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Vedic Graduation Pooja At Sri Lakshmi Temple

Swati Sharma

In the sacred atmosphere of Sri Lakshmi Temple located in Ashland, Massachusetts, eighteen Hindu American high school students and two college students graduated in a traditional Vedic service on May 16, 2010. The graduates, their proud parents, friends, scholars, pujaris, and several Temple committee members assembled early on Sunday morning to participate in this unique Samskara service, the first of its kind to be held in the United States for the third time. The third annual graduation pooja was cosponsored by NEHTI Committee on Youth Cultural and Educational Program (YCEP) and Vishwa Hindu Parishad Bal Vihars.

The graduating students were: Amrita Saigal, Anant Garg, Anjali Panse, Keshav Narsu, Nirmalkrishna Devarajan, Pratha Katti, Rajeev Chorghade, Sanchay Jain, Shaifali Verma, Siddhartha Agrawal, Sonal Chatter, Vishal Atri. In addition to presenting the graduates with achievement certificates, two outstanding students, Anant Garg and Rajeev Chorghade, were awarded by the Sri Lakshmi Temple with the Vidya Lakshmi Scholarship Award for 2010, which highlighted their academic achievements, talents, extracurricular activities and community service. These two students were given scholarships of $1000 each. Awards to the first, second and third prize winners of the cultural competitions were also given. Winner for Nrtyanjali (Bharathanatyam) were Arya Palakurthi, Rachel Ferullo and Shewta Athilat. The awards for Hindustani Music Competition were given to Priyasha Chaturvedi, Faiyad Ahmad and Sahil Tembulkar. The awards for Carnatic Music Competition were given to Srivatsan Raghavan, Divya Chandramouli and Vijay Pemmaraju. Students wishing to participate in the Vidya Lakshmi Scholarships next year should contact Dr. Kumar Nochur of Sri Lakshmi Temple: knochur88@yahoo.com.

The serene service began with Ekta Mantra (mantra that reminds of the underlying Unity among all) sung by Swati Sharma and Heli Munshi, the co-emcees of the program. Shri Mohanji, Veenita, Karuna, and Rishi rank among professional singers and sang the stuti of Ma Saraswati to the accompaniment of harmonium and tabla with great expertise and bhava. Their Vandana of the Devi of Learning had a calming effect on the audience with the graduates prepared to participate in the ensuing pooja and absorb the messages from the pujaris and the various speakers.

With the lighting of the diya, and with everyone’s minds focused and cleansed, we were now ready to begin the auspicious rite. Shri Venkat Shrinivas, the chairman of the Sri Lakshmi Temple, gave the opening remarks and acquainted the students with the meaning and importance of Samskara. The education samskaras are considered most important as Hindus recognize education to be the stepping stone to future enlightenment for eventual liberation from the bondage of rebirths. A samskara ceremony creates a positive imprint or channel in the mind of the recipient akin to a little path. The purpose is to guide future thoughts and resulting actions to travel along this familiar path assisting the individual to think and act in an appropriate manner conducive to living in accordance with dharma.
A temple pujari conducted the service beginning with Sri Ganesha Pooja followed by Sri Saraswati Pooja. Each graduate participated individually and collectively in the Pooja seeking success in college and future educational efforts.

All students were called individually, their accomplishments, acknowledged, and awarded a graduation certificate with a bag of gifts on behalf of the Temple by Dr. Prakash Purohit, Member, Board of trustees, and Chairman, YCEP, NEHTI. One of the gifts was a copy of the holy Srimad Bhagavad Gita. They all had a chance to talk for 2-3 minutes about their accomplishments, goals and aspirations.

The keynote address was delivered by Professor R. Subhramonia Ayyar, former Dean of Academic Programs at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in Mumbai. He inspired the students to continue on their quest for higher learning, and share what they learn with others. Prof Ayyar has expertise in the field of Civil Engineering as well as extensive knowledge of Tamil Literature and interest in spirituality.
The graduating students were reminded that they were fortunate to have taken birth in the human form. The students are fortunate to have healthy bodies and discriminating intellects, and to be born in a loving family where the parents have nurtured the students in the ways of dharma.

Two handouts were distributed, the Vedic Shikshavalli from Taittiriya Upanishad and the Fifteen Laws of Life enunciated by Swami Vivekananda. Laws are absolute and unconditional and must be followed for securing peace of mind for success. Peace of mind leads us to knowledge of our essential nature (swarupa), our real Self. When the waves of the mind are undisturbed, when we remain calm in face of good or bad fortune, when we do not fall prey to likes and dislikes, then we are in possession of peace of mind. And this peace of mind comes from following the inviolable laws of living. This ultimate success of Self knowledge is within our reach when we concentrate on following just one law of life conscientiously.

The ceremony was followed by a delicious lunch which was lovingly prepared by the families of the graduating students. All the students agreed that this was an event that will live forever in their memory as a motivation to excel above and beyond. The students are fortunate to have this samskara service conducted by interested friends. Indeed, all present were blessed to be in the direct presence of Sri Lakshmi, the Siddhidatri, who can bless with the accomplishment of all four goals of life: dharma (right living), artha (wealth), kama (pleasure), and moksha (liberation).

All students were asked to bow to Sri Ganesha, Sri Saraswati, Sri Lakshmi, their mothers, their fathers, and all others present in the congregation, as God resides in all. They were further asked to go out fearlessly in the world and to be proud to call themselves Hindu Americans.

Families interested in participating in next year's Graduation Service should contact Dr. Abhaya Asthana: abhayaji@gmail.com.

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