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Ajay Ghosh

Inter-religious prayers offered at Gandhiji’s death anniversary

Prayers, bhajans, songs, tributes, and readings from all major religious scriptures of the world were part of the solemn ceremony that marked the 58th death anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi on Tuesday, January 30, 2007 at the Indian Consulate in New York.Attended by leaders of several Indian American groups from the New york tri-state region, the more than two-hour long ceremony was a touching tribute to the Father of the Nation, Mahatma Gandhi, who was assassinated by a Hindu extremist on Jan. 30, 1948 and whose act plunged India into sorrow and fear.
In her inaugural address, Reenat Sandhu, Consul (Education) paid rich tributes to the greatest philosopher and leader of the world. Quoting Gandhi, she said, "Nonviolence to be a potent force, must begin with the mind. Nonviolence of the mere body without the cooperation of the mind is nonviolence of the weak, or the cowardly, and has, therefore, no potency. It is a degrading performance. If we bear malice and hatred in our bosoms and pretend not to retaliate, it must recoil upon us and lead to our destruction."
In his address, Dr. Navin Mehta, Chairman if Bharatiya Viday Bhavan, reminded Gandhiji’s life and philosophy which were summed up in "There is no religion higher than Truth and Righteousness." Earlier Dr. Mehta and Sandhu garlanded the bust of Gandhi, placed at the center of the raised platform in the Ball Room.

The highlight of the evening was Sanskrit bhajans recited and sung by students of Philosophy Day School, New York. It was a truly a moving scene to watch these young mainstream White and Afraican American kids ages from 5-10, reciting the ancient Bhajans with floded hands and eyes closed in reverence.

The multifaith prayer service was organized by Arvind Vora, the Long Island Mult-Faith Forum. Leaders from all major religions, including Hinduism, Bhuddhism, Jainism, Judaism, Bhahaism, Islam, and Christianity led the more than 200 people gathered to pay homage to Gandhi, into paryer, especially for peace and harmony around the world and within each individual. Dr. Jayaraman of the Bharatiya Viday Bhavan thanked all the participants for attending the service and all the religious leaders for leading the group to pray for peace.

