Culture crusader

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For more than 15 years, Dr Nihal Agar, president of the Hindu Council of Australia, has been working towards preserving religious and communal values.

There are few people who work selflessly for the welfare of the community. Dr Nihal Agar, president of the Hindu Council of Australia (HCA), is one of them.

For the last decade and a half, Dr Agar has single-mindedly pursued his cherished agenda of preserving religious and communal values while working for the betterment of the community.

Dr Agar came to Australia in 1967 after graduating from Mathura Veterinary College to do a postdoctoral fellowship in the University of New England, Armidale. After serving the university for more than three decades, he retired as professor and head of the Department of Physiology in 2000.

In 1989, Dr Agar became the founder-president of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) in Australia.

“Life is a continuous journey and one has to traverse various unsteady paths if one is doing something for community welfare. I moved to Sydney in 2000 after my retirement, as my children were working here. I was always eager to work for humanity, so founded VHP in Australia in 1989,” says Dr Agar.
In 2004, Dr Agar, along with Anil Yadav, Jayendra Shah and few others founded Ekal Vidyalaya Foundation (EVF) Australia, an NGO which works in India to provide education to tribal people as well as underprivileged children living in remote areas. The foundation has branches in many countries including USA and Canada. “I was nominated as the president of this foundation,” says Dr Agar.

Elaborating on the schools run by EVF, Dr Agar says, “The schools are unique as the classes are carried out under the trees and in some cases inside a community member’s house. Only one teacher is employed. They teach basic reading, writing and arithmetic. The yearly expenses for 15-20 students is Rs 16,000, which includes the salary of the teacher as well. The teachers are paid just Rs 400-Rs500 per month.”

Dr Agar continued as president of the EVF till 2010. “We worked hard and have progressed quite a bit. In 2004, we collected funds for only 35 schools, but EVF currently sponsors 500 schools from Australia,” he says.

As for the HCA, Dr Agar joined as president in 2009, and continues to hold the post. HCA, says Dr Agar, is a unique organization, which acts as an umbrella body for various Hindu associations and temples in Australia. It represents Hindus not only from India but from different parts of the world. “When I joined HCA in 2009, it was only limited to NSW but it now has 40 member associations, representing the Hindu community at various levels all over Australia,” says Dr Agar.

“HCA represents Hindus and Hinduism in Australia and provides answers to queries related to it to various government bodies and NGOs at the state and federal levels. HCA also represents the Hindu community at interfaith dialogue meetings. The Australian Government also consults HCA if there is an enquiry related to Hindu religion,” says Dr Agar.
“Even non-Hindu students doing research on Hinduism seek our assistance in their projects,” he adds.

HCA organizes several events through the year to promote and preserve religious and cultural values. But it is best known for its Diwali gala, a daylong celebration held at Olympic Park, which attracts 10,000-15,000 people every year. To add to the uniqueness of the Diwali celebration, the HCA now gets an effigy of Ravana from India. Setting effigies of Ravana on fire is a part of the traditional Diwali celebrations.

“The main objective of HCA is to promote, preserve and share Hindu religious and cultural values. So we take every step in this direction,” says Dr Agar.

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