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Seattle Dharma and Yoga Fest a Grand Success – Media Report

The Spiritual Community Comes together for a Day-Long Celebration of Dharma and Yoga Fest at Bellevue College

Over thousand people gather to celebrate the 150th Birth Anniversary of Swami Vivekananda through lectures and demonstrations of Yoga and cultural programs for the families.

 Bellevue, WA

August 25, 2013

 Imagine a day of lectures and discussions on spirituality espoused by Hindu religion (also known as Sanatana Dharma or Eternal Religion), questions on Yoga and meditation practice sessions, cultural programs, children doing puja to Lord Sri Krishna, exhibitors talking to their prospective buyers, food booths buzzing with activity – these were some of the scenes at the Dharma and Yoga Fest held on August 24, 2013 in Bellevue College, Bellevue, WA.

 dyflogoThe occasion was the grand celebration of 150th birth anniversary of a famous Hindu Monk, Swami Vivekananda, who made significant impact on the western hemisphere beginning with his famous speech at the Parliament of Religions in Chicago in 1893. Famous Industrialists and Scientists such as John D. Rockefeller and Nikola Tesla were influenced by Swami Vivekananda during his visits to West in 1893 to 1906.

 “We are very excited to see such great response to the Dharma and Yoga Fest,” said Jayant Pant, the chief coordinator of the program and Secretary for the Greater Seattle region of Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh. “Over 30+ community organizations have come together and celebrated Swami Vivekananda’s 150th Birth Anniversary,” continued Pant.  Pant’s Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh was the main host of the event, supported by co-hosts, Bellevue Hindu Temple and Kent Hindu Temple.

 “As a co-host of this unique and first-ever celebration of Dharma and Yoga in the Greater Seattle area, we are very satisfied with the quality of the program we have put together and the reception we got from spiritually minded people,” said Kul Bhushan Garg, the president of Sanatana Dharma Temple and Cultural Center, which runs Bellevue Hindu Temple and Kent Hindu Temple. “As an organization that promotes Hindu Dharma through our religious and cultural institutions, it is a natural place of affinity to work together with other community organizations like HSS to lead this effort. We are grateful to our volunteers who have worked tirelessly to contribute to the success of this event,” continued Garg.

 The statistics on the event are very impressive. The organizers have estimated the total number of attendees to be over 1000 from multiple ethnicities and races. The programs catered to the entire family, and became a perfect venue for men, women and children to indulge in their respective favorite activities.

Children performing Sri Krishna Puja under the guidance of Srinivas Khedam

 

One such event that captured the attention of the children was the Puja to Lord Sri Krishna, who Hindus believe to be the form of the ultimate Supreme God. Srinivas Khedam, a devotee of Lord Sri Krishna and an executive officer of VT Sewa, a supporting organization for the event led a group of 150+ children that paid complete attention to his explanation of Samskrit hymns and chanted mantras. Doing puja is a key Hindu ritual and is expected to provide a peace of mind and help concentrate nascent minds of children on God. “Through the Puja to Lord Sri Krishna, we intended to teach children about Lord Sri Krishna and how to do puja at home. As future Hindu Americans, these children have responsibility to be the productive citizens of USA, and to represent Hindu religion and culture adding to the beautiful diversity of the American society we all live and enjoy,” said Hemant Tanwar, who led the Sri Krishna Puja program.

 Parents were more than joyous to have such opportunities. “Unlike other festivals I attended before in the area, Dharma and Yoga Fest is very different with respect to the quality and nature of the programs,” said Rupa Shukla, a Bellevue mother of two daughters, whose 8-year old daughter participated in the Sri Krishna Puja. “It is natural to expect a completely fun environment in a festival like this, but organizers tend to depend on movie songs to deliver the fun. I really liked Dharma and Yoga Fest as a mother because it provided me an easy way to introduce our culture and dharmic way of living to my 8-year old without too much explanation, while keeping it fun and engaging to children,” continued Shukla.

