Popular Berbician Pandit Vishnudat Tiwari (commonly known as Pandit Bangat) passed away in New York. He was 96, bowled out by heart failure before completing a well-deserved century. He was the last among the old-timer pandits, known for his strict discipline in the conduct of his life and in the performance of a pooja. He was trained by pandits who came from India, and he read a lot. He was a traditionalist, a perfectionist, who wanted a pooja (prayer) to be conducted as stated exactly in the holy scriptures. He was the guru (those who baptized with him) of hundreds and the pandit for hundreds of chelas (clients) or jajmans (those for whom he performed poojas). He conducted marriage ceremonies for hundreds and performed death rituals for countless people in Guyana and in New York. He travelled all over the Corentyne and Georgetown conducting religious discourses and performing poojas, and he was held in high esteem by revered pandits like Reepu Daman Persaud, Deodat Sharma, and Doobay.
In America, nationals from India were very impressed with his conduct of poojas and in performing funeral rites. At his wake and viewing at the funeral home in Richmond Hill (he resided in Queens Village), many spoke highly of his yeoman service, and that he had been a doyen among old-timer pandits. They applauded his over seventy years of service as a pandit, matched by few others. Hundreds attended the wake and cremation in spite of terrible freezing weather and snow.
Pandit Bangat was one of the founders of the Guyana Maha Sabha and the Guyana Pandits Council. He served as President of the Pandits Council and as an executive of the Maha Sabha. He was fluent in Hindi and Sanskrit. He served as a host for various visiting delegations from India, Trinidad and Suriname. Pandit Bangat advocated for an academy of the Council to train Pandits, and he served as a lecturer teaching many in panditai. He was a perfectionist in the pronunciation of Hindi and Sanskrit words and in the conduct of rituals. In New York, he also trained many in panditai, and he was a member of the NY Pandits Copuncil and Pandits Parishad. Pandit Bangat, along with his brother in-laws Hindu and Baljit Ramjeesingh and a few others founded the Tain Mandir. Pandit Bangat served as its President and pandit for many years.
Pandit Bangat was born on December 29, 1918 in No 70 Village, Upper Corentyne, and he was trained as a pandit since he was a teenager. As a teenager, he worked as a farmer and herded the family’s cattle. He was married to Golin Ramjee (deceased) of Ankerville, Port Mourant and settled at No 70 Village with his new bride. Around 1945, he moved to Ankerville and also lived briefly at Rose Hall before settling permanently at Tain. He and Maharajin Golin, an extremely religious woman, migrated to the US in 1980 visiting Guyana occasionally to conduct poojas. Maharajin Golin, all her years spent as a housewife and supporter of her husband, passed away some years ago. She found her roots in Uttar Pradesh, India. Pandit Bangat was unsuccessful in tracing his roots, though he visited India.
In Guyana, Pandit Bangat worked as a dental technician, did rice farming, and had a brief spell as a checker at the Port Mourant Estate. But most of his time was spent as a pandit in service to others. In America, he worked briefly at jobs before spending almost all of his time attending to people’s spiritual needs (conducting poojas and reading the patras).
Pandit Bangat is survived by Sailo, Esther, Jean, Dilip, Mala, Nath and Utra. He was a grandfather of 17 and great-grand of three. He also had six sisters (two deceased) and two brothers, both pandits.
Few pandits gave of their time attending to others in distress like him. Pandit Bangat’s spiritual service to the Hindu community in America will be sorely missed.