Today, Pandit Cashinath Kistoe Aryan Vedic (Hindu Aided Primary) School of Vacoas is celebrating one hundred years of its existence. Reckoned as one among the ten best primary schools in the island, it is fair that we cast a glance down memory lane and pay tribute to the men and women who have sacrificed their lifetime towards the realisation of the first Indian Primary School in Mauritius, founded as early as in August 1, 1918, with ten pupils on roll.
One hundred years ago, Indo-Mauritians in this island lived in the mire of illiteracy and abject poverty. The repressive and discriminatory rule of the plantocrats and colonial administrators affected their lives in several ways. To get them out of that quagmire, there was an appeal made by a few concerned people to rise and make a breakthrough. The main solution to these problems was education, and to fight ignorance and make the Indian workers understand their rights. The few Governmental and confessional existing schools did not take on board the languages spoken by the Indians, nor were they given the right to practise their religions, beliefs or faiths.
The real man behind this awakening was Manilal Doctor who had called Dr Chiranjeev Bhardwaj (F.R.C.S.), fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons, Dublin, from Burma. He arrived in Mauritius on 15 December 1911.
Prior to the above event, the Arya Samaj Movement had already started in Curepipe in 1903 and was relaunched in 1907, but it was only on 8 May 1911 that the Arya Samaj in Port Louis was founded in the presence of Manilal Doctor while he was still present in Mauritius and the above movement was registered by Dr. Chirinjeev Bhardwaj on December 5, 1913 under the appellation of ‘Arya Paropkarini Sabha’.
Dr Chiranjeev Bhardwaj practised as a medical doctor during the day and served the Hindu Community in the evening, at night, and in the weekends to ameliorate their status in the field of religion, education, and culture. His wife Shrimati Sumangali Devi taught Hindi to girls and women folks. His House in Vacoas was as if transformed into a school.
In 1916, another great scholar, Pandit Cashinath Kistoe returned to Mauritius after six years of Vedic study in India. He was one of the rare Mauritians who had the opportunity to study under the guidance of Mahatma Hansraj, the father of D.A.V Colleges in India. As soon as he landed in Mauritius, he joined the Arya Paropkarini sabha as head priest and started a vigorous campaign against illiteracy, prevalent social ills and superstitions. He sacrificed a lot to disseminate education. The renaming of the school after his name some decades ago bears testimony to the pundit’s commitment to education.
On 5 October 1917, under the Chairmanship of Moti Master, a meeting was held on the issue of opening a school in Vacoas. According to Maurisashya Arya Samaj Ka Itihas by Pahlad Ramsurrun, three months later, on 7 Dec 1917, the Committee met again and an agreement was reached to go ahead with the opening of a school under the name of ‘Arya Vidyalaya’ (Aryan School) at Vacoas.
The Arya Paropkarini Sabha, the then official Arya Samaj in Mauritius, purchased a plot of one acre of land in Avenue Saint Paul at Vacoas on which the first Aryan Vedic School was started. The walls were made of stone and the roof of corrugated iron sheets. Gradually, the admissions went on increasing and the building kept on getting extended. A few decades ago, several million rupees were spent on the construction of a multi-storeyed building to give the school a modern outlook that could answer to the needs of government reforms in education.
Today the school population of Pandit Cashinath Kistoe Aryan Vedic Aided School is over 1,300 with some 60 teaching staff employed on a permanent basis. Perceived as a star school in Mauritius, the demand for admission keeps on increasing year after year.
Many social leaders and social workers have devoted time and energy to uplift the status of the school and for the benefit of the pupils. The first manager of the school was Dunputh Lallah (1918-1921), followed by a host of personalities like Dr Jhugroo Seegobin, Ghooran Singh, Nandkishore Suddul, Darshan Bonomally, Dr Seewoosagur Ramgoolam, Barrister Sir Rabindrah Ghurburrun, Sahadeo Khemraj, Naraindass Sookun, Ramsubhag Goburdhun, Jaykrishna Ramgutty and many others. This is also an opportunity to pay a glowing tribute to dozens of dedicated headteachers like Suddul, Ramsubhag Goburdhun, Lady Sarojini Jugnauth amongst others.
Through a survey undertaken on the students who received their full-time primary education at the Aryan Vedic School at Vacoas, we are pleased to announce that many of them have served and are today serving as judges, great scholars, land surveyors, chief executives, lecturers in world class Universities, and some have become scientists of world repute.
What started as an Aryan Vedic Vidayalay (School) a century ago, has today become a ‘Star School’ that welcomes children of all communities, all faiths and beliefs, and they have all been benefiting from Pandit Cashinath Kistoe Aryan Vedic Primary School, which has nowadays become a Centre of Mosaic Culture and a Centre of Learning.
To those great pioneers who stood up and gave their lives in the rebuilding of this school, and who are no more with us today, we humbly pay them and their families our due respectful homage. May the new generation draw inspiration from them and come forward with innovation to reshape this educational institution in the future