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People of Different Nations and Traditions Gather to Celebrate Hindu Heritage Day

Ranjani Saigal

Chinese Buddhists, Thai Hindus, people from Cambodia and Sri Lanka joined hands with many Indian organizations in a spectacular celebration on May 5, 2002 at the John F. Kennedy middle school in Waltham, which was attended by over 600 people. The goal of the event was to learn about the heritage of inter-related Asian cultures and traditions. It was truly exciting to see professional artists and spiritual leaders from different countries and traditions together in one place.

There was an exciting synergy amongst the diverse participants. "It is so exciting for us Sri Lankans to be part of this event. I always wonder where we stand in our culture. I think we have the same as Indians but in a very small scale. To be partners with the Indian Community is very exciting. I was very proud to see Sri Lanka appeared in the flyer", said Yaso Aravinthan, who along with her husband runs Manitha Neyam, a charitable organization to help the civil war victims in Sri Lanka. "We are so impressed with the warmth and care that we received from the organizers. That is proof of the validity of a religion - how the practitioners behave! It was wonderful to be part of this event," said John Haydon, member of the Soka Gakkai group in New England.

The event began with prayers from different traditions. Ekta-mantra was recited by Surya Shivaram. Members of Havyaka Association of New England recited verses from the Vedas. Children from Jain Pathsala recited the Jain prayers and Ardha-magadhi. Sushri Chi-Yiu from the Thousand Budhha Temple introduced Buddhist medidation. John Haydon and the members of the SGI-USA sang the Song of Soka Gakkai. Children from Balagokulams in New England sang "Vyakti Vyaki Mein". Members of Bangla-O-Biswa performed "Saraswathi Vandana" in the traditional Bengali style. This was followed by Guru-Satkar - offering of tokens of respect to the various spiritual leaders in the community. " While the traditions have many differences, in faiths with roots in India, Dharma is the core value; thus Jain, Buddhism, Sikh, and other religions promote Dharma" says Dr. Mahesh Mehta. "It is the Natural Law, the sustaining force of the cosmic order or the essential nature of a being."

A beautiful cultural presentation followed the prayers. It began with Murugan Tunai , a spectacular joint presentation by Indian students of Eastern Rhythms dance school in Burlington and children from the New England Sri Lankan community. It was a combination of classical Bharatnatyam and the Kavadi folk style. The perfectly coordinated dance, the beautiful costumes, and the grand Kavadis made this an item to remember. Members of the Kashmiri community under the leadership of Arti Kaul presented a passionate rendition of "Bel Tai Madal Veni Golab Pamposh Dustai, Poozai Lagas Param Shivas Shivnathas Tai" composed by Krishan Joo Razdan , a Kashmiri mystic poet.

A graceful presentation of Kruda Pinihan, a dance in the classical Thai dance form was presented by Pimlada, an exchange student from Thailand. Sopheap Theam of the Smaly & Hay group presented "Blessings and Best wishes" a dance in the classical Cambodian style. Tara-Shakti, a spectacular and creative piece was presented by the very talented Sudarshan Belsare in which he tried to capture the nuances of the Goddess on a Buddhist-Hindu metaphysical interface. Shakti is the Female indwelling energy, the form of Amba, Shambhavi, Uma, Kali, while Tara is the Goddess of universal compassion from the Buddhist tradition. Members of the Vridavan Preservation society presented a drama, Syamantaka - Mani , revolving around the life of Shri Krishna. The event ended with Shiva-Ganga, a Bharatantayam piece set to the brilliant music of Dr. Raghavendra, an Indian-American musician that relates the story of the descent of Ganga to Earth. The diversity, color and quality of the performances made this an event to remember.

Four community leaders from the New England area were honored for their contributions in various fields. Awards were presented to Dr. Mukesh Chatter (President & CEO of Axiowave ), Dr. Dinesh Patel (Chief of Anthroscopic Surgery at Mass General), Dr. Tushar Patel ( Founder Shri Swaminarayan Mandir and Physician) and Smt. Jothi Raghavan (Dancer, Teacher, Choreographer).

The event ended with a presentation on Ekal Vidyalaya, a great educational charity and a wonderful dinner. It was a very well orchestrated event, which was exciting to witness. Governor Jane Swift had officially declared May 5, 2002 as Hindu Hertitage Day. Dr. Subramony ended the program with a vote of thanks and a request to "mark your calendar for next years grand event on May 4, 2003".

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