Drawn to Kumbh, Indian diaspora get back to their roots

Their forefathers had gone from various parts of eastern Uttar Pradesh to countries like Fiji, Mauritius, Trinidad and Tobago as indentured labourers under the British rule. They did not get the gold promised by the British but worked hard to adopt their new countries, while losing touch with their original culture. And, going by what some of the devotees from these countries visiting Kumbh-2013 said, they want the proverbial umbilical cord to be strengthened further.

Take, for instance, Rajan Bali and his wife Sunita Bali, who were born and brought up in Fiji but now stay in Canada. "We have come to Kumbh-2013 for pilgrimage. But we will also go to our ancestral village near Ayodhya," said Sunita. She added that for their community, with its roots in eastern Uttar Pradesh, it is almost compulsory to pay a visit to the ancestral village. "It is like the pilgrimage is not complete if you haven't visited your village," adds her husband.

An electrical engineer, who now runs an electrical appliances company, Bali said, "My father worked hard to bring Hindi to Fiji. He started with a book shop that sold Hindi books, mostly sacred scriptures like Ramayana. Over time, we had become a big name in Fiji in so far as selling Hindi books was concerned.

"We want that more and more people, who speak Hindi, to come to our countries. We would love to have more people from here," added Bali. The Balis stayed at the Kabir Panth Camp on Mukti Marg in Sector 7.

The devotees from these countries usually come on their own enterprise, unlike many foreign devotees who come to India in groups with pre-fixed programmes conducted by well organised ashrams and organisations. "They don't come in groups. They come on their own convenience. They may or may not reach Kumbh on auspicious bathing days, but seldom miss out on visiting their ancestral places," said Panth Shri Hajur Ardh Naam Saheb, head acharya of Kabir Panth.

Acharya Ganesh Dutt Maharaj, who is from San Fernando, Trinidad, also a devotee of Kabir Panth and a priest in his own right, said: "My forefathers were from Mahadua village in Basti. My father used to visit the village whenever he came to India."

"We have kept our names like Ram, Mishra or Narain, as well as our foods - karela, dal, bhat and kalaunji - but we could do with a bit more of our culture," said Acharya, a self-confessed soccer fan. His own group of devotees stayed in the Kabir Panth camp and took part in Mauni Amavasya bathing.

Sai Maa Laxmi Devi, who holds the position of Jagatguru, was born to parents of Indian origin in Mauritius and brought up there. "I keep travelling throughout the world, the entire year trying to teach the West the principles of Sanatan Dharm. It can get difficult because they do not know what devotion is. But I remember that since our childhood, we were taught to pray and bow before God.

"There are a few things like corruption and lack of education among women here, which are a matter for concern. And I would like to do something for them. But in so far as the intellectual quality of India is concerned, it is unmatched," added Sai Maa.

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