By Sanjay Kaul
(Editor’s note: Mr. Sanjay Kaul is Vice President of Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America.)
As spring ushers us into its fold with warmth and an infinite blossoms, the Hindu community of New England prepares to share their rich and diverse heritage with others in a colorful and joyous annual event. In the past years, the event has showcased exuberant displays of artistic and spiritual heritage from Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Thailand and India. The Hindu Heritage Day (HHD) is primarily organized by the volunteers of Vishwa Hindu Parishad /World Hindu Council of America (VHPA) Boston & Merrimack Valley Chapters. The HHD organizing committee includes members from a host of socio-cultural organizations in the greater Boston area. Thousands of people from Greater Boston Area in their colorful traditional attires attend this vibrant festival and enjoy authentic Indian music, songs, dances, food and Mela. Hundreds of participants including as little as five years old showcase their talent and make the celebration more energetic and entertaining.
The focus of this day is on Lokasamgraha, the stability and welfare of all in the community especially focusing on service projects.
Hindu Heritage Day is a dynamic event that connects almost all Boston area Indian organizations and institutions, large and small, in an effort to bring them together. The aim of this event is to impart and instill an admiration and pride in Hindu way of life, cultivating self-respect and showing respect for all people. Adding to its historical mark, Mr. Charlie Baker, Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and the Mayor of Marlborough, proclaim the third Saturday of May each year as “Hindu Heritage Day.” The current & past Governors of Massachusetts have declared this day as the Hindu Heritage Day for the past several years.
To encourage participation, there is no entry fee to this event.
The Hindu American community in the United States experiences some universal and some unique challenges common to all immigrants. It also enjoys distinct advantages that have made it possible for the community to thrive. The first wave of immigrants to arrive in the 1960-70s, the “baby-boomers,” raised their own children, the “Gen-Xers.” The Hindu American youth of Generation X has now come of age to raise their own families. Three generations of Indians now live in America. Coupled with the steady wave of immigrants from India, this makes for a mix of Hindus with diverse needs in the Hindu American community.
VHPA’s central tenant relates to the above concept of Lokasamgraha, which in essence is to promote stability and welfare of the community by reinforcing the importance of holding on to our ancient Vedic heritage and cultural values. Dharma, that which holds us, we must uphold. For lokasamgraha, VHPA has undertaken a major task of integrating the cultural values of India with that of the western world. This is envisioned to be achieved by a web of interaction among people from different walks of life comprising different generations. This interaction encourages sharing of common and uncommon experiences. This helping of each other is envisioned to promote unity as well as acceptance of each other. Hence, a major goal of this community is to pass on the Vedic values and ideals to the future generations to sustain a strong and vibrant community that benefits all.
Its format is “Mela-type” complete with many workshops. There are going to be an assortment of non-profit organizations to give out information, along with vendors of goods and services with different products geared to cater to Indian taste. A total of 34 organizations plan to participate in this year’s mela.
There are a number of entertaining activities being held for all ages. As in the past, some of the best artists in the area will perform at this event. Top-notch artistic performances from various Buddhist, Jain, and Hindu organizations. Exposure to diverse Indic spiritual traditions and customs with representation from several countries. Almost all cultural schools (vocal & dance) from Boston area have been part of the cultural program. Certificate of appreciation is given out to all participants to boost their morale. The cultural program includes: Dance, Drama, Music, Songs, and Skits.
The Mela starts at 3:00 PM and the eagerly awaited cultural program begins at around 3:15 pm in the main auditorium choreographed by different dance and music studios and performed by their talented students. The day will conclude with this variety program. Every year the participants enjoy with utmost interest the performances presented by more 30 Dance and Music schools, several Bal Vihars (Hindu Sunday Schools) ranging from theatrical play to energetic and skillfully choreographed dances, melodious songs.
What sets the HHD cultural program apart is that it always starts with Shankha Naad & Deep Prajjwalan (the lighting of the ceremonial lamp) followed by Ekatmata Mantra which captures the underlying unity behind all seemingly diverse paths of spirituality. And, always closes with a universal prayer, “Prarthana & Anna Sukti.” The program is always based on a pre-selected theme. This year’s theme is Aikyam or Ekta (Unity) which is aptly explained in the following mantra:
ऐक्यं बलं समाजस्या तदभावे स दुर्बलः ।
तस्मात् ऐक्यं प्रशंसन्ति दृढं राश्त्र हितैषिणः ॥
Aikyam balam samaajasyaa tadbhave sa durbalah
Tasmaat aikyam prashansanti dridham rashtra hitaishinah
There are exhibits generally showcasing the theme. An informative and enlightening exhibition on Hindu Dharma will be on display. An exhibit devoted to giving brief life histories of Hindu sants will have educational content for all specially youth.