 

Raja Yoga Track in Session

Everyone had something to enjoy is probably be the best way to describe the Fest. Bellevue Mayor, Honorable Conrad Lee, 48th District Representative Cyrus Habib and Bellevue City Council Candidate Vandana Slatter graced the occasion and shared a few words. Adults who are interested in learning more about Sanatana Dharma and Yoga listened to eminent speakers such as Swami Bhaskarananda (Head of Vedanta Society, Western Washington), Phil Goldberg, the author of American Veda (keynote speaker), Dr. K.V.Ramanathan (Professor Emeritus and Former Chair of Department of Accounting, University of Washington), Dr. Udaya Bhaskar Deekshith Parasharm, founder and head priest of Sri Venkateshwara Temple, Redmond, Dr. Madhu Prashar, Ayurvedic Doctor from Dubai and Sri Vijaya Simha, Software Management Consultant and Joint-secretary of Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh, USA.  Yoga enthusiasts have practiced complex yoga asanas (postures) and meditation led by supporting organizations like Sahaja Yoga, Isha and Art of Living (AOL). Experts from these organizations also answered questions on daily use of yoga and healthy living devoid of stress. Dr. Shailendar Sodhi explained how Ayurveda can do wonders as Preventative medical system that treats person holistically and contributes to overall health care system. Skit on Swami Vivekanada ‘s life by kids brought out aspects of religious tolerance, world peace and respect for others, which fosters harmony in the society.

 The highlight of the show was kept for the afternoon session, where Vidyalakshmi Vinod, a well-known dancer of Bharata Natyam discipline and the Founder/Artistic Director of Nrityalaya and Ramamani Keeran, a project manager from T-Mobile and an accomplished dancer have put together an enthralling cultural show for children and adults filled with bhajans, skits and dances. A few programs stood out such as a puppet show on Lord Sri Krishna’s life by Global Organization of Divinity (GOD) and a fast-paced dance depicting the popular movie song – Deva Shree Ganesha –  from the movie Agneepath.  In addition to the cultural programs, Hindu Yuva from University of Washington hosted a Bone Marrow Camp, to drive bone marrow donor registrations.  Hindu Yuva also organized a Food-packaging Sewa (Service) Project onsite for all the participants in the festival, provide them a chance to earn good karma, while highlighting the value of community service to younger generations.

 Over 100+ volunteers have worked together from various organizations for over three months to make the program happen and at the end of the show, all volunteers enthusiastically joined a Family Dandiya program, a popular form of folk dance from the western states of Maharashtra and Gujarat in India.

 Overall, the programs in the festival highlighted Swami Vivekananda’s message of Universal Peace through Dharma & Yoga – Inner peace through Yoga manifesting external peace  through Dharma. 

Event Photos

Shree Ganesha Dance by HSS Video

 

About Dharma and Yoga Fest

Dharma and Yoga Fest is the culmination of a year of celebrations to commemorate Sri Swami Vivekananda’s 150th Birth Anniversary. Other celebrations include Dharma Bee, a competition on Swami Vivekananda and Lord Sri Krishna for children from 5 years to 15, Swami Vivekananda Exhibition – a traveling exhibition with 26 exhibits depicting the life and message of Swami Vivekananda, and Vivekananda Express – a guided tour for youth to retrace Swami Vivekananda’s travel within the US between 1893 and 1896. The Dharma and Yoga Fest is being held in over 30+ cities all over the United States of America under the leadership of Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh with active support from various community and spiritual organizations.  For more information on Dharma and Yoga Fest, please visit http://dharmaandyogafest.org.

 

About Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS)

hss_logo2Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS) is a non-profit Hindu cultural organization dedicated to preserving and promoting Hindu values amongst American society. It is headquartered in New Jersey and has around 150 chapters all over the USA. HSS runs weekly sessions for children in the name of Bala Gokulam and adults in the name of HSS chapters to teach Hindu culture, good values (samskaras), Yoga and meditation. All HSS chapters end the program with a prayer to the Supreme Being to seek support to get universal peace for all communities.  More information on Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh can be obtained from http://www.hssus.org.


About Sanatana Dharma Temple and Cultural Center (SDTCC)

Started a decade ago in Maple Valley, Sanatana Dharma Temple and Cultural Center runs two Hindu temples in Bellevue and Kent to promote the Sanatana Dharma. More information can be obtained from http://www.sanatandharmatemple.org/.

bellevue-hindu-templekent-hindu-temple 

Media Contacts

Jayant Pant (strategy.jp@gmail.com)

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Swamy Vivekananda – Women Empowerment

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Chandramohanrao Neelamraju
Dharma & Yoga Fest - LogoSwamy Vivekananda was born on the 12th January, 1863. The world is celebrating the 150th birth anniversary of the great monk and man who was instrumental in the revival of Hinduism in India, instrumental in the concept of nationalism in colonial rule and introduction of Indian ethos to the west. On this august occasion it is apt to remember him for his respect towards the fairer sex. It is more so at a time when India is finding itself at the crossroads, when more and more women are occupying pride of place in nation building but sadly, where her modesty is under constant attack.

