Founding of Arya Pratinidhi Sabha
A Fond Rememberance
by Girish Khosla
On August 18th, 19th, and 20th, the tenth Arya Maha Sammelan was held with great fan fare in New York. More than 400 participants gave a splendid display of the organization and unity of the Arya World. They came from not only North America, but from Surinam, Guyana, Great Britain and India also. Arya Pratinidhi Sabha, a governing body of 42 Arya Samajs in the North America, is mentioned as the most progressive among the world’s Arya Pratinidhi Sabhas. Because of its mode of operation, it is often discussed at various places and gatherings. From common members to distinguished scholars and leaders are eager to participate in its annual gathering.
Talking about ten years of glorious history rekindles memories of the days gone by when, in 1988, I immigrated to America, I was totally unfamiliar with its language, way of living and working conditions. My only contact here was the family of my sister. Shri Darbari Lal Ji wrote me from Delhi that Lala Ram Chand Mahajan is spreading the message of Arya Samaj in Texas. Further, he is the father-in-law of Shri Tilak Raj Gupta. About the same time, I found the address of an Arya Samaj in California. I wrote letters to both. I got a reply from Shri Mahajan in three days, but after 12 years, I am still waiting for a reply from California.
In his letter, Shri Mahajan expressed his great pleasure in my coming to America and encouraged me to work for Arya Samaj. Very soon, there was a steady exchange of letters between us. Even though we had not met each other in person, with exchange of letters we became so close as if we had been related for many lives before.
Through this correspondence, we were developing plans for ways to spread the message and outlines for a typical Satsang as means for securing the future of Arya Samaj. Shri Ram Chand Mahajan was already doing a tremendous work of preaching through the medium of Hindu Worship Society. He was already performing simple Yajna, Griha Pravesh, Naamkaran and Antayeshtih Sanskars. Thousands of families benefited from his knowledge, efforts and devotion. In spite of limited resources, he would distribute photo-offset copies of hand written text to attendees and exhort them to make copies and distribute to others. His name and fame was spreading all across Texas. Because of his hard work and peaceful demeanor, he was addressed everywhere as Pita Ji.
Using mail service and telephone, Shri Mahajan Ji, in Texas, and I, in Michigan, were collecting information about Arya Samajs in the North America. Many Samajis have been here for 30 to 35 years, but they were neither organized nor united. The main topic of our correspondence and telephone conversations was spreading and unification of Arya Samaj. Two of Rishi Dayanand’s followers, situated almost 2000 miles apart, were preaching the message of Arya Samaj in their respective areas. A new history was getting written in Conroe, Texas and Alma, Michigan. Finally, a day came when we had an opportunity to meet face to face.
In March 1990, Pita Ji came to visit his daughter, Madhu Gupta in South Bend, Indiana. That is where I met him in person for the first time. From 11:30 in the morning to 2:00 in night, we used to talk. In between, we would break for tea, food, rests and walks. Also, his wife would interrupt to caution him about his health or to remind him about the medicines. A historical resolve to establish the Arya Pratinidhi Sabha was made that day. We telephoned the officers of Arya Samajs in New York, California and Chicago etc.
The next day, Shri Ashok Gupta had organized a Havan, where, on a suggestion by the attendees, a committee was formed for Arya Samaj and Havan Group. To this day, that committee organizes a Havan at a different place every month. The success of the South Bend Havan redoubled his enthusiasm and he started planning for a nationwide preaching of Arya Samaj’s message. Then, he remembered of one Mangal Chawla of Dayton, Ohio. He called him on the phone and Shri Chawla extended Shri Mahajan an invitation to visit and attend a Yajna at their Temple.
It was a 4-1/2 drive from South Bend to Dayton and it finished in almost a wink. Reaching there we found Shri Chawla very worried. Shri Dev Mahajan had called from Houston and was very upset with Mahajan Ji because the doctors had prohibited him from very intensive work as well as long distance driving. Pita Ji, with his easygoing nature, managed to lighten up the atmosphere within five minutes. More than 150 people attended the Havan in Dayton Temple, because Shrimati Santosh Chawla had spread the word through radio. In the evening, Shri Dev Mahajan felt relieved that I was accompanying Pita Ji in his travels and permitted him go to Michigan.
From Dayton, we proceeded to the home of Shri Mahajan’s old friend, Shri Ganpat Rai Mahajan, in Detroit. There, we discussed the missionary work on behalf of Arya Samaj in Michigan. From there, we went to Alma where we had extended discussion with Dr. Rakesh Saxena, President of Michigan Arya Samaj. Following telephone conversations with many Arya Samaj followers including Pandit Ram Lal in New York and Dr. Sukhdev Soni in Chicago, we decided to establish the Arya Pratinidhi Sabha and hold the first Arya Samaj Maha Sammelan on April 13, 1991 in Detroit, Michigan.
The historic first Sammelan of Arya Samaj was a great success. Arya Samaj devotees from America and Canada gathered for the first time in one place. All of them were very enthused.
The Arya Pratinidhi was a reality now, but Shri Mahajan Ji was still tied to Hindu Worship Society in Houston. He felt that how much better it would have been if he had devoted to Arya Samaj all the time and energy he had given and was giving to Hindu Worship Society. One night at about 1:30, the phone rang. Shri Mahajan Ji was calling from Conroe. He apologized for calling so late in the night. I was apprehensive that some accident might have happened. He said he was thinking of establishing an Arya Samaj in Houston and would like to get "By-Laws Documents" from other Samajs. I sent him copies of the documents the next day. Through his dedication, hard work and leadership, Arya Samaj Greater Houston was established. This Arya Samaj is unique amongst all the Arya Samajs in the North America.
The second Arya Samaj Maha Sammelan was held in Toronto, Canada. Following its success, he planned to go to California and asked me to accompany him. We discussed the issues of Los Angeles Arya Samajs and many important decisions were made. Following that we organized a Havan at the home of Shri Balram and Shrimati Rajani Bhandari in San Francisco. The 1992 Arya Samaj Maha Sammelan held in Chicago was historic and important in many respects. Representatives from many countries and high-ranking officials of D.A.V. management in India also participated. The Sammelan was a huge success. Following its conclusion, the delegates from D.A.V. Management visited Houston and decided to establish a D.A.V. School there.
The Arya Samaj Maha Sammelan continue to be held every year in different cities in the North America. Even though Shri Ram Chand Mahajan is no longer amongst us, the sapling he planted has become a full-grown tree. 42 Arya Samajs united under the umbrella of the Pratinidhi Sabha are doing their missionary work in their respective areas.
An Urdu poet has written:
"Ham akele hi chale the suuye manzil ek din.
Manzil kareeb aati gayee aur karvan badhta gayaa"
Literally translated, it means: One day, I left alone for my destination. The destination became ever closer and the caravan continued to become ever larger and larger.
We remember Shri Mahajan Ji at every Samelan. We meet his admirers everywhere. Some one said for him:
"Badhe shauk se sun rahaa thaa zamanaa,
tum hi so gaye dastan kahte kahte."
Literally translated, it says: the whole world was eagerly listening to you, only you fell asleep telling us your story.