World Hindu Council of America (VHPA) regretfully announces the passing away of Dr. Mahesh Mehta (Maheshbhai), its founder and former President in Karnavati (Amdavad), India on December 14, 2021. He was eighty-six years old. He passed away on the pious day of Mokshda Ekadashi and Geeta Jayanti.
In the late 1960s, when Hindus started to immigrate to the US in significant numbers very few Hindu mandirs (temples) or community organizations existed. There was also an acute need of institutions that provided religious and cultural education to children of the first-generation immigrant community. To fulfill this need, in 1970, Maheshhbai founded VHPA and subsequently, served as General Secretary and President of the organization for several years.
“Maheshbhai was a generational leader. He pioneered the Hindu movement in America. While his contributions to the international Hindu community are numerous, his true strength was his vision for the Hindu movement in America that was deeply rooted in the ancient Hindu philosophy.” Said Ajay Shah, President of VHPA.
VHPA under the leadership of Maheshbhai pioneered Hindu Sunday schools (Bal Vihars) and Summer Youth Camps for the Hindu children growing up in the US. This model of youth education has now been successfully adopted by almost all the Hindu organizations and temples. National, regional and local Hindu conferences brought together Hindu community to network and explore issues ranging from parenting to challenges faced by the small and geographically dispersed Hindu community in America. It also presented an avenue for early immigrants to explore opportunities offered by their newly adopted homeland.
Maheshbhai dedicated his life to building the Hindu movement and Hindu identity in North America. He positioned Hindus as the leading contributors to the growth and development of their adopted country. His work in the USA has been foundational; and now it has grown into a tree of many branches. He was instrumental in establishing Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh, Hindu University of America, Hindu Students Council (HSC), Ekal Vidyalaya Foundation, Hindu Mandir Executives’ Conference (HMEC), India Quality Group, and Global Indians for Bharat Vikas (GIBV) among many others.
Under Maheshbhai’s leadership, VHPA held several highly successful events. The first International Hindu conference in 1984 at Madison Square Garden, New York saw participation by 4,500 delegates. 10,000 delegates attended the Global Vision 2000 conference held in 1993 to commemorate the centenary of Swami Vivekanand’s Chicago Address of 1893. Dharma Samsad (Parliament) in the USA was held in 1998 followed by a 10-day Dharma Prasaar Yaatra in ten major cities with the participation of 15,000 people in 1999. In the United Nations Millennium Peace Summit in the year 2000, 108 eminent Hindu spiritual leaders (Sant-Mahatmas) and scholars from Bharat participated in spiritual discussions at the United Nations (UNO) followed by lecture tours across the US and followed by Hindu Sangam program at Staten Island, NY, where the then Prime Minister of Bharat Shri Atal Behari Vajpayee was also present.
Hindu community internationally sought Maheshbhai’s advice. He traveled across the world to help motivate and organize the Hindu community. He served as a Central Vice-President and a member of the Board of Trustees and Governing Council of Vishwa Hindu Parishad.
A strong proponent of Indian democracy, Maheshbhai was the cofounder of Indians For Democracy (IFD) that organized protests from USA during 1975-77 against the clamping of illegal and undemocratic Emergency in Bharat by the then Government of PM Indira Gandhi. He was the founding member of the Friends of India Society in 1976 and very successfully championed the cause of democracy in Bharat. Maheshbhai helped found Overseas Friends of BJP. Maheshhbai was a close confidante of Bharat’s Prime Minister Shree Narendrabhai Modi for many years. He was one of the organizers of the Madison Square Garden (NY) program in September 2014, attended by 20,000 members of the Indian diaspora where the Prime Minister of Bharat Shri Narendra Modi was the chief guest.
The President of Bharat awarded him Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Award in 2017 for his Community Services.
Shri Gaurang Vaishnav, Advisory Board Member of VHPA and Executive Vice President of Global Indians for Bharat Vikas) who worked with Maheshhbai for 48 years said, “Maheshbai was a Yogi without ochre robes”. He lived for dharma and Hindu society. He was a compassionate man; he was rational, but not a rationalist. He was deeply spiritual. He was extremely well-read and a teambuilder par excellence. It is hard to find a person with all the qualities that Maheshbhai possessed.” It can be rightly said that Dr. Mahesh Mehta was the father of Hindu Movement in USA. With Maheshbhai’s exit from this world, an epoch has ended.
Maheshbhai was the soul of VHPA. He was a great motivator and an exceptional organizer. He inspired a large number of volunteers to work for the VHPA. There are hundreds of workers in USA and many other countries who were inspired by Maheshbhai to serve the society at large and Hindu society in particular. His legacy will live through countless workers who were inspired by his leadership, his dedication and his untiring efforts to serve the Hindu society.
Maheshbhai was a thinker and influential orator. He had a deep understanding of our Sanatan Dharma, its fundamentals, its glorious as well as dark periods of history. He was well aware of the potentials of the future and the current state of Hindu society. A gifted writer, he penned a book titled, “Hindu Philosophy in Action, In Search of Universal Well-being” tracing the journey of VHPA. His message was not just for Hindus; it was for humanity at large.
Professionally, Maheshbhai was a well-known research scientist in the field of membrane technology, he held two doctorate degrees and an MBA. VHPA shares in the grief of Raginibahen, Maheshbhai’s wife who was the silent force behind Maheshbhai’s success. May Ishwar grant the departed Aatma eternal peace and the family strength to pass through this difficult time. AUM Shanti.
Needless to say that the news came as a huge shock and of disbelief for many worldwide as evident from the common sentiments expressed by Shyam Tiwari, VHPA’s VP for Publications, “Maheshbhai’s departure leaves a huge void with no visible substitute in sight for a long time to come”