Hindus on Sunday unveiled a monument and a foundation to honour the life and work of the late Shri Prakash Gossai at the refurbished Indian Monument Gardens located at Camp Street, Georgetown, to promote the legacy of this well-known and well-respected religious icon.
Former President Bharrat Jagdeo unveiling the monument of the late Shri Prakash Gossai
The Shri Prakash Sai Vidya Foundation was formed as a vehicle to carry on the work of the leader by offering scholarships for individuals interested in pursuing studies in religion, music, and culture. Speaking at the event, former President Bharrat Jagdeo said Gossai was a fighter, an icon of change and a man who stood for equal opportunity and dignity for all Guyanese, no matter their race or religion. The former president noted that Prakash Gossai has inspired numerous people across the world. Reminiscing on the late Pandit Reepu Daman Persaud, Jagdeo said “as a teenager living in rural Guyana at a time when fear stalked this land and when there was very little inspiration for young people, many of us turned to the temples, churches, and mosques and we all sought a way of trying to come out of the sense of hopelessness, where everyone wanted to leave this country, because they never saw themselves living here and having a decent life, but there were only a few people who sought to inspire us and they were the religious leaders.” He continued, “It was their unique way of interpreting and reading the scriptures and translating our messages of our scriptures that inspired us as youths.”
Jagdeo noted that Gossai’s willingness to reach out to those who may not even believe in the scriptures, his distinct way of interpreting the scriptures and ensuring that the youths of today follow the path of religion, and his wholeheartedness to be part of the struggle for change in Guyana made him unique. “There are many priests today but not all of them have the same characteristics…”
A section of the audience at the tribute to the late Shri Prakash Gossai
Jagdeo said another distinguishing characteristic of Prakash Gossai was his willingness to live the scriptures.
Struggle not over
Jagdeo also spoke against racism, noting that Guyana has come a long way in restoring rights, freedom and dignity to people as well as in trying to unite all people from across varying religious and racial backgrounds. “We still have a long way to go and we still need fighters because the struggle is not over,” said the former president. He mentioned that at the late Reepu Daman Persaud’s funeral, he spoke about anti-Indian racism sentiments which generated much controversy in this country, “because as usual it was misrepresented”. Jagdeo clarified that what he said was that this country and every bit of its resources belong to all of its people and that is what the government fought for.
Prime Minister Hinds during his tribute stated that he felt a great loss when Gossai died, though he knew him for a short period of time. He added that Pandit Gossai was a very pleasant and outgoing person who will always be remembered for the role he played in society. “We have lost a great person; someone who I believe would have brought the different faiths together… I hope that we continue to have him in our memory, and be motivated by his life,” he said.
Guyana has a rich and diverse culture, and Prime Minister Hinds endorsed cultural studies in the school system. This, he said, will allow young people to be more aware of their cultural background and to become familiar with the rituals of their ancestors.
Shri Prakash Gossai was born in Guyana and migrated to the United States of America in 1983. He died at a hospital in Miami, Florida on June 15, 2009. He was a special assistant to Jagdeo and a popular pandit and Hindu activist, known for his devotional songs. In 1988, his interest in the Ramayana (one of Hinduism’s most sacred texts) sparked his passion, so much so that he gave up a science career to follow his aspirations. Today, he had lived his dream by spreading the words of Shree Sanatan Dharma internationally. Gossai was popular not only in Canada, but throughout the United States, the West Indies, South America, and Europe.