Dr. Jnan Hansdev Adhin: erudite and very prolific

Prof. Chan E.S. Choenni

Jnan Adhin and wife Esha Nandelall (photo 1972)

Dr. mr. drs. Jan Adhin. That is how the late Dr. Jnan Hansdev Adhin was known in Suriname. In the sixties of the last century, he was considered one of the most learned, if not the most learned person in Suriname. On 24 January 2021, Jnan Adhin would have become 94 years old. He died, however, on 16 January 2002 at the age of 74 in Leiden (the Netherlands). Who was this remarkable person and what was his significance for Suriname and Surinamese politics, and in particular for Hindustani culture and Hinduism? I will sketch a picture of this versatile and very prolific Hindustani Surinamese citizen. In this article, I will limit myself to a few important aspects and themes. I would refer those who want to know more about Jnan Adhin to the master thesis of D. Albertzoon (2015), entitled Dr. Mr. Drs. Jnan Hansdev Adhin, B.A. (Hon) L.L.D., Ph.D. – The Surinamese Maha-acharya, Paramaribo: Adek. Furthermore, Prof. M. Van Kempen and Mr. Carlo Jadnanansing have published articles about him on, among others, the blog Caribisch uitzicht. In addition, some books with a collection of his articles have been published. One can read the many articles and for example, the well-known book Dharm Karm – Inleidende Ethische Beschouwingen (Introduc­tory ethical reflections) to gain more insight into his thinking. I have used these sources for my present article in memory of this great son of Suriname.

Jnan Hansdev Adhin was born on 24 January 1927 in Ornamibo to a prosperous family of farmers. Ornamibo was a former plantation 15 kilometres south of the capital Paramaribo in the then district Boven-Para, later district Suriname and presently known as district Wanica. His father, Ram Adhin, was born around 1876 in then British India near Allahabad and came to then British Guyana at the age of 14 as an indentured labourer. After his five-year service, he migrated in 1895 from Guyana as a so-called free emigrant to Suriname. In 1895, Suriname introduced a scheme by which people could get uncultivated land free if they were willing to cultivate it. Between 1873 and 1920, 3,000 Hindustani from the Caribbean settled in Suriname. They were gradually absorbed into the Hindustani population of Suriname. Ram Adhin was one of them. He became a farmer as well as a businessman. Jnan Adhin’s mother, Daulatia Oedjaghir (1892-1978), arrived as a toddler of less than two years in Suriname in 1893 with her mother who became an indentured labourer. They had migrated from the Shahabad area in the state of Bihar. Many people from the Shahabad area with the main town of Arrah migrated to the colonies as indentured labourers. Ram Adhin and Daulatia had nine children, of whom Jnan Adhin was the seventh child. After his birth he was registered as Jan Hansdew; later he had the spelling of his first names changed to Jnan Hansdev. The sons of the family were enabled to get good education; but the three sisters to a much lesser extent. In the thirties and forties, it was not common for Hindustani women to attend higher education. Adhin was 16 years old when his father died in 1943. His mother reached the advanced age of 86.

Father Mahájan Ram Adhin and mother Daulatia Oedjaghir

Well-to-do environment
Jnan Adhin can be considered a second-generation Hindustani in Suriname, as both his parents came from India. It is important to mention that Jnan Adhin’s parents were already known as well-to-do people who, apart from a large agricultural area in Ornamibo, also owned a house in the centre of Paramaribo. This house was located in the Watermolenstraat near the then harbour (‘platte brug/plata broki’) of Paramaribo. The eldest brother lived there permanently and Jnan Adhin stayed there regularly. In the thirties and forties, many prominent Hindustani lived in this neighbourhood where also several Hindustani shops were located. At an early age, Jnan Adhin underwent urban influences and he developed widely. The former international footballer Paul Ameerali, who grew up near the Watermolenstraat at that time, saw Jnan Adhin often. However, he did have contact with Jnan Adhin because “he was constantly busy reading books inside the house.” Unlike most other Hindustani people of his generation, Jnan Adhin did not have to work on the land during his younger years, but could fully devote himself to his intellectual development.

