‘Durga’ HandWritten Literary Journal

Up to the third decade of the twentieth century, Mauritius had published four socio-political papers in Hindi language. But, in the real sense, up till then a Hindi literary magazine had not been published. This void was to be filled by Suraj Parsad Mungur Bhagat, the main figure of the Hindi Pracharini Sabha of Long Mountain village. Hence, “Durga” (Mother Deity) was the first handwritten literary (Hindi) magazine that was published as from January 1936 by the Hindi Pracharini Sabha. It was a monthly paper. Apart from the editorial, there were articles on topical matters, short stories, poems, book reviews, literary criticisms reports of cultural events, short plays, biographies of eminent personalities, interviews etc. This journal had its historical significance, for it provided budding writers to come up with their works in the world of creative writing.

(In the 1990’s, when the present researcher went to consult the magazine, he got only two files of 1936. Years later, it was reported that the third file of 1937 had been sent in an exhibition to New Delhi, and it had not been returned to Mauritius for years. But, by chance, it was recuperated by Dr. Kamal Kishore Goinka of New Delhi and sent back to Mauritius).

The students, the teachers, and a few intellectuals of the island were utilizing (reading) this literary periodical. From the beginning, Pandit Luxminarain Chaturbedi was publishing his poems in it. The young poet, Brajendra Kumar Bhagat was also publishing his poems under the pen name ‘Kumar’. Its editor was Suraj Parsad Mungur Bhagat, but who used to sign under the pen name ‘Jwar Bhata’. In the December 1936 issue, it is reported that Pandit Atmaram Vishwanath has joined the “Durga”group.

The Jagriti (awakening)

The ‘Mauritius Arya Patrika’, the main organ of Arya Paropkarini Sabha, was published as from 1924. In 1939, under the influence of some unknown persons, the Sabha was compelled to change the name into ‘Jagriti’. When the news reached Swami Bhavanee Dayal Sanyassy, who then lived in South Africa, the latter was pained and criticized the decision of the Sabha. Thus, the new organ ‘Jagriti’ (awakening) came into existence as from November 1940. It went on appearing until 1945. Its editors were Pandit Narain Sanjivi, Pt. Benimadho Suteeram and Pt. Balram. In 1945, in the context of the Second World War, the exigencies caused it to appear combined with the ‘Arya Vir’. The ‘Arya Vir’-‘Jagriti’ went on appearing until the 1950’s, when both the Sabhas (Pratinidhi and Paropkarini) merged into ‘Arya Sabha Mauritius’ and both papers were brought together into ‘Aryodaye’, by the intervention of Swami Swatantranand ji Maharaj.

Flooding of Hindi Papers in the 1940’s

From 1910 to 1940, Hindi Journalism in Mauritius had witnessed a rivalry between the reformers group and the orthodox sections of Hindus; that is the Arya Samajists and the Sanatanists. It is a fact that the religious contests between them triggered to a great extent the growth and development of Hindi Journalism in this country. But, in the thirties of the twentieth century, the successive arrival of Dr. Seewoosagur Ramgoolam (1935), Jaynarain Roy (1937), and Pandit Basdeo Bissoondoyal (23rd December 1939) was a great boon to the Indo-Mauritian in general, and in particular to the growth of local Hindi Journalism.

Dr. Seewoosagur Ramgoolam came in 1935 from England, threw himself in Mauritian politics, became a nominated member in the Council of Government, and he also became an elected member of the Port Louis Municipality in November-December 1940. Jaynarain Roy came back to Mauritius with a postgraduate degree, from Allahabad University in 1937, dedicated himself to the cause of Hindi and got himself associated with the ‘Hindi Pracharini Sabha’ of Long Mountain. He contributed regularly to ‘Mauritius Arya Patrika’, ‘Arya Vir’ and later became the editor of ‘Janata’, a Hindi paper founded by Dr Seewoosagur Ramgoolam as from May 4, 1948.

