December 7, 2013
Respects to Nelson Mandela: A great light has gone out
Prior to his imprisonment at Robben Island, Nelson Mandela worked closely with Hindus to agitate against Apartheid. While in prison in South Africa, Nelson Mandela bonded with his Hindu fellow inmates at the prison, particularly when Hindu priests would make ceremonial visits. He noted this in a 1991 speech commemorating Diwali, just over a year after his release from prison: “Diwali brings back for me memories of days on Robben Island. Regularly at this time of year when our Hindu friends the world over were preparing to celebrate the Festival of Lights we would be visited by Hindu priests. …They would come and offer prayers with us and bring with them parcels of sweetmeats. The authorities were insistent that these parcels were only for believers in the Hindu faith. Through our struggles we were able to challenge the authorities on this narrow conception and we insisted that all the embracing philosophies that Hinduism is based on extended a hand to all of humanity. …It humbles me to be associated with a festival that goes back over 5000 years. I also feel privileged and proud that our country is blessed with so much diversity and richness of cultures and traditions. The Festival of Diwali and the history and significance that is a part of the festival carries innumerable lessons for us all and I can refer to only a few. We have been engaged in the battle against the forces of darkness along lines similar in the Hindu scriptures. The policies of apartheid and its creator, the National Party have inflicted serious damage on the country and its people.”
Addressing South African Hindus, he said: “We are committed to building bridges and helping to embrace all of humanity under one umbrella and move forward in strength and confidence to a better future. We believe that this is not different from what Hindu scriptures have also been saying.At this time of Diwali and as I light this sacred lamp I am aware of how this lamp symbolizes the triumph of: Enlightenment over blind faith; prosperity over poverty; knowledge over ignorance; good health and well being over disease and ill health; (and) freedom over bondage. In our struggle we will be celebrating this triumph together. But we have a difficult road to walk before we can claim that victory for us all in this country.”
For Hindus across the world, Nelson Mandela symbolizes a beacon to the path of Dharma, a commitment to right action without consideration of consequence. Sincere respects to the noble and compassionate Sri Nelson Mandela on behalf of the World Hindu Council of America (VHPA). May his soul find peace in its onward journey.
Om Shanti, Shanti, Shantih!
Vijay Narang – Director, Media Relations;
Utsav Chakrabarti – Director, Media Relations-Greater Washington DC
VHP of America is a non-profit, 501(3) (c), tax-exempt organization. VHP of America helps the poor and needy people all around the world regardless of their race, religion, ethnicity, color or gender. Please visit www.vhp-america.org for further information.