Wedding photo February 1948

Esha Nandelall
Jnan Adhin married Etwaria Debi Nandelall in 1948. She later had her first names officially changed to Esha Damayanti, but remained known in the family as Ilse, as she was called from childhood. She was born in Paramaribo, where her father had a restaurant. Because her father died at a relatively young age, she left school early to work. In the forties she worked at the shop Nassief (a well-known manufactory at the Maag­den­straat) when she met Jnan. She was a modern city girl who did not wear an orhni (transparent white headscarf), as was customary for Hindustani women at the time. There was no question of an arranged marriage; both belonged to different Hindu movements. Esha’s family belonged to the progressive Arya Samaj movement, while Jnan came from the more conservative Sanatan Dharm tradition. In Hindu society, such religious difference often led to quarrels and conflicts between families and even to the rejection of marriage proposals and partner relationships. Esha and Jnan had six children: four daughters and two sons. In fact, it is remarkable that Jnan Adhin, at that time, as a Hindu, did not convert to Christianity in order to pursue higher education, and that he chose a Hindu partner. At that time, many higher educated Hindu men chose a non-Hindu partner, because the number of higher educated Hindu women was rather small. Moreover, the status of Christian Hindustani partners was higher.

Highly gifted and very zealous
Jnan Adhin was highly gifted. This became evident at a very young age. At primary school he had such excellent grades that he was allowed to skip the first class. At the age of 16, he was already an assistant teacher and, at the age of 20, headmaster of a primary school which was a highly respected occupation in those days. He was one of the youngest persons to obtain the headmaster’s certificate. It was also customary then to obtain all kinds of certificates in order to be promoted. Thus, he obtained certificates for English, drawing, mathematics and Dutch. As headmaster he worked in different parts of Suriname: Leiding, Moengo (twice with an interval) and Nickerie.

He was one of the first Surinamese to leave for India on a scholarship in 1952, where he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in philosophy (1) and comparative linguistics (2) from Punjab University. Jnan Adhin combined his high intelligence with a very great zeal and work ethic. In 1958, he left with his family for the Netherlands to continue his studies. From 1958-1961 he studied at the universities of Amsterdam and Utrecht and became three times doctoral candidate in the Non-Western Social Sciences (3), Philosophy & Pedagogy (4) and Cultural Anthropology (5), and Master of Laws (6). He also obtained his doctorate cum laude in Groningen in economic sciences (7) with his dissertation Development Planning in Suriname in historical per­spec­tive. Therefore it was said that he had seven (academic) titles. One of the propositions in his dissertation states that the Hindustani language spoken in Suriname (Sarnámi-Hindi or Sarnámi) is a Surinamese language on the same footing as Sranan (tongo) (the language spoken by the Afro-Surinamese population).

Adhin during a lecture in the Netherlands (1996)

Spreader of knowledge
Jnan Adhin not only acquired extensive knowledge in various fields, he also had an important role in disseminating knowledge within the Surinamese community through (academic) lectures, articles and books. This, however, is only one of his many achievements. Besides his scientific knowledge, he was also known as a great expert in Hinduism. His father, who was called Mahájan (respected businessman), organised so-called Satnáráyan kathás on his plantation in Ornamibo (known as Nainibog in Sarnámi). These were devotional meetings attended by hundreds of people. At the end of these readings (kathás), plays with a religious meaning were performed. Jnan Adhin was thus brought up with Indian and Hindu culture. Through self-study, he developed into an outstanding expert in the complex and multifaceted Hinduism. In his book Dharm Karm, he has summarised his most important insights for a broad audience. For example, I drew on his studies for my book on the Vedic Dharma published in 2018.

