President joins PMs in journey of rediscovery to Bihar

FP

For Mauritius President Rajkeswur Puryag, who wept like a child on Sunday after he reached his ancestral village of Bajeetpur in Bihar, the arrival had been made possible by genealogists whom he had contacted to help trace his roots.

Puryag had tried himself 25 years ago, but failed. His hopes revived when the process of tracing one's roots started to become a coordinated effort in Bihar. The genealogists whom Puryag had contacted spoke to the eldest living person in Bajeetpur, 25 km from Patna, who confirmed that a member of the family of Ganesh Nonia had gone missing. It turned out that the missing person was Laxman Mahto Nonia, great-grandfather of Puryag. The president takes the surname Puryag from the first name of his grandfather.

More and more people, descendants of Indians who had settled abroad decades or centuries ago, have been rediscovering their Bihar roots over the past few years. In February 2008, Mauritius Prime Minister Navin Chandra Ramgoolam visited his ancestral village, Harigaon in Bhojpur. In January 2012, Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Kamla Prasad Bissessar visited hers, Bhelpur in Buxar.

Apart from these high-profile visitors, some 100 people from Mauritius, Trinidad & Tobago and Surinam have been trying to find or have found their roots in Bihar, thanks to "genealogical tourism" being promoted by the state government. The efforts of the Bihar Foundation, which works in coordination with the state culture department, have resulted in over a dozen people from Mauritius alone visiting their villages in Buxar, Bhojpur and Patna in the last four years.

During a visit to Mauritius in 2007, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar had come across several people who knew their roots were in Bihar but little else. Some remembered only the name of their villages; a few could name their forefathers who had migrated to Mauritius. Among those wishing to find out more was Prime Minister Ramgoolam.

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