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History of Temple
The Research committee was mandated with a difficult task to present the history of the Vishwaroop Temple and Dharmashala (VTD) which is in existence for more than 100 years.
Regretfully, no old records, articles, documents, or photos were available; hence we had to commence our research from scratch.
In order to archive our objective, we sort information relating to the history of VTD, by contacting people via advertisements in the news media and radio .The response to our appeals was not encouraging, very few people responded .We visited various documentations centres, offices of the Deeds Registrar and master of the high court and interviewed many people who we believed had some connect with the institution. We make this submission based on our research.
The first group of our forefathers come to Natal in November 1860 to work on the sugar estates. These pioneering settlers, dressed in meagre garments, brought with them something of great importance: their moral values, religion and culture .Newly established communities began to build temples and halls to promote our great heritage from India. Tongaat was no exception, a group of men got together and established the Vishwaroop Temple and Dharmashala .We believe that this organisation was established in 1903.The land on which the temples and Gokhale Hall are built was owned by Mr Sookul who was the son of Durson who at the age of 23 had arrived in Natal in August 1883, onboard the Sophia Joakim from Calcutta .He had hailed from Namtpore Cholka Village and was indentured to a Mr C Coleman of Green wood Park estates.
Sookal took ownership of the properties on 22 April 1903. It would appear that he made the properties available informally to the founder members of the VTD for the construction of a temple and hall .Some of the founder , members were Messers Abhechand Amritlal Gandhi , Badrinath Gosai, Ajudha Jeewon , Kassie , Sookum Hurbans , R Maharaj , Ramfikar , R Ranjith , Timmal and Harakchund Vallabhjee.
During the period 1903 - 1910 the Raam Temple and a small temporary wood and iron hall was built. The building was originally detached. Regular sathsangh were conducted here .Artisans from India constructed the Raam temple. Between the periods 1901 - 1912 the wood and iron hall was replaced with a larger brick, wood and iron hall. The hall was linked to the Raam Temple via the northern stairway leading from the Temple to the newly built hall. Mr Kassie was responsible for building of the hall which was officially opened in 1912. The hall was named Gokhale Memorial Hall in honour of Mr Gopal Krishna Gokhale. Mr Gokhale was the president of the state of Benares and a member of the Imperial Legislative Council of the Government of India under the Viceroy.
Arising from the Sathyagraha movement of MR M K Gandhi, Gokhale was sent to South Africa to investigate and report to the Indian Government .His investigations sent him to VTD in Tongaat which had a vast settlement of Indians. The officials of VTD and the community honoured him by naming the hall after him. Over the years Memorial was omitted from the name and referred to as Gokhale Hall.
Hindi is taught in the hall. Some of the past teachers include Messrs S.N.C.V Archarulu, Papa Maharaj , Lutchminarain , Chaturnarain Panday , Thotaram ( Rabbie ) Maharaj , Bisnath Ramdutt, Harikrishna S Maharaj , and Mrs Annie Maharaj. The school is currently headed by Mrs Premilla Singh.
A dip was established on the property in the early 1940ís. This dip was built in the existing carpark and it provided an essential service to the local cattle farmers. The dipping was also an entertaining distraction for the local school children.
Whilst major developments and activities were being undertaken on the property, the land was still owned by Sookul which he then sold to Mr Timmol for £ 130 .On 12 October 1930 Mr Timmol had agreed to donate the properties to the VTD. Although properly constituted and recognised, it is unknown why transfer was not affected immediately and Mr Timmol passed away. On 29 October 1932 Mr Timmols son , Mr Kandhai , arranged for the property to be transferred to the Trustees of the Vishwaroop Temple and Dharamshala Agricultural Land . The first set of Trustees were M/s Sewnarain , Varjivandas Purshuttamdas Desai , Ramlall and Kandhai and Rajkumar. On 14 February 1941 a notorial deed of trust was registered in the name of Vishwaroop Temple and Dharamshala . The first set of trustees were Ghanshyam Bridgemohan , Dinath Ramdutt Maharaj , Ramfakir , Sukraj Chotoo , Ramsaroop Timmal , Sewnarain Dhanee Maharaj and Varjivandas Purshottamdas Desai .
The Kassie brothers and Bala brothers were reputable building contractors in Tongaat. Between 1935 and 1940 they constructed the Shiva temple and the two cottages. The cottages were built to accommodate a resident priest and Hindi teacher. The benevolent Kassie brothers and Bala brothers voluntarily contributed their skills, labour and transport to the organisation. The construction of a Raam and Shiva temple adjacent to each other on a single property is a unique feature.
During the 1940ís Indian education was not adequately provided for by the government .VTD represented by Mr R Kassie , KP Desai , VP Desai met with the Tongaat Indian Schools Trust represented by Mr DS Khan , G Hurbans and RG Naidoo and negotiated for the Gokhale hall to be used for Indian education .The school initially operated as an extension to the Tongaat Indian Government - Aided school. The rental was set at £ 2 s per month. In time the school become autonomous and operated as the Vishwaroop Government Aided Indian School. The first principal was Mr B Sham. The hall was portioned into 6 classrooms .With the rapid increase in numbers the platoon system of education was introduced and the Vishwaroop Primary School as born.
The property adjoining the temple to the east had been abandoned and VTD used and maintained the land for its activities .All municipal charges were also borne by VTD to avoid a sale in execution until the Town Board refused to collect same from VTD on grounds that they were not the registered owner.
Having utilised the property for over years, in 1948 VTD attempted to acquire the property through prescription. However at the same time the Tongaat Town Board proposed to acquire this property by expropriation for public purposes. The Board of Management of VTD entered into negotiations with the Town Board to for the property to construct a new school .After protracted negotiations the Vishwaroop Primary School was transferred to VTD on 29 September 1960 with a number of restrictive clauses .The foundation stone was laid by Mr Gopallal Hurbans and the school buildings were constructed with a 50 % government grant.
In 1998 the newly elected Committee commenced with refurbishment of the Temple and Hall. Donations and sponsorships started to come in and the project was successfully completed. A full list of the donors is displayed on a donor board on the Hall veranda. However special mention must be made to the Desai family, Mr Don Singh and Father Vallabhjee for the large contributions towards the project.
The current committee has now undertaken to embark on providing wedding and hurdee package deals in order to raise much needed funds for the organisation.