Jnan Adhin was also guided by the Vedantic life wisdom based on the so-called holy books of Hinduism, the Vedas. Of particular importance to him was the saying from the Rig-Veda: Ekam sat-vipra bahudha vadanti – There is only one Truth (or True Being) and learned persons call It by many names”. He therefore advocated diversity and tolerance, including religious tolerance and not thinking in sectarian boxes. He detested the oppressive caste system within orthodox Hinduism and was in favour of equality between men and women. Adhin was not dogmatic; he considered behaviour to be of greater importance than faith and rituals. It is not faith and dogmas that are important, but behaviour and lifestyle. He encouraged others to acquire as much knowledge as possible. ‘Veda’ means knowing and ‘anta’ means end. One should strive for ‘the end of knowing’. He himself did this as much as possible. The rewriting of his name from Jan to Jnan must also be seen in this context. The word jnan in Sanskrit means knowledge/ wisdom (also written as gyan). His Vedantic vision gained some support in Suriname. One of his students, the well-known notary Mr Carlo Jadnanansing, together with other supporters established the Vedanta Prize in Suriname, which is awarded by the Jnan Adhin Fund.

ANEKTÁ MEN EKTÁ, NA EKVESHTÁ
Unity in diversity, no uniformity

Unity in Diversity
Jnan Adhin devoted himself to applying the ancient (timeless and universal) Vedic insights in practice. Thus, he introduced the principle from the Rig-Veda “Unity in diversity, no uniformity” (Anektá men Ektá, na Ekveshtá) as a basis for the multicultural Surinamese society. He considered the cultural richness of the various population groups in Suriname an important asset and rejected cultural assimilation. In his prize-winning essay written in 1957on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of the Cultural Centre Suriname (CCS), Adhin unfolded his vision of multiculturalism. He did not favour ‘uniformity of religion and culture’ but advocated the preservation of cultural diversity.

He wrote: “Let each group preserve and develop its language, with Dutch as the common language … It is now high time that the groups learn to understand and appreciate each other, in order to enable the creation of a synthesis in thought and life by which all the groups are forged together into one composite Surinamese people. However, with this cultural synthesis, we do not mean the imposition of one culture, as a result of which the other cultural expressions would die out. We cannot consider the immediate acceptance by each group of Western civilisation, throwing its own traditions and culture overboard, as a solution. Apart from the psychological impossibility of completely ridding oneself of a cultural background that has been present in the collective unconscious for centuries, implementing this idea in practice will meet with great resistance and difficulties, since no group is willing to give up its traditions just like that.”

At the end of the 1950s, a movement among Creoles, including some Afro-Surinamese, advocated a form of nationalism that would require the Hindustani population to assimilate in a cultural sense. Adhin’s viewpoint provided sufficient basis for the emerging, self-confident young Hindustani generation to resist this assimilationist tendency. Later, leaders of the Afro-Surinamese group embraced the standpoint of cultural diversity when a revaluation of the (suppressed) African and Afro-Surinamese culture in Suriname took place. We see that now – in the twenty-first century – cultural diversity is also regarded as a source of wealth in Suriname. In this context, Jnan Adhin was far ahead of his time and the following passage in his 1957 essay is still relevant: “Let no group feel inferior or superior, but equal, although different. Let each group contribute to the cultural and social construction of Suriname in its own characteristic way, in active cooperation and harmony with other groups. Let there be no uniformity and monotony, but unity in diversity.”