Tributes paid to Padmini during Pongal celebrations

Organized by the New York Tamil Sangam, the annual Pongal celebrations on January 20, 2007 at Abigainl Adam School Auditorium in Jamaica, Queens, New York, was different from the past. The more than four-hour long cultural extravaganza was packed with programs that was dedicated to the popular film star, who captivated the minds and hearts of millions across the world, late Padmini.
Over three hundred people attended the annual celebration, which was inaugurated with the Tamil Thai Vazhthu by Nishalakshmi Iyer, Arjun Kumar, Aravind Kumar, and Venkat Ganesh Muralirajan, students of Saavitri. In her welcome address, Kanchana Poola, president of New York Tamil Sangam, led the audience to observe a minute’s silence in honor of late Padmini Ramachandran, who died in 2006. She said, "New York Tamil Sangam is devoted to furthering Tamil culture in the greater New York region. We seek to promote and co-ordinate Tamil cultural, educational and community activities. We are open to all persons interested in promoting the Tamil language and culture." She appealed to the audience to join the Sangam in spreading the rich and ancient Tamil culture.In their introduction, emcees of the day, Senthuraan and Sahana, described the importance of Pongal and its celebration, especially in New York. Pongal is a the harvest festival, celebrated every year in mid January - mostly in the south of India and especially in Tamil Nadu - to mark the harvest of crops and a special thanksgiving to God, the sun, the earth and the cattle. 'Pongal' comes from the word 'ponga' which literally means 'boil' and so 'pongal' connotes 'spillover' or that which is 'overflowing'. It's also the name of the special sweet dish cooked on the Pongal day. Pongal continues through the first four days of the 'Thai' month that starts on January 14 every year.
Pongal in the state of Tamil Nadu is celebrated during the same time as 'Bhogali Bihu' in the North Eastern State of Assam, 'Lohri' in Punjab, 'Bhogi' in Andhra Pradesh and 'Makar Sankranti' in the rest of the country, including Karnataka, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Bengal. Pongal follows the winter solstice and marks the favorable course of the sun. On the first day, the sun is worshipped, signifying its movement from Cancer to Capricorn. This is also why, in other parts of India, this harvest festival and thanksgiving is called 'Makar Sankranti'. [Sanskrit Makar = Capricorn]
Each day of the four-day Pongal festival has its own name and distinct fashion of celebration. The first day, celebrated as Bhogi Pongal, is day for the family, for domestic activities and of being together with the members of the household. This day is celebrated in honor of Lord Indra, "the Ruler of Clouds and Giver of Rains". The second day is dedicated to Lord Surya, the Sun God, who is offered boiled milk and jaggery. A plank is placed on the ground, a large image of the Sun God is sketched on it and Kolam designs are drawn around it. This icon of the Sun God is worshipped for divine benediction as the new month of 'Thai' begins.
This third day is meant for the cattle ('mattu') - the giver of milk and puller of the plough. The farmer's 'dumb friends' are given a good bath, their horns are polished, painted and covered with metal caps, and garlands are put around their necks. The pongal that has been offered to the gods is then given to the cattle to eat. They are then taken out to the racing tracks for cattle race and bullfight - an event full of festivity, fun, frolic and revelry. And the fourth and final day marks the Kanya Pongal, when birds are worshipped. Girls prepare colored balls of cooked rice and keep them in the open for birds and fowls to eat. On this day sisters also pray for their brothers' happiness.Continuing with the exciting celebrations in New York, the Tamil Christava Koil choir members led by  John Mathian presented a number of beautiful Christmas carols. Arul Veerappan presented a Pongal Kavithai/poem. Which was followed by vocal and instrumental recitals on Veena and Mridangam by Ranganayaki, Sunil Kunnakkat Dr: C. G. Balachander, Sitadevi Pillarisetty, Ranganayaki Srinivasan, Smitha Srinivasan, Ashini Ganesalingam, Aninthitha Selvachandran, and Ravali Ceyyur. Others who were part of the vocal recital were: Geetha Venugopal, Lakshmi Hareendran, Mythili Hareendran, Nithya Viswanathan, Preeti Aro, Shaalini Ganesalingam, Anita Kandiah, Shahana Ganesharajah, and Sahana Paramesh.
They sang the popular Tamil songs, Thai Poranthathu   Thai Poranthathu  Ponga vachomae, Andi mayangudadi, and Thangachchurangam from the movies Partiban Kanavu, and Partiban Kanavu, acted by the legendary Tamil film actress, Padmini.  Childrten who gave voice to the songs included, Jaya Thiyagarajan, Denise Ramdawah, Rammohan Ramkrishna, and Prem Iyer.  Others who presented brilliant dance performances included, Rathika thevika sisters for a song, titled, " kannum kannum kalandhu," from the movie, Vanchikottai valiba. Radha Balasubramanian’s students, Asha Kurian, Theju Sebastain, and Deepa Kurian performed a filmi dance, Aadum Arul Jyothi from the movie, Meenda Sorga. Thestudents of Chandrakala Raghavan, Devika Patel , Anar Naik, Raji Naik,and Priyanka Jeyasri gave a beautiful dance performance of "Marainthirundhu parkkum" from the popular movie, Thillana Mohanambal.
 The collage of tribute to late Padmini, presented by Usha Balachandran had the following participants: Sruthi Chandrashekar, Uma Balachandran, Ashini Ganesalingam, Shaalini Ganesalingam, Bhairavi Venkatesan, Priyam Mettapalli, Gouri Veerubhotla, Aanchal Tyagi, Vigunthaan Tharmarajah, and Shenthuraan Tharmarajah.  
