generous lady. ‘A lady from Rose Hill, Belmont took the brothers to live with her family,” said Rajan.
Educational opportunities were limited but they were later able to find laboring work. Rampersad began work as a janitor in a jewel shop. Soon was adept in jewel craft. Later, Rampersad found full-time work with the St George West Regional Corporation. Settled in his work he came upon a jeweler he knew. The jeweler found it too difficult to continue the business and offered his equipment for sale. Rampersad bought the equipment and established himself as a part-time jeweler at his home.
Rajan recalled his father working home as a jeweler. “He made rings, bangles, earrings and other pieces for several customers,” said Rajan. This initial exposure to jewelry has served Rajan well in purchasing jewel for family and friends.
Latchmi, Rajan’s mother, hails from El Dorado. Her parents came from India and worked in the Orange Grove Estate, Tacarigua. She was always proud of Rajan and the noble work he was doing for Hindu dharma.
His four siblings-Asha, Jeevan, Vinoo and Vidya- have never failed to support him. They are always accommodating to the many friends of Rajan from Guyana visiting Trinidad.
“Rajan is a gem!” These are the words of Independent Senator and President of the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh, Deoroop Teemal. Samaroo Siewah, writer and researcher and class mate of Rajan, describes him as one who is “selfless and dedicated to serving dharma.”
At age 64 Rajan is in good health which he attributes to “enjoying what I am doing.” Rajan is not slowing down. “I want to visit Suriname in August to make contacts with activists to initiate a music class,” he informed and continued: “It is not so much teaching but bringing Hindus across the Caribbean closer. We need to start thinking as one people,” said Rajan.