1904: The year Arya Samaj was born

(Fiji Times, Sunday, August 21, 2005)

GIRMIT descendant Narendra Gaji was 38 years old when his father, the late Gaji Pratap Singh was awarded the Dayanand Medal for services rendered.

Mr Gaji, who is 87 this year and wears a hearing aid, clearly remembers that day.

"My father and a few other men who came to Fiji in the girmit era formed the group Arya Samaj on a Diwali Day in Samabula in 1904," he recalls.

"They had their own families in India who were part of the movement there so they thought setting up one here would strengthen the family ties, at the same time maintain good relations among the members."

The word Arya means people of noble thinking and Samaj means society.

The Arya Samaj is a Hindu organisation that comes under the national umbrella of the Arya Pratindhi Sabha of Fiji.

Gaji Senior came to Fiji from India in May, 1886 and lived in Ba. He was 23 years then.

He moved his family to Samabula in Suva a few years later to run a dairy farm.

The family house is still standing at Kula Street and Mr Gaji lives across the road from it.

Gaji Senior was treasurer for the Samaj from 1904 to 1928.

"There were only a few members then and as the years moved on, other Samaj in other districts were formed," says Mr Gaji, who was general secretary of the Suva Arya Samaj from 1955 to 1965.

Of the 1956 ceremony, Mr Gaji says it was supposed to be held in 1954 50 years after it started.

"But there was no one to organise it so we decided to celebrate it in 1956 because we had a missionary from India who helped us organise the celebration," he says.

When his father was made a recipient of the Dayanand Award, Mr Gaji says it was a proud and sad moment for him.

Proud because the hard work of his father had not gone unnoticed and sad because Gaji Senior was not there to accept the medal.

Gaji Street in Samabula is named after his father.

To celebrate its 100th anniversary last year, the Arya Pratinidhi gave certificates to long-time members for their service to the country and the organisation.

Arya Pratinidhi president Kamlesh Arya said more than 170 certificates were presented to Samaj members above 75 years.

Mr Gaji was a recipient of the award last December.

The Arya Pratinidhi owns 16 primary schools, six secondary schools and the University of Fiji in Lautoka.

Its first primary school was Gurukul Primary School which was built at Saweni outside Lautoka in 1918.