Swamy Vivekananda believed that the first manifestation of God is the hand that rocks the cradle. In fact in few civilizations we find a cow giving milk, the earth bearing grains, a tree bearing fruit and the mother tending babies being revered equally as manifestation of God, like in the Indian civilization. Swamyji very boldly said in those days that in the West woman was treated as wife while in the East she was treated as the mother. Thus, he tried to draw a distinct line between materialism and spiritualism in the treatment of women. Though unfortunate it is a ‘fait accompli’ that the once revered mother in India is today wailing at the malnutrition of her babies and outrage to her modesty. Allegorically, it is true in case of the healthy Mother Cow that is slaughtered, the rich mother earth that is exploited selfishly and the mother tree that faces near extinction. It’s right time to remember the ‘immortal’ soul and mend our ways.

Swamy Jee was a monk, who renounced material pleasures for spirituality. In early days, it is said, he saw women as an obstacle in his path. But once he realized the highest Truth, he saw in them Mother the Divine. It is a case of seeing objects not with eyes but with soul.  “ The soul has neither sex, nor caste nor imperfection”, he averred. A great lesson to be learned here and that which he told the West was that once one realizes soul through meditation, he would see a mother in a woman rather than a wife, but for the duty ordained by God to sustain human race through the Divine union. He further elucidated the point by stating, ”Soul has no sex, it is neither male nor female, it is only in the body that sex exists and the man who desires to reach the spirit cannot at the same hold sex distinctions.

The best thermometer to the progress of a nation is its treatment of women”, he said. It shows the vision of Swamy Vivekananda for a nation to progress. In fact, his words are equally important to the contemporary East as with the West. He refers to the Vedanta Philosophy and quotes from the Books how women were treated by Hinduism. He lamented why women were treated like that. Woman suffered for aeons and that gave her infinite patience and perseverance. ” What great words to say! How many of we, men, that feel we are running the family, have a sense of the invisible income she is accruing through her sacrifice for children through physical toil?” He laments that writing down Smritis and binding them by hard rules, men have turned women into manufacturing machines. Great words from a saint that renounced all sensory pleasures nor exposed to vagaries of family life.

He lamented why women are treated as aliens when the same conscious Self is present in all, as per Vedanta. “Unless you uplift women, men can never rise in the eyes of the Divine” he stated. He aggrandizes women stating that irrespective of caste they were eulogized by the Vedas. He quotes the example of Gargi, who in the presence of a thousand Rishis boldly challenged Sage Yagnavalkya for a discussion on the Brahman. He laid stress on women education in days when women were deprived of the basic privilege. No family or nation that does not respect women never rises, he averred.

In a veiled attack on the ‘masculinity’ of man being eulogized with reference to the ‘weakness of women’, he asks men whether man can deliver a baby. He says the Universe is one of perfect balance. “If women can not fight nor can man suffer or endure the vagaries of life”, he said.

In recent times a trend developed in India where the teachings of the Swamy Jee, were sought to be misinterpreted in a way unbecoming of our culture, where as the West started seeing in him a sage that defined womanhood as Divinity in human form.

In my next blog, I will deal with the topic “ Women in the East and West: then and now” from my personal experiences in India, the Europe and the USA.

Editor’s Note – this blog was originally published in the blog “Frankly Speaking…“.

Guest Author: Chandramohan Rao Neelamraju

Chandramohanrao Neelamraju Frankly Speaking...

Chandramohanrao Neelamraju
Frankly Speaking…

Chandramohanrao is a blogger  who writes on socio political issues in India. He is based in Hyderabad and travels across the world including United States and Europe. He holds a Masters degree in Communications and Journalism, a Masters degree in Astrology and a Bachelors degree in Science. His interests include reading, writing, and social media (Facebook and Twitter).

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