VHPA felicitates prominent achievers, contributors and those who work towards preserving art & culture. In the felicitation portion of the cultural program, VHPA honors leaders and social activists from our community, who bring change through their outstanding achievements and contributions to make life better for others, those who work hard for bringing attention to issues faced by our community, and those who work hard on preserving art & culture and in making sure that it is passed on to the coming generations. This honor is designed to recognize those members from our community who have had a significant impact in the area of service related to their respective field. This honor is designed to help generate enthusiasm in our younger generation. This year VHPA will present: Distinguished Individual Award, Distinguished Community Organization Award and Distinguished Social Service Award. For 2019 the recipients include: i) Dr. Manju Sheth, MD, co-founder and CEO of INE Multimedia and host of INDIA New England News’ popular celebrity series Chai with Manju ii) Hindi Manch Team iii) Gunjan Radio Team.
The cultural program always features an invited guest, a well-known artist of repute. Artists like Anuradha Palakurthi, Kiran Nath, Anurag Harsh, Valentino Almeida, Ajay Koul and many others have been featured in the past. This year’s program features Mohan Subramanian as a special performer. Mohanji is a well-known artist from Boston Area who is an esteemed Singer and Composer who has numerous successful programs to his credit.
The cultural program is followed by a sumptuous vegetarian dinner. The food served includes: – favored snacks of Bhelpuri, Samosa, Chole bhature, Tikki, Chaat, Dosa, Dinner, Lassi and Tea.
Workshop are organized as part of the program to share talent and knowledge. This year there is a workshop on Pickle (Achar) making and another one on plant based foods.
The activities for children include face painting, puzzles, storytelling, mehndi, and various contests such as picture coloring; essay writing etc., There will be booths for children’s books, summer camps and for organizations that conduct culture classes such as music, dance, yoga and languages.
Outdoor kite flying is specially organized for children. The program includes raffles and rewards to keep children motivated in activities. While the School Cafeteria is filled with mouth-watering food for all the participants, the corridors housed a busy colorful Mela with several non-profit outfits such as Indian Circle for Caring, Ekal Vidyalaya, Samskrita Bharati, Brahmkumari and educational stalls, and for-profit businesses such as car-dealers, real estate agents, NY Life, advertisers and sponsors. This is the day, where families enjoy sumptuous Indian food, including traditional chai and pan and find information from local vendor booths about Bal Vihars/kindergartens, youth camps, yoga and spiritual centers, mehndi creators, Indian story books, spiritual books, pictures & CDs, jewelries, clothes, decorative items and information on other events taking place in and around the Boston area. Seeing all this, brings to our minds the memories the Indian Bazars.
The event is designed to inform about and promote Hindu heritage. As is well understood, the Hindu Samskriti is at once both constant and dynamic, ancient yet contemporary, a perfect harmonization that blends Bhakti (purity) and Shakti (vigor, energy, strength). It is Sanatana (timeless), ever renewing itself like the sacred, sparkling waters of a river. A culture that is moving with the times, verily pushing the envelope of time, ever radiating the timeless wisdom of the Rishis in every act, every achievement, every endeavor and every manifestation.
Historically, in the true spirit of Hindu tradition and culture there is this very core component that is intrinsic to the philosophy – the belief that the all-pervasive creation in this world is one family. The perfect harmonious relationship of all the living things including man is nothing but a well-balanced interstice. The Hindu sentiment reflects on the fact that the environment, which is a perfect host to this well-balanced network of all living creatures, is divine by itself. Man’s well-being can only be sustained if this harmony is achieved through peaceful co-existence.
The Hindu prayer, “Sarve Bhavantu Sukhinah,” meaning “May there be happiness everywhere” highlights the universal, all-embracing world-view of the ancient Vedic Rishis of India. The prayer is a reminder that the Hindu tradition is rooted in the concept of interconnectedness of this entire creation that is constantly expressing and regenerating itself in ever new and varied forms. It is because of this realization that the Hindus have evolved a life style that respects everything in Mother Nature, from the tree, herbs, waters, sun, fire, air to the smallest of the creatures. The Vedic peace prayers calls for simple and sustainable living, in harmony with our environment – an environment that is affected by our actions (karma) on the physical as well as the spiritual planes.
We look forward to see you at the HHD.
Hindu Heritage Day is organized by VHP of America (aka World Hindu Council of America) is a national organization which has among its objectives to unite Hindus by instilling in them devotion to the Hindu way of life, to cultivate self-respect and respect for all people, and to establish contacts with Hindus all over the world. For more information please visit http://www.vhp-america.org/