Harry Saran Ramsaroop the man who has been synonymous with the Dharm Shala ‘Home of Benevolence for all races’ has passed away at the age of 97, relatives confirmed today.
Ramsaroop who had been ailing in recent years passed away on Tuesday morning. The home in Albouystown was established by his father Pandit Ramsaroop Maraj 92 years ago. Harry Ramsaroop took full charge of running the home on the death of his father in 1950. Since its formation, the home and the Ramsaroops have been lauded for their care of the poor and needy.
In a History This Week article for Stabroek News, historian Tota C Mangar chronicled aspects of the life of Harry Ramsaroop and the home as follows:
With the passing of the founder of the institution, Pandit Ramsaroop Maharaj, his son, Harry Saran Ramsaroop, took up the mantle. Harry was born on 28 November 1915 and received his early education at St Stephen’s School, Charlestown and took private tuition for higher education. He was successful at Hindi-English Lower and Higher Examinations and even pursued studies in the field of Book-Keeping and Accountancy through a correspondence course from Chalmers’ College. He was married on 24 February 1936 to Anna Callie Bansgopal and the marriage produced four daughters.
Harry Saran always evinced great interest in his father’s work. Despite the fact that he joined the Government Service in 1939, working in the Immigration Section of the local Government Department, he was very active in the Hindu Religious Society. He eventually became Secretary of this organization which had responsibility for the administration of the Dharma Shala. Following the death of Pandit Ramsaroop, Harry Saran Ramasaroop relinquished his government post in order to follow in the footsteps of his father by providing dedicated social service to the poor and needy in Guyana.
Harry Saran Ramsaroop emerged as administrator of the Dharm Shala following the death of his father, Pandit Ramsaroop Maraj in October, 1950.
In his new role Harry Ramsaroop quickly realized that it was no easy task attempting to follow in his father’s footsteps. He needed the confidence of the public in order to garner much-needed financial assistance for ongoing projects and the maintenance of the institutions, something which the founder Pandit Ramsaroop Maraj did with remarkable ease during his lifetime.
Immediately, the wooden Dharm Shala building was in dire need of repairs. To this end a Dharm Shala Building Repair Fund Committee was formed under the chairmanship of the then Mayor of Georgetown, Mr Rahaman B. Gajraj, and simultaneously help was solicited from the Government and in particular from Mr M B Laing, head of the Local Welfare Department of the Colony.
After careful consideration a plan of total reconstruction was pursued. The old three-storey structure was dismantled and in its place a well-designed ferro-concrete building measuring 86 feet by 44 feet, was constructed at a total cost of $40,000. This new Dharm Shala building was declared open by Governor Sir Alfred Savage on 3rd October 1953. It had the capacity to accommodate 100 persons comfortably and included most of the conveniences of modern civilized living. In the meantime the Society continued to pay attention to the spiritual needs of its Christian inmates and it was no surprise that a new St Francis Chapel was constructed through generous contributions from private individuals and business houses. The building was erected on six-foot reinforced concrete blocks and was formally rededicated and opened by the most Reverend, Dr Allan John Knight, Archbishop of the West Indies, on 20th July, 1954 in the presence of a representative gathering of citizens. The opening ceremony was described by the Daily Argosy as follows: – “His Grace the Archbishop of the West Indies last evening re-dedicated the restored Chapel of St Francis at 140 King Edward Street, Albouystown – a Chapel that will serve as the spiritual sanctuary for inmates of the Dharm Shala as well as for those residing in the district.”The Chapel, though maintained by the Hindu Religious Society, was placed in full charge of the Anglican Diocese of Guyana. Services were then conducted by priests attached to the St Phillip’s Vicarage, including Reg. Canon, L.J. Rowe, Father Welton Ward, Father E Herdson and Rev Canon H. Worlledge and other reverend gentlemen.
The Chapel was certainly a valuable addition to the institution. Indeed, its dedication stone aptly illustrates the situation as follows:- “To the greater glory of God this Chapel of St Francis was rebuilt by the Hindu Religious Society through the good offices of Mr Harry S. Ramsaroop and dedicated to the worship of God by Dr Alan John Knight, D.D. C.M.G., Archbishop of the West Indies on 20th July, 1954.”
Harry Saran Ramsaroop and the Hindu Religious Society continued to work unceasingly for the improvement of amenities at the Dharm Shala. Members of the public contributed generously to the Building Fund and a Government loan was secured for the construction of yet another building in late 1954. This new three-storey building was declared open by the Honourable F.D. Jakeway, Officer Administer-ing the government, on 10th June 1955. The newly-arrived Governor, Sir Patrick Ren-ison, paid a visit to the institution on 11th May 1956. He was so impressed with developments there that he made a public appeal for continued assistance to this Home of Benevolence. With an increasing infant population in the Albouys-town area, the Superintendent of the Dharm Shala, Mr Ramsaroop and the Hindu Religious Society felt that there was need for expansion to the kindergarten school. As a result, he negotiated with the Ministry of Education and other relevant bodies and extension work was subsequently effected to the building. A dispensary was also built to serve residents of the Dharm Shala.