Like these two eminent Indo-Mauritian leaders, Pandit Basdeo Bissoondoyal, who had gone to India through the intermediary of the Arya Paropkarini Sabha, returned to Mauritius on December 23, 1939. He was holder of a M.A. in English, a postgraduate degree from Calcutta University. In his absence the Bissoondoyal brothers were drifted away from the mother Sabha. Hence, neither the Paropkarini nor the Pratinidhi Sabha received him on his arrival. Pandit Basdeo Bissoondoyal, at first, started a « minor revolution in the religious and cultural life of the hindu community » according to Somduth Bhuckory (Hindi in Mauritius). Later, he became a missionary and went on delivering sermons on Hindu scriptures.

Cut off from all the established socio-cultural institutions within the Indian Community, he held the famous « Hindu Mahayaj » (according to Le Cernéen-Le Mauricien-Advance) – with a Tamil head priest, thus shunning all the Arya samajist and sanatanist priests. And from then onwards, the Indian communities were split in several parts never to get reunited. As such, a third force within the Indian Community was created from then onwards. To fulfil his mission, he and his brother, Sookdeo Bissoondoyal started a Hindi quarterly ‘Zamana’ as from June 8, 1948. It was a tri-lingual paper published in English, French and Hindi. Its official editor was K. Kooraram and it seems that Pt. Basdeo Bissoondoyal looked after its Hindi section.

Apart from the Arya Samajist papers ‘Arya Vir-Jagriti’, ‘Janata’ and ‘Zamana’, a few papers appeared in small format and contained often a few pages. The ‘Masik Chittee’ (Monthly Letters) appeared from April 1942 till December 1945 as weeklies and from 1946 till 1950 as monthlies. It was a Hindi paper published and edited by the Public Relations Office. Another Hindi monthly was ‘Sainik’ (the Soldier). It was published from July 1, 1946 till May 1947 from the Hindoo Press. Its editor was Beekha Buctowonsing; still another shortlived newspaper was ‘Mazdur’ that appeared from 13 to 22 September 1949 and it was published and edited by the same press and same editor.

The Birth of ‘Aryodaye’

To participate in “India’s Republic Day Celebration” on January 26, 1950, scheduled at Champ de Mars, Port Louis, Swami Swatantranand and Manilal Doctor had come, the former from India and the latter from Aden. After the celebration on the advice of Swami Swatantranand, both factions of the Arya Samaj (Paropkarini and Pratinidhi) merged into the “Arya Sabha Mauritius” and in the same spirit the ‘Arya Vir’-‘Jagriti’ was incorporated into “Aryodaye’ (the Rise of the Arya). Its first number appeared on November 9, 1950. Its editor was Pandit Atmaram Vishwanath, and it was in pure Hindi.

Pandit Ramsewak Tiwari had started another purely Hindi paper as from September 18, 1953. It was called ‘Vartaman’ (The Present). It was a Hindi paper published from Jyoti Press. Pt. Ramsewak Tiwari was its editor. It was a literary magazine. It had opened its columns to the budding Hindi writer Moonishwurlall Chintamunnee. It ceased appearing as from June 1954.

The ‘Divali Sandesh’

The Divali Sandesh (Divali Message) was a yearly journal that was edited by Mohunlall Mohith of Saint Pierre and a prominent member of the former ‘Arya Pratinidhi Sabha’. Apart from socio-religious articles, it included a few literary compositions. It was printed by Luxmi Printing. It was published in pure Hindi language. It ceased appearing in 1959.

Another fortnightly paper, ‘Mazdur’, (The Labourer) was published as from November 1, 1956. Its proprietor was Pandit Harry Parsad Ramnarain, who was then the president of the Amalgamated Labourer’s Association. Its editor was Ramsoondur Balgobin. It was published in English, French and Hindi. It was an organ of the Trade Union Movement. It ceased appearing in 1961.