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Varma Maharaj — pundit, singer, actor at 17

By SEETA PERSAD Sunday, May 2 2010

Varma Maharaj of Tulsa Trace in Penal is just 17 years old but already is a well versed practising pundit in Penal. The young man is studying law and he is also an accomplished singer having scored well in the Coca Cola Teen Talent and the Gandhi Village Talent competitions.

Even with all these accomplishments at such a young age this versatile young man recently began venturing into drama with the Princes Town Theatre Workshop with a major upcoming project playing the role of Rudranath Capildeo for Indian Arrival Day.

Produced by Ryan Martinez of the NALIS, the drama deals with Capideo’s school days and his political life. The drama which is also being prepared for national television as well will be staged at the NALIS in Port-of-Spain on May 12. Varma is also fluent in Hindi and Sanskrit.

As a child growing up in the rural district of Penal Varma told Sunday Newsday he would hear the sound of the ghanti (brace plates) and the bells ringing as the ancient Sanskrit mantras were recited by his father Pundit Deopersad Maharaj.

He learnt these very religious slokas from merely listening to his father’s voice on a daily basis. Because of this upbringing he is now well respected as a pundit, and singer.

“I am very lucky to have a father who studied scriptures. These teachings are implemented in my everyday life and I think I am a better person for it,” Varma said, adding that he spends a lot of time with his father reading and analysing Hindu scriptures.

“The good thing about this exercise is that there is always a very interesting story about the characters in these texts. They go through many trials and tribulations and always seem to surface above it all,” he stated, noting that he was able to find answers to the most complicated question concerning God and the cosmic creation from reading the Bhagvad Gita.

“This book is so comprehensive. I feel people from all walks of life should read this compilation,” he said, adding that in the Gita, the question posed by Arjuna and the answers given by Lord Krishna are applicable in today’s world.

In the words of Shrila Prabhupada of India, as quoted by Varma, the Bhagavad Gita remains universally renowned as the jewel of India’s spiritual wisdom. Spoken by Lord Krishna, to his disciple Arjuna, the Gita’s 700 concise verses provide a definitive guide to the science of self realisation. No other philosophical or religious work reveals, in such a lucid and profound way, the nature of consciousness, the self, the universe and the Supreme.

Varma also gives praise to his mother, Yurani Maharaj for supporting him in all his ventures.

“When I attempted singing as a performer on stage, I was skeptical about it as it was all about showcasing one’s talent instead of singing for God as is encouraged in Hinduism. But my mother loved my songs and she was always happy to see me on stage and this is why I attempted the stage,” he said. He has two sisters, Valini 15, and Vanna, nine, who are religiously inclined as well. These two are fans of Varma as they look up to their big brother for inspiration.

Varma is a graduate of Iere High school and the Tulsa Trace Hindu School. He said his primary school really set the pace for him in life as he was first given the opportunity to sing on stage at the age of eight at the school’s Baal Vikas competition. “This is a unique forum for moulding one’s life. It is competition so the pronunciation of Hindi words is important to win. And I excelled in this aspect,” he said.

Varma said that his constant repetition of praises to the various aspects of God in Hinduism has helped him as the gods are always on his side.

He would like to become a lawyer, but he also harbours the thought of becoming an English professor. He would like to visit India one day to witness the landmarks and monuments that are more than 5000 years old.

Reflecting on the village Tulsa Trace he said the people are family oriented and they have very deep religious values.

“Many of the value systems set up by the indentured labourers who came from India are still implemented here,” he said, noting that in the time of Ganesh Chaturti, it is amazing how the young and old unite to host huge yagyas in the Penal area.

Varma loves reading verses from the Tulsidas Ramayan and then translates this into English.

The Ramayana, he says, is attributed to the Hindu sage Valmiki and forms an important part of the Hindu canon.

He notes that the Ramayana is one of the two great epics of India, the other being the Mahabharata. The first depicts the duties of relationships, portraying ideal characters like the ideal servant, the ideal brother, the ideal wife and the ideal king.

Like any other teenager Varma loves hanging out with his friends, working out at the gym and taking in movies especially those with John Travolta. He loves going to live shows to listen to singers who visit TT from India.

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