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Hindu Heritage Day 2024

Jaya Asthana


JAI SHRI RAM! Yelled the Emcee, a college student, from stage.

Jai Jai Shri Ram!! Echoed the enthusiastic audience at Hindu Heritage Day celebration on May 4, 2024.

The audience was only part of the over 2500 attendees thronging the hallways of Marlborough Middle School, Marlborough, MA. The parking lot was overflowing with cars, a sign that there was standing room only in the hallways, the cafeteria, and the auditorium.

This year’s theme was Maryada Purushottam Shri Ram. The theme was inspired by the consecration earlier this year of the Shri Ram Mandir in Ayodhya. 2024 is the year when Ram Lalla finally returned home to his Janam Bhoomi in Ayodhya, after a long 500 years, with the inauguration of Ram Janambhoomi Mandir.

Shri Ram is an embodiment of Dharma and epitomizes excellence in all aspects of humanity. He sets the reference in all areas for everyone to strive to reach, whether it is in relationships with family, leadership, unwavering commitment, valor, compassion, respect for all including the mighty, the downtrodden and even one’s adversaries, humility, and many other areas.

This theme was reflected throughout the program. As soon as one entered the school, one was greeted by a young girl who applied a tilak, and other young volunteers who gave out small bags of Akshat (raw yellow rice) from the Pran Pratishtha ceremonies in Ayodhya, in January. They guided one to their destination, whether it was the auditorium, the mela, or the cafeteria. Making one’s way through the throngs of people, one could browse all the stalls set up by various vendors selling a variety of items, from the latest ethnic wear, jewelry, desi shoes, beautiful artwork, to stalls with people providing information about Bal Vihars, summer camps, nutritious choices for foods, information about local businesses, and many more. Children enjoyed the face painting, and adults as well as children got their hands adorned with mehendi. There was a photo booth where one could take a picture with Raavan, and many masks including one of Hanuman Ji, which excited the children. Books such as Amar Chitra Katha and story books from our Itihaas and Puranas were being sold, which taught children and adults alike about Hindu culture.

In the auditorium, all the performances, songs, dances, plays revolved around the theme of the day. Children and adults sang bhajans and stotras about Shri Ram. Performers from area dance schools presented dances praising the glories of Shri Ram and other characters from Ramayan. Three Bal Vihars presented lively plays from the Ramayan, weaving them together with skillful narration to form a mini-Ram Leela. All the programs were tied together in a beautiful bouquet of words by the two young emcees, a high school senior and a sophomore college student, who kept the audience enthralled by their quick wit and engaging quizzes from Ramayan.

The highlight of the Cultural Program was a Ram Leela dance drama, by seven area dance schools. This was a professional-level performance in many different dance styles, which featured many youths who danced shoulder to shoulder with adults. The whole performance was appreciated by every member of the audience.

Outside the halls, many volunteers helped people with kite flying, which was enjoyed by old and young alike. Many adults said it brought back memories of their childhood.

The alluring smells from the cafeteria drew people to sample many delicacies, from many items such as chaat, samosas, jalebis, lassi, to a sumptuous dinner.

When planning the program this year, the organizing committee decided to pay special attention in engaging the children and youth. To this end, the Emcees were a young lady from high school and a young man from college, who carried the entire program seamlessly. Several programs were initiated prior to May 4. There was a Storytelling event and a Ramayan Trivia quiz, both held on April 13 at Shri Lakshmi Temple in Ashland, MA. The theme of both the events was also Ramayan. Children dressed up as their favorite characters from Ramayan and told stories about them. Both events were very well attended by children from as young as 4 years to teenagers. Even the parents enjoyed the Ramayan Trivia quiz and had to be restrained from enthusiastically shouting out the answers. There was a Painting Exhibition, where children made beautiful paintings based on Ramayan, and brought them to the venue. All the paintings graced the hallways of the venue and were admired by all who visited.  

To complete the evening, there was a prize distribution, where all the participants of the Storytelling, Trivia and Painting exhibitions were felicitated. The children then made a mad dash to the prize table, where they excitedly collected their trophies, gifts and certificates.

At the end of the day, there was a satisfied smile on all faces, and everyone declared that they thoroughly enjoyed the day.

The program was well supported by Media partners Gunjan Radio and Lokvani.

As the volunteers wrapped up cleaning, there was the satisfaction of job well done. The enthusiastic participation of the local community surely invigorated them to start thinking about planning for next year’s event on the third week of May.

VHP of America is a registered non-profit 501©3 national organization which has among its objectives to unite Hindus by instilling in them devotion to the Hindu way of life, to cultivate self-respect and respect for all people, and to establish contacts with Hindus all over the world. For more information, please visit http://www.vhp-america.org/

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