Prolific government executive
Jnan Adhin became the ideologist of the political party VHP because of his view of Hindustani people as full-fledged Surinamese citizens with an Indian cultural that had become Surinamese cultural heritage through Surinamese influences. The VHP was then called the Verenigde Hindostaanse Partij (United Hindustani Party); it later changed its name to ‘Vooruitstrevende Hervormingspartij’ (Progressive Reform Party). After returning from the Netherlands to Suriname (in 1961), Dr Jnan Adhin became politically active in the VHP and played an important role in the political-administrative field. He was the intellectual brain behind the VHP from the sixties onwards and a pillar of the political leader Jagernath Lachmon. He often provided the ingredients for Lachmon’s speeches and was the author of parliamentary motions and other documents of the VHP. He carried out the orders of Sabhapati (President of the Parliament) Lachmon loyally and conscientiously. He also played an important role during the independence discussions with the Netherlands. He loyally served Lachmon, who to him was the indisputable political leader of the Hindustani people. With some (short) interruptions, he was a member of the States of Suriname (Parliament of Suriname) on behalf of the VHP from 1963 to 1980. He was Minister of Justice and Police from 1964-1967 and 1969-1973. In 1971-1972, he also temporarily served as Minister of Education and Community Development. Shortly before his death, Jnan Adhin held the position of acting chair of the VHP (after Lachmon’s death in October 2001). After 1980, Adhin was government adviser in general service.

Jnan Adhin in his function as Minister of Justice and Police

His contemporary, the now 93-year-old Andre Saheblall, who was secretary at the Ministry of Justice and Police when Jnan Adhin headed this ministry (1969-1973), tells us: “Mr Adhin worked hard. He could draft a whole bill in one night. He also ensured that Hindustani and Javanese people were appointed to the police force and to higher positions. At that time, the Police Force was a Creole matter. In any case, Chief of Police Spalburg cooperated well. I later became director at this Ministry and Mr Adhin was my great example. Many old or existing laws were updated or completely replaced by a modern law. During parliamentary debates on the bills, Mr. Adhin also outstandingly proved himself a Minister with extensive knowledge who did not shy away from any debate. He discussed each item pragmatically and objectively. He explained his policy in good Dutch and he never behaved in a sarcastic or insulting manner towards any member of parliament or fellow minister. He approached a subject not only from a legal point of view, but from other points of view as well.

One can say that Jnan Adhin was not a politician in the sense of charismatic political speeches, populist behaviour and power games. He was a technocratic administrator who focused on implementing effective measures. He withdrew the legislation prohibiting the practice of Winti (traditional African religious worship), which is considered an important achievement. This was based on his wisdom, inspired by the Vedas: there is one True Being that may be called by many names. Therefore, everyone should be allowed to worship any god of his or her choice.

Language virtuoso
It is remarkable that besides the above-described activities, Jnan Adhin still had time to occupy himself with language and literature. Until the 1970s, Hindustani people – including academics – traditionally had difficulty with the Dutch language and its difficult grammar, in particular. Not so Dr. Jnan Adhin. On the contrary, he was a language virtuoso. He always had a pencil at hand and regularly corrected texts in school and library books. For a short time, he was director of the Bureau for Folk Literature and the Bureau for Language. He also worked as an inspector for the Educational Inspectorate. He made his literary debut with the short story ‘Weer bloeit de Bamboe’ (The Bamboo Blooms Again) in the March 1947 issue of Vikaash magazine. He wrote some plays under the pen name Gyan Dev in the mid-1960s and published some stories under the pen name Sad Darshi in Soela magazine. In the field of prose, however, Jnan Adhin was not an outstanding writer, as he himself recognised soon and did not continue on this path. This indicates that even the brilliant Dr Jnan Adhin could not excel in all fields. He did write very accessible articles for newspapers and for Dharm-Prakásh, a magazine on Hinduism that he filled almost entirely on his own for four years, according to Michiel Van Kempen, the expert on Surinamese literature. Other articles by Jnan Adhin were – also for me – not easy to read and even complex. The Hindi-Dutch dictionary he compiled (published in 1953 and later reprinted in 1968), on the other hand, was very accessible and widely used.

Teacher and advisor
Jnan Adhin was also a lecturer and a commissioner for the final exams at Teachers’ Training College. The now 80-year old teacher Albert Rahman, grandson of the first Hindustani writer and intellectual Munshi Rahman Khan (born in India), talks about his experience with Dr Jnan Adhin whom he also met during his exams. “Master Adhin encouraged you to study further, while others only asked difficult questions. During my youth, he often stopped at my grandfather’s house on the plantation Dijkveld on his way from Paramaribo to his home in Ornamibo. He was riding a moped at the time and he and my grandfather would talk for hours. He had great respect for my grandfather.”

