Mississauga, Canada (CHAKRA) – An important leader and pioneer of the Hindu religion, Pundit Jankie Persad Sharma has died. He was a prominent leader for Hindus in both Trinidad an Tabago and Canada. He was the one to start celebrating Diwali in Trinidad in addition to building temples, performing wedding ceremonies as well as taking trips to India.
He was 80 years old and settled in Canada in 1989 after many Trinidadians requested for him to live there. He lived in Mississauga and passed away on Thursday, March 1. A funeral with many attendees was held for him a few days later.
Sharma’s father, originally from the state of Madhya Pradesh, came to Trinidad in 1910 with his 12 year old son. Once in Trinidad, Sharma’s father became a certified priest and conducted many religious ceremonies. He had eight children of whom Sharma was the eldest. Sharma along with two of his younger brothers followed his dad’s footsteps and also pursued becoming priests.
Sharma was conducting his own public prayers and rituals by 1944. He married a woman named Badewattee Persad in 1962 and they had six children altogether.
He had begun to create temples by 1971 in Matilda, Princes Town, Barrackpore and Rio Claro of which one is the well known Moruga temple in Matilda.
Boodram Ramoutar, a close friend of Sharma said, “His family fully understood and supported his role as a pundit and community leader with little time for all else. One special aspect was that he was not driven by material rewards, and treated rich, poor, man, woman, child, young and old with empathy and respect. In Trinidad alone, he had officiated at 4,000 weddings and become the guru of over 5,000 godchildren after baptising them as Hindus. It is fair to say that Trinidad has become richer in Hindu traditions, culture, and spirituality by the presence and teachings of Pundit Jankie Persad Sharma.”
For the diaspora, Sharma organized the first tour to India in 1983 because many Trinidadians were more interested in their roots and where they came from due to listening to radio programmes as well as from watching movies associated with their cultural past.
His initiatives such as his visits to India increased the demand of people wanting to learn more about their ancestors, their religious leaders and temples. The Sathya Sai Baba following was one such example. He became so respected by crowds as well as a charismatic leader that Sathya Sai Baba himself requested to meet him and talk privately as well as give blessings to all Trinidadians that he represented.
Sharma was asked to address the opening at the first Diwali Nagar celebration in 1986 in Chaguanas. Hindu awareness was growing and thus this event since then became an annual function which not only drew Hindus but also people of other faiths who just wished to experience the auspicious occasion of Diwali.
Thereafter, on the island, every Hindu celebration began to be celebrated with high respect and grandeur.
Most Trinidadians who moved to Canada, Britain and the United States starting in the 1970’s and onwards all called Sharma to perform their religious ceremonies such as weddings, house warming’s and other related religious events that required blessings from a respected elder. Due to this increase and demand for him, Sharma and his family moved to Canada thereafter to settle in the province of Ontario.
In Canada, he started the Satya Jyoti Cultural Sabha while becoming more prevalent to Canadian Hindus at the same time, marking a presence of Hinduism in the Canadian society.
All levels of government in Canada praised and honoured him with certificates and recommendations for his service to the Mississauga and Canadian community as a whole. Pundit Jankie Persad Sharma had become Canada’s first swami and was also known as Swami Atmananda Maharaj Ji.