'Father of Hindi' in South Africa to be honoured with bronze statue
JOHANNESBURG: Pandit Nardevji Vedalankar, widely regarded as the "Father of Hindi" in South Africa, will be honoured by India at the World Hindi Conference here next month by unveiling his bronze statue.
The proposal by the Hindi Shiksha Sangh of South Africa, which is the local partner in the conference being organised by the Government of India, has already been accepted in principle by Indian high commissioner Virendra Gupta.
The proposal seeks to have high-ranking Indian and South African dignitaries unveil the plaque during the 9th World Hindi Conference to be held from September 22 to 24 at the Sandton Convention Centre, after which it will find a permanent home at the headquarters of the Sangh in Durban.
Although of Gujarati origin, Pandit Vedalankar pioneered the promotion of Hindi from the time he came to South Africa from India in 1947.
"On 25 April 1948, with the help of two national organisations serving the religious needs of the Hindi community - the Arya Pratinidhi Sabha and the Sanathan Dharma Sabha, Panditji called a meeting of the Hindi speaking people to discuss the plight of their mother-tongue and to find possible solutions to promote the language," Heeralall Sewnath, Joint Regional Director of the Gauteng Branch of the Sangh said.
"The Hindi Shiksha Sangh was launched at this meeting and he became its first President, nurturing the organisation in this position for twenty-seven years," he said.
Vedalankar spearheaded the initial efforts involved in preparing students who wrote examinations set by Rashtrabhasha Prachar Samiti of Wardha in India, preparing syllabi and holding workshops and orientation courses periodically to assist teachers.
He was also instrumental in introducing an annual Hindi Eisteddfod for both adults and children in 1951 which continues to this day.
The Sangh has also proposed to honour Swami Bhawani Dayal Sanyasi, born in South Africa to indentured labourer parents, for his involvement in the Indian community in India, South Africa, East Africa and Fiji. This will be done by launching an English translation of his autobiography.