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August - September 2007
Brij Mohan Gupta: Educationist, committed community leader and an indefatigable fighter for Hindu Heritage.
I had known Mr Brij Mohan Gupta for the last many years as a businessman specialising in Indian savouries. However, at a recent encounter at a function of Pak-India Friendship Forum in Wembley, I saw another interesting facet of this remarkable gem of a man. As the chairman of the Hindu Heritage and Culture Society, based in Southall, Ealing, he paid a fact-finding visit to Katasraj near Chakwal in NorthWest Punjab, Pakistan. Katasraj, a complex of ancient Shiva temples, now in ruins, came to limelight when the BJP leader Mr L.K. Advani while on an official visit to Pakistan put this ancient monument on his itinerary. The impact of this visit was felt in India and among Indians living abroad.
Brij Mohan Gupta, a man of determination, took upon himself the huge task of bringing this ancient Hindu heritage site to the attention of not only the government of India but also to the United Nations. This temple complex, one of the most ancient heritage sites from the history dating back to the times of Mahabharata was left in ruins after the partition of the country. Realising the great potential of the site as a tourist attraction, the Federal minister for tourism in Pakistan, Mrs. Nilofar Bakhtiar invited Mr. Brij Mohan Gupta to attend the Katas Raj Festival of “Mahashivratri” along with other members of the Hindu Heritage society.
Katas Raj temples have historic and religious value for Hindus. Located in the Salt Range at a distance of 30 kilometres south of Chakwal. According to Hindu mythology, Lord Shiva, grieved by the sad demise of his beloved wife Sati, wept so profusely that two streams emerged thereby, one at Pushkar in Rajasthan and the other at Katas. In Sanskrit Katas means ‘strings of tears’ or ‘weeping eyes’. Government of Pakistan is now planning to restore the temple complex keeping in mind the religious sentiments of Hindu pilgrims.
The Hindu Heritage and Culture Society under the chairmanship of Mr. Brij Mohan Gupta has taken on its shoulders the task of restoring the site and persuading the United Nations to approve its status as one of the ‘Heritage Sites of the World’.
Born and brought up in Delhi, Brij Gupta studied at Hindu College, Delhi, took a Masters degree in Mathematics, worked for sometime with the Planning Commission, Government of India, and then came to the United Kingdom in 1962. After teaching for a while in London schools, he went to Nigeria with his wife Asha who was also an educationist. Both taught for a while in Nigeria and then returned to London.
Brimming with entrepreneurial spirit, the young couple went into an entirely new line of business. They introduced Indian savouries (first to do so) to Southall Broadway, the only centre of social meetings for young immigrants from the Punjab and Uganda in early seventies. The ‘Chaat House’ was an instant success; and business boomed. Now you can see varieties of ‘Chaat House’ in almost every high street of London.
Business life was too small an arena for the indomitable Brij Mohan Gupta. He began to take active part in local community politics, helping temple organisations and organising important Hindu festivals like Dussehra (Vijay Dashmi) on huge scale. In one of the Dussehra festival, as many as 35,000 people participated
Throughout his struggles and successes in India, London, Nigeria and back to London, Asha, his beautiful, pleasant and scholarly wife, supported and guided him. Her mental agility and traditional Hindu values rescued him from many tight corners he got into in his business and social life. Her demise in January 2002 was a great loss to him and his family. Mr. Gupta has four daughters-all graduates- well settled in life. Essentially, Mr. Gupta is a family man; and family, despite his arduous social and religious responsibilities, is his first priority. He looks after the needs of his family; and always finds time for his daughters and grand children. The family members, in turn, spur him to reach new heights in his duties towards social and religious organisations.
His latest venture, helping to restore the ancient Hindu temple complex of Lord Shiva in Katas Raj in Pakistan, is a worthy task; and, some may say, full of various dangers. However, Brij Gupta has an indefatigable strand in his personality, which will ensure the success of this huge task. The Hindu Heritage and Culture Society of London needs the support and blessings of all including that of Lord Shiva.