Swaha International is a non-profit umbrella organisation incorporated by Act of Parliment No.7, of 1993 in Trinidad and Tobago, West Indies. We are a Sanatanist Hindu organisation following orthodox Hindu traditions. Though Hindu based, the people of Swaha engage in the service of humanity. Swaha was formed by the Hindu community for the purpose of spiritual instruction and guidance, social and cultural direction and leadership, and development of the general well-being of the national community.
Our mission is to recruit, train and promote leaders of vision, who will eliminate ignorance, dependence and repression, so that a united community can thrive in any environment without relinquishing its rich legacy. We propagate Dharmic principles such as truth, cleanliness, compassion and integrity. As Hindus, we believe in the concepts of Avataar (God’s manifestation), Moksha (Union with God), and the preservation of tradition in the contexts of Kaal, Desh and Avasar (time, place and circumstance).
There are approximately fifteen centres and branches in Trinidad and Tobago, with affiliate branches in the United States, Canada and India. We heed the “Five P” action call: The Pundits and the People working in a Partnership for Progress in the pursuit of Paramatma.
SWAHA’s history is inextricably linked with the development and expansion of contemporary Sanatan Dharma in Trinidad and Tobago. Swaha’s history is testimony to the legacy of a strong tradition, based in Hindu Sanatanist practices and a history of sound, exemplary leadership and co-operation with the Hindu community in Trinidad and the Americas.
Swaha started humbly in the early 1970’s at Aranguez in North Trinidad under the spiritual leadership of the eminent Pundit Hari Prasad. Punditji was then a Dharma Ratna and a senior member of the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha (SDMS) and all of his six sons were in the practice of religious and community service in Aranguez and throughout the island. This group of individuals, mostly from north Trinidad had a burning desire to perform Dharmic work for the benefit of the community and the nation as a whole.
Given the name Gyaan Deepak Kirtan Mandali (GDKM), meaning the association of illuminated knowledge, Pundit Hari and his sons forged in association with the Hindu community of Aranguez and its wider geographical enclaves, over a period of approximately fifteen years, a vibrant, modern, influential and committed body. They had a tremendous impact on the lives of all that they encountered. So much so that by the beginning of the last decade of the twentieth century the GDKM had as many as six affiliate branches.
A Bold Step
In the 1980s the GDKM took a very bold and selfless step in associating itself with the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha, then the only one recognized Sanatanist Hindu organisation that was able to articulate on matters of the Hindu community in Trinidad and Tobago. But as history has shown, the manner of organisation and the traditions of the SDMS were taking a serious toll on the direction that Sanatanist Hinduism was taking in the island’s history. It was in a state of organisational inertia.
The SDMS was averse to change, although the resources and ideas of the new associate (the GDKM) was bringing obvious results as evidenced by the publication of newspapers, a world Pundit’s conference, a school feeding program and many more activities that were never realised prior to it’s involvement in the SDMS.
The members of the GDKM, with the assistance and motivation of a visiting professor at the University of the West Indies, Prof. L N Sharma, then decided that its resource pool and the desire of many sectors of the Hindu community was such that a new approach to Hinduism was the answer to take it into the twenty first century. Thus, the organisation SWAHA International was incorporated.
A New Beginning
By a combination of these needs and a history of controversies that characterize the old organizations of the day, the first steps were taken to incorporate a new Hindu Sanatanist body that will act as an ambassador for the entire community of Trinidad and Tobago. After lengthy, careful planning and structural analysis – and with its proven history and track record – Swaha approached the House of Parliament and was successfully incorporated by Act No. 7 of 1993.
This represented for the first time, the ability of the now transformed Kirtan Mandali to utilize the parameters of a fully legal, charitable, non-profit humanitarian organization. This also marked an historic juncture in the modus operandi of Hindu Sanatanist organizations because Swaha was a Sanatanist organization seeking the benefit of the community and humankind at large.
In the seemingly short time that SWAHA has been functioning, there have been many milestones reached and many a historic movement initiated. Swaha’s most predominant activities are centered on two important societal themes, namely, social service and education. While religious practice is a constant and ongoing part of the organization’s sphere of activities, social service and education are the main focus of a young, quickly growing organization that is determined to consolidate a community with love, morals, education and a sense of cultural awareness.