More than 16,000 people poured into De Anza College, Cupertino, to be part of an exciting day, to celebrate the Hindu way of life. Hindu Sangam, a one-day grand cultural programme aimed at displaying the various Hindu intellectual, cultural and spiritual contributions made over thousands of years, was organised by Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh with the support from over 40 SF Bay Area organisations including Sunnyvale Hindu Temple as one of the grand sponsors. The event was organised to celebrate the birth centenary of Shri Guruji, the second Sarsanghachalak of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).
Addressing the Hindu Sangam Shri Mohan Bhagwat, Sarkaryavah of RSS, spoke about bringing unity by accepting diversity. ?Diversity is to be accepted, not just tolerated. This is what Bharat stands for seeing diversity as the expression of unity,? he said.
He further said, ?Many Indians living abroad have asked me what India expects of them. India does not expect anything of you for India. She is capable of managing herself. But one thing that is expected of the diaspora living abroad is that you are the cultural ambassadors of India. You must live up to that. You must show to the world unity in diversity.? He further said the world has been shaken by religious intolerance and the resulting effects of terrorism. The answer to this problem can be given to the world by the two great nations?India and America, together. ?They have to come together, stay together and work together to address this issue,? he added.
The day started with a yajna for world peace on the background of September 11. Attendees then participated in the programmes that took place on eight parallel tracks. Ayurvedic medicine, cultural programme, Dharma Vedika (religious philosophy), exhibition, Hindu Theme Park, Samskrit, yoga and youth activities. It was followed by a grand Ramayana play enacted by over 300 children. Shri Mohan Bhagwat, was the chief guest and the day ended with Smt Anuradha Paudwal entrancing the audience with her melodious voice.
Smt Cindy Chavez, Vice-Mayor of San Jose, inaugurated the parallel track programmes and said she is honoured to be present at such a grand cultural event. The parallel track programme options were so numerous that people had to make difficult choices. Programmes ran in parallel tracks on different aspects of Hinduism. Those interested in Indian dance and music were treated to an exotic flair of colour on the main stage as part of Kala Sangam.
The youth had excellent programmes put together by youth themselves and with speeches by stalwarts of Hindu society. Children had a gala time at the Hindu Theme Park, participating in puppet shows, magic shows, face painting and visiting with Ramayana characters. Also at the venue were demos of self-care remedies and consultations by renowned Ayurveda practitioners.
The Yoga Sangam track was inaugurated with a yogic dance by Sangita Das and her students presented the yoga philosophy in various forms. There were sessions on pranayam techniques, Art of Living meditation techniques, and yoga for children. Shri N.V. Raghuram of SVYASA, the keynote speaker at the yoga track, emphasised that yoga is a way of life, which brings harmony at the individual level and peace at the universal level. The last session was Laughter Yoga by Smt. Robin Pollard, who presented different laughter techniques used for stress-reduction.
The Dharma Vedika or Dharma track, dealt with the enormous religious heritage of Hindu civilisation. Swami Paramahamsa Nityananda, founder of Nityananda Dhyanapeetham, a worldwide movement for meditation and healing, defined dharma as a way to connect with Divine and other individuals. Smt. Linda Johnson, author of several books related to Hindu traditions, recounted personal experiences with swamis and gurus and how she got over a debilitating disease with the help of mantras.
As the intellectual and spiritual dimensions got the requisite attention, so did the artistic dimension through the Kala Sangam. Folk dances with traditional, colourful costumes, were presented by groups representing different Indian states as well as Nepal and Fiji. Classical dances of various types were performed by Madhuri Kishor and the Natyalaya Kuchipudi dance school, Anuradha Nag'sGroup (Kathak), Abhinaya Dance Company of San Jose (Bharatnatyam), Jyoti Kala Mandir College of Indian Classical Arts (Odissi and Kuchipudi). Dr Romesh Japra, community leader and trustee of Fremont Hindu Temple, was the guest of honour at the Kala Sangam.
Not to be left behind, the youth had a series of exhilarating and dynamic set of activities in the Yuva Sangam. With the slogan Youth for Unity, Virtues and Action! youth aged between 13 and 25 enjoyed dance, music and special presentations. Hindu Students Council (HSC) from UC-Berkeley and UC-San Diego chapters and Hindu Awareness Club (HAC) of Monta Vista High School presented some of the issues faced by Hindu students and the importance of maintaining ones Hindu identity. While The Art of Living group presented a basic overview of Hindu astronomy: youth from BAPS talked about the inspiring movie Mystic India. Teenagers from East Bay Sai Yuva Group and HSS presented dance and music of India.
Samskrit Bharati volunteers helped organised the Samskritam track, which featured short session where participant could learn to speak 10 sentences. Equally effective was a lecture by Dr Uday Bhaskar Deekshit, a Samskrit scholar and a priest on the contemporary relevance of Hindu way of worship.
Children, through the Bal Sangam, found unending fun and entertainment in the Hindu Theme Park. Magic shows, face painting, mehndi, art and crafts and traditional games held them in rapt attention. Groups from Chinmaya Mission, Shri Chaitanya Ashram and HSS, as well as Magician Steve, engaged many children with stories and activities, while hundreds more participated in drawing and shloka competitions. Even infants were not forgotten! A quiet room complete with snacks, milk, sleeping bags, and a TV playing favourite Indian videos gave much needed relief to parents with very young children. Adults dressed as characters from Hindu epics and freedom fighters met with the children, telling their stories. Along with the melodious kirtans sung by devotees of Shri Chaitanya Ashram, the atmosphere in the theme park was both fun and educational.
A sumptuous, free lunch was provided to all attendees. It seemed as though there was a never-ending supply of food and water, thanks to Sunnyvale Hindu Temple, Swagat Restaurant and Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America. There were 70 booths at the event, some of them selling Indian jewellery and clothes. Many non-profit organisations found Hindu Sangam the perfect place to disseminate their message.
Later in the evening the hopes of tomorrow were encouraged when 300 children aged between 5 and 15, enacted the Ramayana, the oldest great epic. Wondrous props and authentic costumes brought the story to life on the main stage as the packed audience watched in rapture and kept shouting Jai Shri Ram.
Mayor Shri Richard Lowenthal of Cupertino, in Indian attire, said he was honoured to be at such a gathering. ?Your grandfather and grandmother have given you a great gift of your culture and heritage. Today you celebrate your culture with your children and grandchildren. This evening is about celebrating India and celebrating your culture today in America. It is a gift from your ancestors that you are passing on to your children this way,? he said. Vice-Mayor Smt Kris Wang also attended the event. The Mayor of Milpitas, Shri Jose Esteves, who was also a guest of honour said, ?I respect you all coming together, celebrating your culture and asserting your existence in the American society.? He also presented HSS with a plaque commending their work and invited Hindu Sangam back to his city.
At the concluding ceremony Anuradha Paudwal, the queen of bhajans, enthralled the audience with a magical evening of devotional songs. She ended her session by singing the Indian national song, Vande Mataram. This grand cultural display certainly cast its spell on the bay area on September 9 after five long years. Not only did it charge up those taking part to live the message of unity in diversity, but it also put on display the elements of the grand Indian culture that has guided human civilisation since time immemorial.