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Street Co-Named in Honor of Local Hindu Leader Who Founded Phagwah Parade

Photo courtesy of Andrienne Adam’s office

July 1, 2021 By Ryan Songalia

A street in South Richmond Hill was co-named Sunday in honor of a local leader in the Hindu community.

Pandit Ramlall Way was unveiled at the intersection of 113rd Street and Liberty Avenue after Dharmacharya Pandit Ramlall, a Guyanese-American who was a prominent spiritual leader, community advocate and scholar in Queens.

Ramlall was the founder of the annual Phagwah (Holi) Parade and Diwali Motorcade in Richmond Hill. He also helped found the Arya Spiritual Center of New York in Briarwood.

The event featured prayers, songs and performances in honor of Ramlall, who died in January 2019 at the age of 90.

“Pandit Ramlall lived an extraordinary life filled with purpose, learning, and love for his community. The new street sign honoring his legacy is a fitting tribute for a leader who contributed so much to the cultural, spiritual, and educational fabric of our City,” said Council Member Adrienne Adams.

Photo courtesy of Andrienne Adam’s office

Born in 1928 to Indian parents in Guyana, Ramlall was ordained as a Hindu priest at age 19 after both of his parents died while he was a child.

Ramlall fought for Guyanese independence from British rule and was imprisoned for doing so. He led hunger strikes since the prison did not offer vegetarian food in line with his Hindu beliefs. His efforts eventually led to vegetarian food being offered.

He fled Guyana out of concerns for his family’s safety and settled in Queens in 1974, shortly after a newly-independent Guyanese government was formed.

He obtained a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and a Diploma in Education from Rochelle College.

He founded a mandir near his home in Briarwood, which became the Arya Spiritual Center of New York. He also was instrumental in the purchase of a lot in South Richmond Hill that eventually became the Arya Spiritual Center Grounds.

He worked for the New York City Health and Hospital Corporation in a leadership role, and served as a representative for Social Service Employees Union (SSEU) Local 371.

He later worked as a volunteer Chaplain of the New York City Transit Authority and Secretary of the Queens Interfaith Council.

State Senator James Sanders Jr. remembered Ramlall as someone who was “well-loved in the Richmond Hill community and beyond, especially among Guyanese religious leaders and followers of Hinduism.”

He had previously been honored by then-Queens Borough President Helen Marshall, who declared March 23, 2003 as “Pandit Ramlall Day.”

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