 "Padmini Ninaivanjali: by Krishnamoorthi, and enacted by K. Desikan and Veda Desikan  had some touching scenes from the movie Vietnam Veedu Sundaram. In a beautiful medley of songs of late Natya Peroli Padmini, Savitri’s students showcased Padmini’s talents in classical, folk and oriental dances.  Padini was a pioneer in encouraging all varieties of dances not only in movies but also on stage.  This is our way of remembering her.Participants in the item included, Gayathri Panhan, Sharanya Radhakrishnan, Linda David, Sruthi Chandrasekhr, Neethu Moolayi, Sreeja Mani, Divya Mary James, Nishalakshmi Iyer, Prabha Krishna, Pavithra Sundar, Arjun Kumar,
Aravind Kumar, Anirudh Chandrasekhar, Venkat Ganesh Murali Rajan, Ajay Krishna Panhani, Jithin John, and Danish James John.
Another cinematic dance item, marainthiruthu parkkumfrom Thillana mohanambal performed by the students of Mathy pillai of kalaiaham school of dance, was appreciated by one and all. Songs by the students of
.Vigneswary also added to the beautiful evening that was part of the cultural celebration by New York Tamil Sangam. Geetha Venugopal & Tmt. Grace Veulah sang movie and devotional songs, and were accompanied in Violin by Christudoss Theodore:
An exciting Athichudi recital competition had a wide range of participants from all age groups and exceeding all expectations. The evening concluded with a light music concert presented by Balagangeyan, Aarati Ramakrishnan & Pavithra Sundar.The delicious Pongal meal, a traditional Tamil meal, served to all the participants, was enjoyed by one and all.
India Republic Day celebrated on Long Island
Town of Hempstead in Long Island, New York celebrated its fourth annual India Republic Day on January 23rd, 2007 at Nathan L H Bennett Pavilion, Hempstead Town Hall, NY. Town Supervisor Honorable Kate Murray and Council members Anthony J Santino, Dorothy L Goosby, James Darcy, Angie M Cullin, Gary Hudes, Edward A Ambrosino, town clerk Mark A Bonilla and receiver of taxes Donald X. Clavin Jr, hosted the event in the Pavilion. Several elected officials from Nassau County and members of the judiciary system attended the function. The event was made possible with support from Indu Jaiswal, Chairperson, and Executive Committee members Dr Bhupendra R Patel, Dr Azad Anand, Surinder Rametra, Mohinder Taneja and Parveen Chopra. of the Indian American Culture Group of Long Island.
This historical event   was attended by more than 300 people from across the state. Program started with greetings from Honorable Supervisor Kate Murray, and the Indian National Anthem and American National Anthem sung by Vishal and Riti Sunshine Bhalla. Acharya Parshanand Ramdass of Arya Samaj of Long Island and Arya Samaj of NY offered inaugural prayers with shlokas and Ganesh Vandana. Traditional lighting of the lamp was performed by Supervisor Kate Murray, All the Council members and judges accompanied by Jaya Bahadkar and Anu Gulati. Indu Jaiswal chairperson of the event welcomed everybody, thanked the management of Hempstead Town Hall and Supervisor Kate Murray for hosting the Republic Day Celebrations on Long Island.
Indu Jaiswal thanked Akbar Restaurant, House of Dipali and India Tourism Bureau  and Mala and Ninad Desai for sponsoring the event and making it a huge success. Dr Bhupendra R Patel introduced the board members of Indian American Culture Group and in his empowering speech praised the efforts of Supervisor Kate Murray and council members in organizing the 58th Republic Day, a historical event in Long Island.
Supervisor Kate Murray presented the India Republic Day Awards to the following honorees: Dr R Baxi, past president of AAPI, Queens and Long Island the honoree, Dr T K Sreepada Rao, M.D. FACP., currently Tenured Professor of Medicine and Associate Director of Renal Diseases Division at SUNY Downstate Medical Center. Dr Rao is well known for his contributions in medicine and education. Dr Rao is a trustee of the National AAPI. He is the founding member, past president and current chairman of AAPI of Queens and long Island.
Mohinder Singh Taneja introduced Detective Farokh Mehta. Detective Mehta is the first Indian, serving in Nassau County Police Department since 1986. In January 2004 Farokh Mehta was promoted to the rank pf detective, a first for an Indian American in Nassau County Police Department.
Dr Parveen Chopra, in his keynote address, outlined India’s continuous progress.  Dana Nainan a well known comedian in USA presented Funny Moments. Traditional cultural dances were performed by the students of Nartan rang Dance School of Bhartiya Vidya Bhavan, choreographed by Swati Vaishnav, Gujarati Samaj of NY, choreographed by Bharti Desai  Mala’s School of Odissi Dance, choreographed by Mala Desai
End of ceremony prayers were done by Uma Patel, Parul Patel and Ram singal from Global Harmony House. Vote of thanks was given by Mohinder Taneja. Prominent members of the community present were  Judge John Pessala, Dr. Binod Verma, President of India Association of Long Island, Bharti Desai,  Past President of Gujarat Samaj NY, Donna and Mohinder  Suneja,  Journalist  Lavina Melwani,  Veer Mukhi, President of Arya Samaj of Long Island, Ambalika Misra from Bharatvani and Voice of America,  Animesh Goenka, past president of AIA, Urmilesh Arya Past  President of Association of Indians in America, Dr Budhdev Manwar, President National AIA, past presidents of IALI   Bhavani Srinivasan, Usha Chopra, Satpal Malhotra and Parveen Chopra, Niranjan Patel, Virendra Patel and Dr Harshad Bhatt   from BAPS, DR S Bagla, President of AAPI LI, Giri Chabra, President of Hindu Center, Dr Shakir Mukhi and Dr Rajinder Singh Uppal, Human rights Commissioners in Nassau County, Ratna and Varinder Bhalla and volunteers Vijay Goswami, Anu Gulati, Jaya Bahadkar and Suresh Bahadkar and  several other distinguished guests. All participants, volunteers and members of IACGLI received citations from Town of Hempstead praising their efforts and support for the Republic Day Program.

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Reenat Sandhu

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