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Seminar On The Hindu Period (500AD-1500AD)
Part I – Music, Guest Lectures, Overview

Prem Nagar

Diversity and Cultural Creativity flourished in Medieval India 

– Report of the “Seminar on the Hindu Period (500AD-1500AD)”

Part I – Music, Guest Lectures, Overview

Though it was India’s festival time and there was drizzly weather, more than fifty people attended the fifth seminar organized by India Discovery Center to analyze the Hindu Period in India, nominally spanning a period from 500AD to 1500AD.  The fifth seminar in the series “Let us explore India’s Cultural History” was held on Saturday, November 3, 2018, at historic Bemis Hall in Lincoln, MA.   

The eventful day started with a short welcome by Dr. Satyendra Sharma, the Executive Director of India Discovery Center, followed by a written statement by Dr. Bijoy Misra, the President of IDC.  They narrated the process of organization and the collection of information for the seminar.  They expressed their gratitude to the speakers and the musicians for making efforts in creating new original material for the seminar.


The invocation was a beautiful rendition of Sanskrit stanzas from the epic lyrics in Soundaryalahari, a composition of tribute to the Universal Mother by the Saint Shankaracharya of eighth century.  Specially set to music for the occasion, voice was lent by Mrs. Srilakshmi Srinivasan accompanied on keyboard by Dr. Ravi Mosurkal.  “O Mother! Am I seeing those eyes, that creates and destroys the universe with a mere glance!” This was the fourth special composition from the classical literature than began with the seminar of the Vedic Period.

A different type of voice rendering was offered by two Sanskrit scholars, the priest Dr. Mukundan Santhanam from Dwarkamai Vidyapeeth in Billerica, MA, and Mr. V. Ramapriya of Chinmaya Maruti Center of Andover, MA.  They rendered the thirteenth century composition of Raghuviragadyam written by the eminent scholar Vedanta Desika.  Written a chaste Sanskrit, it is a prose rendering of Ramayana exercised through recitation.  “O’ Rama, the valiant and the follower of Truth!  Let the tradition of justice and righteousness live for ever!” It was an experiment to recreate the cultural life of medieval India.

The third voice rendering was offered at the conclusion of the day’s events by the poet artist Mr. Sarbpreet Singh of Gurmat Sangeet Project of Boston, MA.  He sang the compositions from Guru Granthsahib, the master text of Sikh religion.  He followed it with a rendering of a soulful Sufi prayer.  Both were deeply appreciated and added color to the afternoon.


There were three Guest lectures arranged during the day.  The first one by Mr. Giri Bharathan of Samskrita Bharati, USA, on the topic “Hindu Practices and Living as a Hindu”.  Mr. Bharathan described his upbringing in India in a traditional Hindu family and the rituals of prayers and recitation in the family.  He went to the description of Hinduism as a principle of universal living embodied with acceptance and respect.  Based on individuality and creativity, the faith stands for the freedom of thought and work. सत्यं वद। घर्मं चर। स्वाध्यायान्मा प्रमदः। मातृदेवो भव। पितृदेवो भव। आचार्यदेवो भव। अतिथिदेवो भव।

Speak the Truth.  Be Righteous.  Never give up self-study. Respect your Mother.  Respect your Father.  Respect your Teacher.  Respect your Guest.” 

Prof. Sunil Sharma of the Department of World Languages and Literatures at Boston University spoke on “Evolution of Sufi Literature in India.” Developed in Central Asia and Iran, Sufism found a home in India through the atmosphere of religious tolerance.  The literature extols God as a friend and as a beloved.  Professor Sharma gave the history of Persian and vernacular Sufi literature and also engaged the audience with his own translations from the thirteenth-century poet-courtier Amir Khusrau. “You are my lord, Beloved of God. My veil and my lover’s turban, colour them both with spring!”

Mr. Chow-Chin Chang of Massachusetts Buddhist Association offered the third lecture on “Buddhism in China”.  He analyzed the Chinese society for orientation to Buddhism through the principles of freedom and causality.  Through various maps and pictures, he showed the Chinese scholars’ journey to learn and procure books from India.  He talked about his personal development through the reading of the Russian author Leo Tolstoy and the secluded upbringing in Taiwan.  He analyzed the Zen thoughts: 風姿花傳: What is the shape and gesture of the wind?  Shape and gesture of wind are through the flowers blowing in the wind.  The performing art is through eyes of audience’s appreciation!” 


In the normal presentation pattern, the period information was segmented into six different tracks handled by the researchers in India Discovery Center.  Ms. Hardeep Mann started with Geography and People, followed by Mr. Prem Nagar on Language and Literature.  Dr. Satyendra Sharma dealt with Philosophy and Religion and Dr. Jaidev Dasgupta handled Art and Culture.  Science and Technology track was led by Dr. Bijoy Misra and finally Economy and Politics was handled by Ms. Bhavani Venkineni. 

The presentations were expertly moderated by Dr. Sonal Jhaveri of Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  A Q&A session followed each presentation and an extended Q&A session was hosted as the concluding session.  The details of the presentations will be reported in the Part II of this report.

Volunteer help, Lunch and Vote of Thanks:

The reception and registration of the guests were handled by Dr. Parul Sharma and Mr. Prem Nagar.   Mr. Chandu Shah helped with the printing of the seminar brochure and the registration badges.  The breakfast and the lunch table were coordinated by Ms. Neena Wahi supported by Ms. Hardeep Mann.  Dr. Satyendra Sharma took care of the P/A system and the computer projections.  Mr. Leo Rousseau took the video and all pictures were taken by Mr. Chow-Chin Chuang.  Lunch was catered by Holi Restaurant of Bedford, MA.  A special souvenir coffee cup was presented to all attendees on behalf of India Discovery Center.

Dr. Bijoy Misra thanked all attendees and the volunteers for the success of the event.  He was particularly thankful to the Management at the Lincoln Council of Aging in securing the Hall and helping with the arrangements.

India Discovery Center is a nonprofit organization with the mission of creating educational material on India for the youth and the public.  It is based in Lincoln, MA.  Information on the organization and the seminar records are available at http://www.indiadiscoverycenter.org.

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