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Kalidas Vira

Kalidas Vira, was converted in 1898 at one of Booth-Tucker’s meetings held under the shade of a large banyan tree on the outskirts of Vishrampura, near Pedlad. Kalidas was born into a Brahmin family. Brahmins form the priesthood and as such will conduct marriages and offer worship according to Hindu ritual. As a young teenager Kalidas Vira used to accompany his father on his rounds in the neighbouring district, assisting him in his priestly duties and collecting fees from the people.

The day young Kalidas came back from Booth-Tucker’s meeting his appearance had changed his shikka (the Hindu topknot) and janoi (sacred neck thread) were missing. One look at his son was sufficient to make the father furious, for no Brahmin could ever perform his religious duties without these tokens. The family threatened, pleaded and cajoled, but all without effect. At last his father appealed to his sense of duty by saying that if he refused to take part in the rituals their influence and income would be ruined and the family would starve. Regretfully Kalidas refused and begged his parents to accept Jesus as their Saviour and put their trust in Him.

After some months, being impressed by the change in their son, the parents too became Christians. In 1899 Kalidas Vira entered the training garrison at Gamdi and became an officer. During his 42 years of active service in The Salvation Army he won many for Christ through his singing and preaching. Blessed with a good voice and a love for music and poetry, he would compose his own songs. He also started what is known as gayantolis, a group of singers singing Indian Bhajan (songs). These singing brigades have played an important part all over Gujarat. In the early days it was the custom for a group of corps to arrange large annual gatherings known as ‘melas’. Gayantolis from the various corps would take part in the large open-air gatherings during the day and at night gather under a large pandal (tent) and sing their own songs, sometimes well into the night or early morning, drawing large crowds.

Source: By Love Compelled by Solveig Smith

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