Spectrum of Mauritian Achievers in the UK
By Kishore Teelanah
Almost all Mauritians who came to Britain at various stages since the 1960s have made tremendous progress in various ways. The majority came to study nursing during the days when unemployment was high in Mauritius. Others came later in the 1980s and 90s to undertake other professional studies and thereafter acquired British citizenship. Just like many immigrants who have settled in Britain, many of our fellow Mauritians have studied hard whilst working to earn valuable qualifications.
This article gives an account of BBABA Charity run by a group of Mauritians, who have also made a huge contribution to society in Mauritius, Italy, Britain and other countries. Their story will hopefully inspire other fellow Mauritians and their children. One quality that makes these compatriots stand out is their ability to adapt and embrace British society and integrate where others have failed.
This is the story of a special person who has made a huge contribution through her voluntary services to the community in Mauritius, Italy and UK. Since her childhood, she started offering prayers to Lord Krishna and follow all the religious principles.
In October 1995, as a teenager, Bhaktini Lilavrathee Devi Dasi (also known as Mataji) became severely ill. Her suffering was such that she turned to regular prayers for relief. She made a full recovery by the Grace of Shrimati Dharam Devi Gurumaata Durga ji through whom she was blessed with divine powers, and thanks to which she has been able to help cure many people suffering from serious illnesses from across the world.
Mataji Bhaktini Devi then started to actively promote social and spiritual activities with her devotees and community in Mauritius. A follower of the path of bramacharini (celibate), she has surrendered her life to propagate Sanatana Dharma and help the needy.
In 2001, some fifteen of her devotees came together to set up an ashram and a temple in Midlands, where a statue of Mother Durgaji has been placed. This would later become the founding association of what will be known internationally as Bhakt Bhakti Aur Bhagwan Ashram (BBABA).
One of the main principles of BBABA is to provide relief and shelter to all people regardless of their caste, creed, colour and religion. The main objectives of the BBABA are to:
– work for social, cultural, economic, spiritual and educational benefit,
– set up homes for orphans, old persons and the needy,
– construct, run and maintain temples, meditation centres and social halls, rehabilitation centres,
– encourage farming and other related activities, and
– propagate Sanatana Dharma and maintain a cordial relationship and to collaborate with other religious bodies
BBABA UK raising funds at the ‘Mauritian Open Air Festival’ in London, July 2019
With growing momentum, the need was felt for a similar association in the UK. With the support of Mataji Bhaktini Lilavrathee Devi and Behenji Prema, volunteers set out to implement the project. By November 2007, BBABA was successfully set up in London, and became a registered Charity in England. Mataji Bhaktini Devi started preaching and doing prayers and satsangs in various devotees’ houses in London, Kent, Liverpool, Manchester, etc. They also maintained contact with Mauritian residents in Milan, and are looking forward to launching a BBABA branch and to carry on with its charity work in Italy.
Behenji Prema Gunesssing and Mataji Bhaktini Lilavrathee Devi Dasi at a religious event
An increasing number of people started joining BBABA as regulars to most pujas and other events. BBABA UK’s main focus is on children and youth – the future torchbearers of our culture and values.
In response to the wish of many devotees to have a place of worship for all Mauritian brothers and sisters where they will be able to pray and do rituals the way they had been doing it in Mauritius, BBABA UK has been able to set up a temple with a spiritual park outside in Ilford, London, with the help of volunteers and their families.
BBABA members at a charity prayer event in London, 2018
Many charity events have been organised to raise funds for a Mauritian Hindu Temple where all irrespective of community can come and pray. All the donations received from these events will go towards the purchase of 33 murtis from India, which will be installed in the newly-built temple in Ilford.
BBABA UK is not only a religious organisation; it also promotes social and cultural activities. It also organises Christmas parties for children, music classes for both kids and adults, and ‘Mauritian Open Air Festivals’ – a vegetarian food event — and the latest being a Valentine Party for couples and families. All these events have met with success, and all the money raised will go to the temple project.
Ladies at a Charity Valentine Party February 2020, Enfield, London
Mauritians, wherever they reside, are known to be very passionate about maintaining their beliefs and peaceful culture; the sacrifice they are willing to endure despite so many challenges is admirable. British Mauritians are hard-working citizens who take pride in helping their children to reach their full potential. They owe that passion to their parents and ancestors from their motherland, Mauritius.
Charles H Townes (American Nobel Prize-winning scientist) once said: “Indian students should value their religious culture and of course, the classical Indian culture bears importantly on the meaning of life and values. I would not separate the two. To separate science and Indian culture would be harmful. …I don’t think it is practical to keep scientific and spiritual culture separate.”
For enquiries about BBABA, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Kishore Teelanah, Section Manager for Science in a College of Further and Higher Education, London, has over 34 years of experience in teaching, learning and education management in science having worked in many educational establishments at different levels.
* Published in print edition on 26 May 2020