Americans join 150th birth anniversary celebration of Vivekananda
Two Dharma and Yoga Fests in the US by Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh
San Francisco: In what maybe the first of its kind event in Bay area, more than 15,000 people poured into two Dharma and Yoga Fests at Mission College in Santa Clara and Alameda County Fair Ground in Pleasanton to celebrate Universal Peace on Swami Vivekananda’s 150th birthday on September 14. The one day grand cultural events were organised by the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS), Sunnyvale Hindu Temple and Fremont Hindu Temple with support from over 40 SF Bay Area organisations.
The Dharma and Yoga Fest events were culmination events of HSS initiated year-long celebration of Swami Vivekananda which included Dharma Bee Competition for Children. The keynote speech at Santa Clara was delivered by Shri Saumitra Gokhale, international coordinator of HSS and in Pleasanton the keynote speech was delivered by Prof. Ved Nanda. In each case, both highlighted Swami Vivekananda’s message of “Universal Peace through Dharma and Yoga” and how it was relevant in present day.
The guest speaker was Democratic Congresswomen Tulsi Gabbard representing Hawaii. She is the first Hindu Congressperson to take on Bhagavad Gita. She focused on the teachings of Hinduism and how it helped her combat tough times.
The Council General of India Parthasarathy emphasised the message of Swami Vivekananda respecting all cultures. He admired the Hindu Community of Bay area coming together to celebrate this grand event. During the day, the fest had total seven parallel tracks, four Yogas, Youth Fest, Hindu Theme Park, Hindu Experience and Cultural Performances. Hindu experience track provided glimpse of Hindu values and living, a unique presentation of four of the 16 samskaras (rite of passage) of Hinduism. Athithi Devo Bhava—a code of conduct where guest is regarded as God.
The attendees were greeted in the Vedic manner. Rina – how we must pay our debt owed towards nature, parents, teachers etc., Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam – how the Hindus consider the whole world as a single family. Finally, Vivaah –wedding per Vedic traditions sanctified by fire was one of the unique features as the singer MC Yogi renewed his wedding vows per Hindu tradition.
In Hindu Theme Park for children, over 500 children had their own conclave to enjoy games, Bharat Darshan Yatra and Laughing Yoga besides plethora of other activities, which they enjoyed wholeheartedly. A unique Hindu Characters parade was held at various times. Honouring Swami Vivekananda, who was first to clearly define and classify Yoga in its present form, Dharma and Yoga Fest had parallel events on Raja, Jnana, Bhakti and Karma Yoga. Each and every yoga sessions of all discipline were full house affair. Renowned speakers like Prof. Ved Nanda, Swami Palaniswami and Senthil Swami from Kuwai Ashram, Executive coach Dr. Prasad Kaipa, Yoga Acharya NV Raghuram, TED speaker Nipun Mehta, Swami Tattwamayananda of Vedanta Society etc, spoke at the event.
The pinnacle of the event was evening programme. A unique combination of concert by Hip-Hop Bhajan artists MC Yogi (Snata Clara) and Jai Uttal (Pleasanton), Bhajan Sandhya by Anuradha Paudwal (both locations) and Krishna Leela by 250 plus children representing HSS Bal Gokulam (both locations).
The day started with Ganesh procession by the youth to mark the Ganesh Chatruthi. As a practical application, Karma, a blood drive and bone marrow registration were organised at the event location. The Bhakti Yoga featured bhajans various groups like Gauravani, Kirtanyanas, and others throughout the day. Raja Yoga, commonly referred to as Yoga saw presentations, live demonstrations participated by attendees on stress management, Transcendental Meditation and Kids Yoga by leaders in field. Cultural track saw energetic display of various regional dances and musical renditions to keep audience in rapt attention.
The Chairman of Bay Area Dharma Yoga Fest and HSS bay area president, Shri Chandru Bhambhra thanked the 400 plus HSS volunteers, Sunnyvale and Fremont Temple and 40 organisations, sponsors, hundreds of performing children and all the audience.
Mahadev Kolluru from Divya Jyoti Jagrati Sansthan said, “I want to congratulate all of you (personally and on behalf of VEDA) and your entire HSS team for successfully organising the Dharma and Yoga Fest to commemorate Swami Vivenkanda’s 150th Birth Anniversary. It was indeed a privilege to sponsor, participate, and attend the delightful event. The energy at the venue was awesome, kudos to you all again.”
Union Minister of State for Human Resources Development Sashi Tharoor did make desecrating and defaming references to Swami Vivekananda. Speaking on the occasion of unveiling of Swamiji’s statue in Thiruvananthapuram, he said that Swamiji was a flesh eater and drunkard. The speech was made in the presence of VIPs like Vice President of India Prof. M Hamid Ansari, P Parameshwaran, Director of Bharatheeya Vichara Kendram and president of Vivekananda Kendra, Kanyakumari, Arun Jaitley, former Union Minister O Rajagopal, Kerala Minister VS Shivakumar, K Muraleedharan MLA and senior leaders of RSS and BJP in Kerala.
This reference has caused sharp protests among the people of Kerala who respect Swamiji and consider him as the source of inspiration for the national reconstruction. The installation, consecration and unveiling of Swamiji’s statue in the State capital itself is the shining example of the respect Keralites still shower on Swamiji. The business community, media community and ordinary people came forward to pick up the tab for the entire expenses incurred for this effort. Even the United Democratic Front (UDF) government led by Congress, the very party which Tharoor belongs to, donated Rs 25 lakh. Thiruvananthapuram Municipal Corporation ruled by CPM-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) allotted the land for the statue free of cost. But, the “world famous” diplomat-turned politician misused the occasion to defame Swamiji.
A joint statement initiated by Vidhyabhyasa Samrakshana Samithi (Siksha Bachao Andolan Samithi) has demanded the immediate removal of the Minister from the Union Council of Ministers. Tharoor should clarify the occasion when Swamiji consumed alcohol. Minister’s insulting reference has come out at a point of time when survey reports indicate that drinking habits are showing upward trend among students and youths in Kerala. The academic community has been taking relentless efforts to formulate an academic alternative by projecting Swami Vivekananda’s life model and value-based educational plan.
The joint statement has been signed by Swami Chidananda Puri of Sanathana Peetam, Dr. TK Raveendran, former VC of Calicut University, Dr. Gopi Puthukkad, Prof. OM Mathew, Chairman, Vivekananda Chair, Mahatma Gandhi University, M Venugopal, former DIET (District Institute of Education& Training) Principal, Thrissur, Dr. VB Panicker, Prof. EV Narayanan, Christian Studies Centre Director Prof. Joseph Pulikkunnel, Bharatheeya Vichara Kendram President Dr CI Isaac, Dr AK Mohandas, former Dean Agricultural University, Dr. TG Girish of Baroda University, A. Vinod, State Convener of Vidhyabhyasa Samrakshana Samithi, V. Unnikrishnan, President, Rashtriya Adhyapaka Parishad, Dr. R Raveendran Pillai and AK Sreedharan Master, Bharathiya Vidya Nikethan,
(T Satisan, Kochi)