With older Surinamese people, you often hear: ‘Oh yes, I had lessons from Mr Adhin’. This is not strange, since Jnan Adhin was a lecturer at various higher educational institutions, including the Teachers’ Training College, Courses for Senior Education Certificates, Pedagogical Institute, Art Academy, Law Faculty and Social-Economic Faculty of the University of Suriname. He also remained constantly active in the cultural and social fields. He was a board member and advisor to numerous or­gan­i­sations. It will be too much to mention the countless positions he held. I will mention only a few organisations such as the League of Hindustani’s, Jagriti, Hindustani Nawyuwak Sabha (HNS), which especially promoted the emancipation of Hindustani. Jnan Adhin has thus devoted himself broadly to the emancipation of the Hindustani. More generally, until the very end he was engaged in transfer of knowledge through lectures, readings, publications, etc.

Minister Adhin and the Dutch Minister of Justice Van Agt (1972)

Multitasker par excellence
Dr Jnan Adhin was not only versatile, but a multitasker pur sang. He could deal with different thinking processes and activities at the same time, while demonstrating a fantastic ability to separate different disciplines, according to Michiel van Kempen. He could spend two hours on a pedagogical problem, and then turn the switch completely to spend an hour on the rehabilitation centre of which he was a board member, then to the Vedas for another hour, and then jump into outlining a criminal procedure. Therefore, Van Kempen called him a ‘jack-of-all-trades’. He says: “I myself experienced in 1986 at the Sarnámi congress in Krasnapolsky in Paramaribo how the recommendations were already formulated ready for use before the last speaker had even finished his speech. I myself received one and a half metres of fax paper with his comments almost 24 hours after some passages about the Hindustani cultures from my own dissertation landed on his desk. If I then cut off one linear metre of references to his own publications, I was left with half a metre of very useful comments.”

Many publications
According to the editor of the Suriname Law Journal, Carlo Jadnanansing, Jnan Adhin has been one of the most respected and invaluable editors of this journal. Apart from his positions as editor and later editorial chairman of this magazine, he is the most prolific author of all time of this magazine with 45 published articles. Adhin has also written numerous articles in different fields that have been collected in six volumes: linguistics and philosophy, religion and culture, pedagogy and education, constitutional and administrative law, matrimonial law and legal position of children, social economy and history. There are also many other publications by his hand. Further, Adhin was a member of various scientific and professional associations and institutions, e.g. World Peace Through Law Centre, International Law Association, Dutch Association of Educators, Surinamese Association of Educators, Surinamese Lawyers Association, Surinamese Asso­cia­tion of Sociologists, New York Academy of Science, Academia Brasilieira de Ciencas Humanas (Sao Paulo), Fredsbudet (Oslo), Surinamese Historical Circle, etc. He also was a member of the editorial staff and/or contributor to various magazines, such as Vikaash (1946-1949), Prakash (1947-1949), Het Onderwijs(1946-1949), De Openbare School (1947-1950), Shanti Dut (1962-1967), Soela (1961-1964), Vox Guyanae (1953-1955), Nieuw West-Indische Gids (1959-1975), Surinaams Juristenblad (1968-1982), Dharm-Prakash (1975-1981), Bhasa (1984-1987), Kala, Surinaamse Encyclopedie (1977), S. W.I.- Forum (1990). Those interested may consult his extensive bibliography published on the Hindorama.com site. There is also a Bibliography of Jnan H. Adhin compiled by three of his former students in 1995 on his instructions. It contains everything from his typing diplomas to his academic degrees, and from his one-year membership of the Bikini Swimming Association in New Nickerie to his position as ‘Attorney General of the Supreme Court of Justice of Life’ in Ontario.

