'Dockie' Maragh: committed champion of religious unity
I give our thanks to the Rev Devon Dick for the kind words and history that he gave about Ramadhar Maragh in his column of Thursday, May 30, 2013 ('Remembering Hindu priest Dockie Maragh'). Maragh was a valuable participant in the Indian religious affairs and social partnerships throughout Jamaica.
There are some clarifications that need to be made. The word for 'Hindu priest', or marriage officer, is Maharaj, and similar in pronunciation as Maragh, Ramadhar's given name. But 'Doc' or 'Dockie' is what he was affectionately called in the community.
The East Indian or Hindu community is quite different to the Muslim community, and their festivals and celebrations are also different. I suspect that Dockie had to administrate for the Muslims who also arrived from India, and this probably introduced Muslim festivals.
Dockie came from a large family (as he told me); his father was the original Maharaj, and while occupations were found for all his children, the father decided to teach one of his sons, Ramadhar, the elements of Hinduism, its teachings, writings, ceremonies and prayer: And these in Hindi; which is somewhat different to the Hindi of today. He took his father's lessons and completed his father's duties, practising to the end of his life.
I do not think that Hinduism by its teaching is "animistic", as Rev Dick wrote; Hinduism believes in the Great Soul, the Parmatma or Bhagwan, which is part of the soul of every living creature, including man. There is also a triad of the essence of the Almighty vested in: Brahma, Vishnu, and Mahesh (also called Shiva).
The history of Hinduism stretches 10,000 years, and Hindus believe that God appeared more than once, in Rama (Vishnu), in Krishna (Vishnu), and many other forms. But at the basis, there is always just one God, and there are written texts, the Ramayana, the Gita, the Mahabharata, and the four Vedas to substantiate this.
Hindus also believe the Deity extended to women; Sita (Ram's wife), Lakshmi (Vishnu's wife), and Parbati (Shiva's wife).
But then, Rev Dick prayed with Ramadhar. Did he not realise that the prayer was offered to the one and same God?
India and Africa have had great connections - past, present and I hope future. Trading relations have developed over hundreds of years, and after the United States, United Kingdom, and European Union, India is the fourth-largest trading partner to Africa. I know of no conflict or prejudice between the two groups.
Many Indians and Jamaicans have associated, and this is what may be a cause of dissension: intermarriage. But then it is usually a problem of the first and second generations of the two groups. The presence of a large Indian diaspora in Africa adds a special dimension to the India-Africa relationship.
I knew Ramadhar well. There was a marriage in my family in 1978, over which he officiated. As president of Club India between 1976 and 1980, I was part of a project to raise the funds to send Ramadhar to India, to various monasteries and churches, with assistance from the then Indian High Commissioner Shri Doddamani.
I was not in the island when he passed away recently, and I now extend my condolences to his family.