Our Founding fathers
Shri INDER SINGH KENT
On 5th July,1903 thirty nine Hindus subscribing to the principles of Arya Samaj met at the residence of Shri Jai Gopal Chand ji in River Road Nairobi and agreed to become Founding members of Arya Samaj Nairobi. The gathering agreed that Shri Inder singh Kent shall be the first President of Arya Samaj Nairobi, suggests the respect and standing Shri Inder singh Kent ji enjoyed amongst the Hindus at that time.
Inder Singh Kent first came to Kenya in 1892. He came with the British-Indian team assigned the task of surveying the country towards the establishment of a Railway. Upon returning to India he was involved in the recruitment of the labor for the construction and agreeing their terms of employment contracts, for the state Government of Punjab. The Railways was then called Uganda Railways and was built from facilities of Punjab Railways, hence initially Punjabis were recruited but later recruitment was from other parts of India as well. Shri Kent ji was responsible for encouraging Mathura Dass Kapila and others from Punjab to come to Kenya.
Inder Singh worked as a senior cashier-cum-accounts officer with the Railways in Kenya from 1896 and was responsible for reporting on the welfare of the Indian employees and also to liase with the British on behalf of Indian employees pertaining to their health, welfare etc. during their employment. Being a senior officer and quite close to the British establishment, he was involved in negotiation for Indians of all sects’ desire for lands development of their religious institutions and schools. He assisted in acquiring our plot in the city centre for the construction of the first Arya Samaj temple (1904) known as the Vedic church, where present Vedic House is located. Subsequently the adjoining plot, where presently Barclay Bank is situated, was also acquired and a girls school was constructed in 1918. Inder Singh’s eldest son Kehar Chand was the first Indian farmer in Kenya who acquired 500 acres in Dondora, in 1929 famously called ‘Punjabi Farm’.
Late Inder Singh Kent’s descendants are still in Nairobi and keep nourishing the fountain of Arya Samaj. Third, fourth, fifth and sixth generations are still very much in Arya Samaj both in London (England) and Nairobi. Sudhir Kent, Neera Kapila, Raju Kent, Nishi and Aupasna Kent are 4th generatin in Nairobi and Sonya Seedhar is 5th generation and her children become 6th generation. In London, Sheel Ahluwalia, Jagdish (Dishi) Kapila and Suresh (Tanty) Rawal are the remaining 3rd generation of descendants of Inder Singh.
Mahasha BADRI NATH ARYA
Mahasha Babu Badri Nath Arya (actual Kapoor ) was born in 1874 in Lahore. He came to Kenya in 1901. Initially he worked as a Railway construction worker eventually promoted a supervisor. Being an Arya Samajists, he came close to Inder Singh and Mathura Dass Kapila and was recruited to join accounts department under Inder Singh Kent.
Badri Nath, by personality was an activist and moving spirit in Arya Samaj. He practiced and gave great values and strict code of ethics in accordance with the Ten Principles of Arya Samaj. He was one of the Founding Fathers of Arya Samaj Nairobi and its first General Secretary and later its President. He was also a guiding spirit for a very long time that helped establish our schools, our temples and much more. Together with Wazir chand contractor,he ensured Arya Samaj got quality construction. In his later years he was bed ridden and died at about 90 years of age.
Babu ji,s son Uttam Chand Arya became the first Head Master of Arya Kanya Pathshala when it was located in its new premises next to Vedic temple ( where Barclays Bank Queens way branch is located ) Badri Nath,s social commitments were well recognized by the British and a road in the Railways Quarters area off Desai Road was named ‘Badri Nath Arya Road.’ He lived on Limuru Road opposite Jamhuri School and his house which is still located there, is called ‘Aryan House’
Badri Nath Arya did not leave behind any descendants.