Adhin’s three-circle model
Dr Jnan Adhin was not an empirical researcher and therefore hardly generated any new knowledge. He applied ancient Vedic knowledge to contemporary circumstances. With the Vedantic vision of unity as a starting point, he designed the so-called three-circle model, an insightful normative model as a basis for harmonious integration of a cultural minority into the majority society while preserving its own culture. He presented this model in 1986 during a lecture in the Netherlands at the organisation Eekta (in The Hague). This model reflects the degree of desired adaptation in three areas (represented by three concentric circles): the outer or peripheral area, the transition area and the central area. In the first area, where day-to-day interaction with the majority culture take place, adaptation should go as far as possible including respect for the legal order. In the transitional area, which Adhin characterises as roti, kaprá aur makán (food, clothing, housing), a combination of both cultures can easily be pursued. The central area, which contains the core of the culture (religion, philosophy of life, moral standards and values) should be dealt with very consciously. This area is not completely closed; interaction with the majority culture is possible, but changes should be carefully weighed because they often are essential to a person’s identity.

Exemplary role
Dr. Jnan Adhin has also been an example to many. He was a role model: not only intellectually, but also morally and in terms of his writing skills – for me as well. Actually, many are indebted to him not only intellectually but also morally. He was also a guru (teacher) to many. He was gentle and moderate, calm and in control. When prior to the independence of Suriname, the ethnic polarisation in Suriname was at its height, he did not allow himself to succumb to radicalism and polarisation. For example, he patiently made an effort to have the colour orange (of the VHP) included in the new Surinamese flag. This was in vain, but Adhin – rational and reasonable as he was – finally stated that in the central red band of the Surinamese flag ‘four parts bright orange and six dark red were also included’ (See E. Dew, The difficult flowering of Suriname, 1978: 196). Thus, he did not polarise and remained calm, while politicians like Prime Minister Henck Arron and especially Eddy Bruma of the nationalist party PNR, but also Alwin Mungra (of the VHP) stirred up tempers. Even when two sons-in-law were violently murdered by the military rulers in December 1982, Dr Jnan Adhin’s reaction remained moderate. Or rather, he hardly reacted. However, he must have been horrified by the decline in moral values. Van Kempen said about Jnan Adhin that his rationality and always-relativistic thinking based on the pure Hindu way of life almost seemed to border on stoicism. By submitting to the laws of the cosmos, he could apparently find inner peace.

Jnan Adhin was not status oriented and did not surround himself with servants and bodyguards. He and his family continued to live in the Prinsenstraat in the Frimangron (working class) area of Paramaribo even when he was a minister, although status oriented Hindustani people thought he should move to an elitist neighbourhood.

Two of Jnan Adhin’s role models. Rabindranth Tagore and Dr. S. Radhakrishnan

Incidentally, Dr Jnan Adhin himself also had role models. The Indian multitalented philosopher, poet, writer and composer Rabindranath Tagore was his ideal role model. A portrait of Tagore with long grey-white hair and beard hung in his house. Adhin always said that when he grew old, he would like to look like Tagore. When he started to turn grey in his late forties, he let his hair grow. This can be seen on a photo taken during discussions on the independence of Suriname.

Adhin with long hair next to VHP chairman Lachmon (1974/’75)

The greying process of his hair, however, took a long time and at the insistence of his wife, he had his hair cut. Another role model was the second President of India, Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan (1962-1967). This philoso­pher and expert on Hinduism was also a statesman and had been a professor at Oxford University.

Points of criticism
Besides all the praise for Dr Jnan Adhin, there are a few points of criticism. Many blamed him for advocating the use of original Hindu given names, while at the same time allowing to be called by a Dutch name, Jan. As I mentioned above, Jnan Adhin was registered with the first name Jan after his birth; his brothers and sisters also had Dutch first names. Even after he changed Jan to Jnan, many people continued to use the Dutch name. In the first half of the twentieth century, it was customary for the midwives, who were mostly of European or Creole descent, to propose a European given name for the Hindustani children, which was generally accepted by the parents. Jnan Adhin, when he became more aware, apparently wanted a Hindi name that remained as close to Jan as possible. As he had a passion for acquiring knowledge, he chose Gyan (knowledge) with a variant of the Sanskrit spelling Jnan to stay as close as possible to the originally registered name. Incidentally, he named his first child Vidya (knowledge, wisdom).

