Language & Culture
By Sarita Boodhoo
Surya Prasad Mungur Bhagat, known more commonly as Soorooj Parsad, belongs to the Mungur Bhagat family of Long Mountain whose name is intertwined with the institution of Hindi Pracharini Sabha and the promotion of Hindi in Mauritius.
One of the pillars of Hindi and Hindi Pracharini Sabha, Sooraj Parsad was the third son of immigrant Mungur, who came to Mauritius, aged five, along with his father Narain, aged thirty- five, on 8 January 1862 by the ship Iskandar Shah from Calcutta. They hailed from the village of Dhawoye in the District of Gaya in the Presidency of Bihar, Bengal, Oudh and Orissa during the British Raj. They were engaged as girmitiyas on the Estate belonging to Desvaux and Company. Father and son were hard workers and soon they climbed up the ladder and became sirdars. After their period of engagement, they became free workers. They benefitted from the 1880s ‘Grand Morcellement’, became small planters and bought small plots of land around Les Mariannes, Robinson, Congomah and Crève-Cœur.
They bought a colonial residence in Valton in 1921. Immigrant Mungur got married and had three sons – Lekhman, Ramlall and Surya Parsad. By dint of hard work they became big and influential planters and commanded great respect in the Indian community. They were pioneers of the Hindi movement. Their residence at Valton was the hub of intellectuals coming from India. Soorooj Parsad learnt Hindi and Sanskrit from the acharyas, scholars and swamis visiting them. Lekhman and Ramlall Mungur Bhagat founded the Tilak Vidyalaye along with others on 12 June 1926. At the time Soorooj was only eighteen years old. From an ordinary baithka in a thatched hut, it was registered on 26 December 1935 as Hindi Pracharini Sabha. There were generous donors.
Bolaram Mooktaram Chatterjee, an influential Bengali Pandit from Calcutta became the first President. Ramlall Mungur Bhagat was appointed the First Secretary and Mohabeer Foogoa, who became a prominent politician later, was appointed Treasurer.
Young Soorooj Parsad was appointed Assistant Secretary and he thus early on had the apprenticeship in the administration of the Hindi Pracharini Sabha. Ramlall Mungur occupied the post of Secretary till 1940. Thereafter Surya Prasad Mungur became the Secretary which post he occupied till his demise in 1976.
He set up the hand-written magazine ‘Doorga’ along with friends and edited it under the penname of ‘Jwalamookhee’. It was one of the best Hindi publications outside India in style, content and language. In the late 40s, he co-edited, along with Jay Narain Roy, the ‘Janata’ Hindi newspaper founded by Seewoosagur Ramgoolam.
As a close friend of Beekrumsingh Ramlallah, he helped him to raise Rs 800 to set up along with other collaborators the Nalanda Bookshop and Nalanda Press Service in 1946. In 1960, Beekrumsingh Ramlallah and Soorooj co-founded the weekly Hindi newspaper ‘Navjeevan’ printed by the Nalanda Press Service. He introduced and encouraged a number of budding young Hindi writers to sharpen their pens.
Soorooj Parsad Mungur Bhagat was a disciplined administrator and steered the Hindi Pracharini Sabha with a firm hand. In 1941, he organised the first Literary Hindi Conference in Port-Louis with the support of Pandit Basdeo Bissoondoyal. 300 Hindi schools were operative and the ‘Varshik Utsav’ – annual school anniversaries were a galvanizing force for the encouragement of Hindi prose and lyrics.
Oomashanker Geerjanan, Jay Narain Roy and Srinivas Jugdutt, young graduates back from studies in India, joined forces along with the selfless dedicated Soorooj Parsad and left no stone unturned for the promotion and propagation of Hindi. Every weekend they toured the island addressing the masses, encouraging them to send their children to the Hindi schools. From time to time they were joined by Aneerood Dwarka. They affiliated the Hindi Pracharini Sabha with the Hindi Sahitya Sammelan in Allahabad for the conduct of Higher Hindi Studies.
The Hindi Pracharini Sabha rose as a prestigious self-financing Academic and Hindi Literary Institution in Mauritius having trained thousands of Hindi teachers. Many today are proud holders of PhDs and prestigious posts in academia. It has nurtured dozens of poets, writers, scholars and educators among whom figures the internationally acclaimed Abhimanyu Unnuth.
The Hindi Pracharini Sabha set as its motto: ‘Bhasha Gayi to Sanskriti Gayi’ which in Gustave Flaubert’s words mean “Qui perd sa langue perd son âme.”
Soorooj Parsad Mungur Bhagat passed away on the 8th September 1976 shortly after the historic 2nd World Hindi Conference held in Mauritius in which he had participated actively. He had devoted himself body and soul to consolidate the Hindi Pracharini Sabha without fear or favour. The Hindi Pracharini Sabha stands as a well-structured and well organised Hindi Institution in Mauritius, thanks to the indelible imprint of Soorooj Parsad Mungur Bhagat.
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Indradhanush’s Special Issue 2019 dedicated to Surya Parsad Mungur Bhagat under the initiative of Pahlad Ramsurrun will be launched on Saturday 11th July 2020 at the Hindi Pracharini Sabha, Long Mountain
* Published in print edition on 10 July 2020