HOUSTON, TEXAS: More than 7000 Houstonians enjoyed an evening of festivity commemorating the birth of Lord Krishna at the 18th annual Janmashtami celebration organised by the Hindus of Greater Houston (HGH) recently. The keynote speaker Shri Nitish Bharadwaj, famous for his role as Lord Krishna in the Indian TV serial Mahabharat, described the event as ?the most unique celebration? he attended in the last 20 years.
?I am very impressed to see people breaking the barriers of temples, languages, caste and creed tonight and gather here only as Hindus,? said Shri Bharadwaj. ?When people ask me what class or region in India I belong to, I tell them I am first an Indian and then a Hindu.? Shri Bharadwaj further in his speech dwelt upon his favorite topic?The Gita. ?The Gita is a pure science, a science to resolve conflicts,? he said. He further elaborated a few verses of the Gita to explain dharma and urged the audience to lead a life of righteousness.
Smt Radha Dixit was the co-coordinator of the Janmashtami programme. Smt Radha narrated her feelings: ?My goal this year was to promote the second and third generation of Hindus.? She achieved her goal by giving volunteering opportunities to young people and trusting them in important decision-making processes. For example, she chose a young kirtan group as the grand finale to support her objective
The kirtan was indeed one of the highlights of the evening. Organised by the local ISKCON temple it comprised of mix of youngsters coming from different backgrounds such as Indians, Americans, Caribbean, Hispanic, South American, Carribean and African American. Shri Vamsivat Klein, 13, one of the participants of the kirtan group, commented: ?I really enjoyed seeing everyone in the audience getting up and singing and dancing with us.? Shri Sanjeev, 27, the coordinator of the kirtan, said, ?Through music our aim is to spread spirituality and I think we accomplished it very well on a grand scale this time.?
The dance schools of the Greater Houston area and several organisations participated in a wonderful series of dances, all celebrating some aspect of Krishna'slife. The talent of both the dancers and those who choreographed and directed the dances contributed greatly to the enjoyment of many attendees. The dance numbers and other items were greatly enhanced by the artistic stage decorations by Smt Vinnie Verma and her talented and hard-working committee.
The Janmashtami function is also marked by a unique costume contest every year; kids dress up as baby Krishna and the children in each age group with the most confident performance bags the award. This year 70 children participated in the programme. There were actually so many contestants that the organisers had to turn several late entrants away. The competition was judged by none other than Shri Bharadwaj himself accompanied by Smt Arti Khanna, and Smt Sandhya Thakkar.
Dr. Sen Pathak, one of the founding members of HGH, said on the occasion, ?Shri Krishna Janmashtami 2007 celebration, in my opinion, was definitely one of the best of 18 years because of the involvement of young minds and the presence of Shri Nitish Bharadwaj as our keynote speaker.?
The FACT exhibit on the history and persecution of the Hindu and other minority communities in Bangladesh was also on. Returning to the George R. Brown Convention Center for a second time, the exhibit was shown this time in its entirety. The 27 panels describing the history and ongoing decline of the Hindus of Bangladesh were very well-received by all those who viewed it, without raising any controversy. Many visitors were completely shocked to read about the ongoing atrocities against Bangladeshi Hindus. One mother of two was even moved to tears at their plight. Many indicated their willingness to write letters to their elected officials, encouraging the US government to take an action against the Bangladeshi government if it doesn'timprove its track record on minority human rights.
To add to the flavour of the evening several temples in Houston had also set up decorations displaying various aspects of Lord Krishna'slife. Smt Beth Kulkarni with Woodlands Hindu Temple shared her impressions about the evening, ?I am excited to be here tonight. To me, attending the community-wide Janmashtami celebration is like a homecoming of the best kind.?
Not only temples but also various organisations such as the Art of Living, Chinmaya Mission and Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh had also set up their booths. Needless to say, each of the 7000 visitors found some booth to cater to their interest.
(The writer can be contacted at [email protected])