Another point that can be noted is that Jnan Adhin did not always and precisely mention the sources in his many publications, namely of the books, articles and archive documents he had consulted, paraphrased or quoted. This was mainly due to the speed with which he wrote and he often quoted himself. As for the latter, he was one of the few persons who wrote very much and there were often no other sources. Also, Adhin may not always have known or had access to all the sources relating to a particular subject. For example, for an article about the renunciation of (African) Gold Coast by the Netherlands in exchange for permission by England to recruit Hindustani indentured labourers in India for Suriname, use could have been made of other sources, which he did not or could not consult at the time.

Adhin at his PhD graduation ceremony in Groningen (1961)

In the past, some people erroneously thought that Jnan Adhin himself conceived the principle of Unity in Diversity. However, as stated above, he has always advocated the application of the ancient wisdom of the Vedas in the contemporary social context. Further, supporters of the Sarnami language believe that Jnan Adhin leaned too much on Hindi and did not promote Sarnami which he qualified as an Indian dialect. Adhin also had little time and attention for others and was perhaps too much focused on himself. I visited him with my father in July 1972, when he was Minister of Justice, as part of the process of acquiring a scholarship. We had a conversation of no more than half an hour and Adhin, in my view, was simultaneously occupied with other matters. In retrospect, that was understandable: he had so much on his mind. Nobody is perfect and these are minor flaws. On the other hand, there are his many merits and exceptional achievements for the Surinamese society. Overall, Dr Adhin was of professorial calibre.

Too little recognition
Of course, in the small Surinamese community, there is also (intellectual) jealousy and envy, and this also fell to Adhin. Some people also say hat because he did not belong to the higher castes of the Hindus, he did not receive proper recognition as an intellectual in these circles. Jnan Adhin had a difficult relationship with the orthodox Hindu priests (pandits) because he considered the rituals less important than moral conduct. He wanted to show others the way, but they had to bear responsibility for their choices themselves. His message was always: ‘Read and think for yourself. Do not blindly accept what other people say.’ He believed that people should search for knowledge themselves and that the pandits should spread knowledge.

Jnan Adhin’s funeral ceremony accompanied by music from the Suriname Police Band (2002)

Dr Jnan Adhin has devoted his life selflessly to country, people and community. For many he has functioned as a guru. His ideas and thoughts have been recorded in numerous publications. Carlo Jadnanansing, who considers himself an adept of Jnan Adhin (he called him Uncle Jan), is right in saying that, given Adhin’s intellectual calibre and his merits, this very learned Hindustani Surinamese person has still not been properly appreciated. He has not received sufficient recognition in Suriname, either for his cultural, scientific, or his social contribution to Surinamese society. During his life, Dr Jnan Adhin should at least have been offered an honorary doctorate and/or a professorship at the University of Suriname. In fact, I consider it a disgrace that the then intellectual vanguard and the political establishment did not take steps in this direction. Apparently, the gentle ones, who worked industriously and often in silence without banging their fists on the table, were less appreciated. Even after his death in 2002,  there was no token of appreciation in the form of, for example, naming a street or building after him. Hopefully, this omission will still be rectified. It must be said, however, that Jnan Adhin was against personal glorification.

Adhin’s ashes were partly scattered in the Para river in Ornamibo.

I will end my article with the observation that, viewed from the perspective of Hindustani migration history, two Hindustani immigrants who left India at a very young age produced a son of the very high intellectual calibre of Dr Jnan Adhin. An illustration of rapid progress and mobility. All things considered, I come to the conclusion that this special Hindustani Surinamese person deserves a special place of honour in Surinamese history.

Translation: Sampreshan/Hindorama (info@hindorama.com)

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