Bharathiyar Awards return to South Africa after Covid hiatus
- South Africa
The annual awards named after renowned Tamil poet and freedom fighter C Subramania Bharati, returned to the Siva Gnana Sabay -- a religious organisation based in Lenasia, south of Johannesburg -- after a two-year break forced by the coronavirus pandemic.
The organisation has been making the awards since 2007 in September, when South Africa celebrates Heritage Month.
The awards were instituted by the late Guru Marie Pillay, one of the founder members of the Sabay, who explained at the time that Bharati or Bharathiar, a contemporary of Mahatma Gandhi, was one of the greatest Tamil poets, a prolific writer, philosopher and a great visionary of immense genius.
''His patriotic songs promoting nationalism, the unity of India, equality of men and the greatness of the Tamil language earned him the title ''Desiya Kavi'' (national poet),'' Pillay had said.
The awards are named after writer, poet, journalist, Indian independence activist and social reformer from Tamil Nadu Chinnaswami Subramania Bharati, popularly known as Mahakavi Bharathiyar.
Rather appropriately, the theme of this year's awards was 'Heroes of the Covid Pandemic', as 22 individuals and community organisations received citations for their role in helping their fellow citizens fight the pandemic.
''We received a wide range of nominations for the awards, all of them from people who had identified the recipients as someone who had assisted them in diverse ways, often putting their own lives at risk during the lockdown,'' said Maggie Govinden of the Sabay, adding that it was a difficult task to narrow down the shortlist, because there so many deserving nominees.
Besides Hindu, Muslim and Christian religious leaders, the recipients included ambulance services, doctors, pharmacists, hospitals, funeral homes, and a host of civic organisations and individuals who went beyond the call of duty despite the risk to ensure that others who were affected received medical care and food.
A posthumous award was given to Thiru Seeralin Naidoo for the extensive support he provided to others before succumbing to the dreaded disease himself.
A project started online during the lockdown to provide a platform for artists in all genres, SA Musicians Against Covid was awarded after it garnered millions of followers and participation from artists across the globe.
Among the many other recipients was the Saaberie Chishty Ambulance Society, whose research department engaged the Department of Health as well as the National Institute of Communicable Diseases and assessed the international regulations regarding Islamic burials in order to develop appropriate procedures for South Africa.
A team of medical experts and religious leaders then compiled a guideline on the standard process for Islamic burials which is now used not only in South Africa, but in neighbouring African countries as well.
Pandita Lucy Sigaban of SA Hindus' award was for organising a seminar to get government to provide PPE kits to priests conducting funerals and cremation services as this was placing a great personal burden on them.
The father-son team of Sammy and Shumarlan Naidoo of the Apple Group of Print Companies received an award for providing free of charge thousands of copies of a pocket-sized informational booklet, which was keenly received by people amid the plethora of misinformation during the pandemic.
Father Raymond McQuarrie of St Thomas Church in Lenasia, who received an award alongside Deacon Kenna, said that in his many decades of work internationally and locally, he had never encountered a community as close-knit as the one in Lenasia.
(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)