Shri MATHURA DASS KAPILA
Shri Mathura Dass was born in 1864 in the village of Sahnewal close to Ludhiana Punjab. He worked in Punjab Railway before was recruited to join others from Punjab to work on Uganda Railway in 1896. Initially he was posted in Mombasa before moving to Nairobi upon completion of railways up to Nairobi. While in Mombasa he was responsible for paying cash wages of workers as the rail track was being laid from Mombasa to Nairobi. In Nairobi he worked as as assistant cashier in the Railways under Inder Singh Kent.
Together with Inder Singh Kent and others he was an important founding father of Arya Samaj. He was a true sewak who declined every offer to become President of Arya Samaj. His belief was was that a true sewak should not seek a position of authority but follow his spiritual calling of sewa. Throughout his life he was devoted to making Arya Samaj Nairobi a very strong and a principled society and always remained true to the principles of its founders.
Mathura Dass as a true follower of Swami Dayananda Saraswati, started a school for the Arya parivar girls in his house in 1910. His two daughters with other girls were the first students of the schools. At his own expense he brought from India Pandit Mathura Prasad who was the first teacher of the school. Initially the school was known as Mathura Dass Arya Girls School but eventually it was taken over by Arya Samaj Nairobi and housed in a new building that was built in about 1918 in an adjoining plot to Vedic Temple where presently Barclays Bank Queensway branch is located. The school was eventually called “Arya Kanya Patshalla”. Shri. Uttam Chand Arya (a pelagic son of Badri Nath Arya ) became its first Headmaster.
Mathura Dass was responsible for inviting others from his village or Ludhiana to come to Nairobi and an early follower was a cousin called Shri. Dwarka Dass Kapila who together with his young brother Krishen Dev Kapila became pivotal in serving Arya Samaj Nairobi.
Mathura Dass had 4 daughters, namely Saraswati (married D.D. Puri) Vidya Vati (married Jai Dev Khanna), and the surviving last born, Vimla (married Surender Saigal and still lives in India). His 3 sons were Dr. Balram, Baldev and Balraj –now all deceased.
Mathura Dass leaves behind five generations of his family in Arya pariwar. (Aruna Handa is the 3rd generation with her son Rajeev and grandchildren being the 4th and 5th generations in Nairobi).
Pandit BAISAKHI RAM BHARDWAJ
Pandit Baisakhi Ram was son of Shri Kishan Chand and was born on 14th April 1874 in the village of Rauni district Ambala, Punjab. Upon graduation in 1898 he migrated to Kenya where many others from Punjab had found easy employment in British establishments. In Mombasa he was employed at the inland revenue office in the audit section. During the course of this dutiesan occasion arose when he was directed to audit the accounts of a government slaughter house. He refused the order and resigned. Subsequently he joined the Railways and was employed in the accounts department with Inder Singh Kent and Mathura Dass who also hailed from Punjab.
In 1903 with Inder Singh Kent, Mathura Dass Kapila and others he was one of the founding fathers of Arya Samaj. In 1904 he became the General Secretary of Arya Samaj Nairobi and later its President.
In 1926 he resigned from the Railways and left for India. He settled in Ludhiana and became an active member of Arya Samaj Ludhiana. He also became its President and served Vedic movement diligently for many years in Punjab. He took a lot of interest in girls education and donated one class room to the Arya Girls School Ludhiana in 1932 and further one class room to Arya School in Doraha, a nearby village.
Baisakhi Ram returned to Nairobi in 1936, and having built contacts with textile business houses in Ludhiana, he established a shop in Nairobi, River Road under the name of Baisakhi Ram & Sons, dealing in imported and finished knitted garments from mills in Ludhiana. Baisakhi Ram died in Nairobi in 1963.
Baisakhi Ram had 4 sons and one daughter namely Pandit Braham Dev, Shri Jai Dev (presently 101years old and lives in New York), Pandit Satya Dev, Dr. Sukh Dev and daughter Shanti Sharma. Basakhi Ram leaves behind 5 generations in Kenya, with Dr. Bharat Bhardwaj being the third, with his son Kush and grand children being 4th and 5th generations.