Pavithra Srinivasan

World Hindu Congress 2018
To represent BhAratiya culture through BharatanAtyam, at the second  World Hindu Congress 2018 in Chicago – the land where Swami Vivekananda gave his historic speech at the Parliament of World Religions 125 years ago, was indeed an honor.

The venue was the Westin Hotel in downtown Chicago.  I was invited to perform at the inauguration ceremony held on September 6, 2018.

When the curtains opened and my name was called, a great feeling of gratitude to be at such an event and a pride of being a Hindu overcame me.  As I greeted the enthusiastic audience comprising of great Swamis, dignitaries, AchAryAs and my fellow brothers and sisters, I said to them all that I will remember this opportunity my whole life !

Connecting the theme of the first World Hindu Congress, “sam gachathvam sam vadathvam”,  I began the inaugural cultural evening dancing to a  chant from the RigVeda, praying for

Unison in our voices
Alignment of our minds
Harmony in our march

संगच्छध्वं संवदध्वं
सं वो मनांसि जानताम्
देवा भागं यथा पूर्वे
सञ्जानाना उपासते ||

As we unite towards a common purpose in this year’s second World Hindu Congress:

“Sumanthrithe  Suvikranthe”
‘thinking collectively, acting valiantly!’

This was followed by the  Mangalam chant composed by the late Pandit Ravi Shankar which depicted the vision of our Vedic culture that celebrates auspiciousness in every aspect of the Universe — from its constituent elements to its constellations , permeating all life forms and energy in it.

Swami Vivekananda’s inspiring message has always been to be courageous in the face of setbacks, as victory follows every setback. A poem in praise of Swami Vivekananda was next, followed by a JayadevA Ashtapathi, a sacred love song on Sri Krishna and Radha, that was supposedly dear to his heart. A rhythmic “thillAnA” – a dance of joy and happiness was next.  Choreographing these pieces for this event, instilled in me a reverential love for Swami Vivekananda’s Yoga – Vedanta teachings that spread through out North America and Europe .  How daringly this majestic Monk put forth the Hindu Dharma to the Western public!

The concluding dance was set to a song composed by my spiritual Guru Pujya Swami Dayananda Saraswatiji,  that described the glory of BhArat, our motherland that epitomizes Hindu Dharma; urging  one to be committed to the service of humanity.

I enjoyed the soulful bhajans rendered by Smt. Kavita Krishnamurthy and the spectacular violin by the renowned Dr L Subramaniam which concluded the evenings cultural program.

It was a thrilling moment to witness Swami Vigyananda, the Founder of World Hindu Congress,  blow the conch to inaugurate the conference the next morning.  It’s hard not be awed by his great vision of not only to  creating a global platform for Hindus to connect and come together for a common good , but also reiterating the greatness of Hindu civilization, giving dignity and creditability to its contributors!

In his speech, RSS Chief Sri. Mohan Bhagwat reawakened us to the fact that Hindu society has everything; has all the knowledge about everything, and no longer is an enslaved society. It is just that we have forgotten to practice what we knew and forgotten to work together. His speech made me contemplate on how in real life too, its only practice that makes things perfect. We become good in what we do over and over again- whether it is our tapas, or sadhana, or pursuits, or values in relationships. Coming together of Hindus is also a necessary practice to ensure progress, unity and happiness. Great achievements require great practice and the ancient timeless wisdom of Hindu Dharma can only immensely benefit humanity,  if the Hindu community comes together. Following this, many organizations doing service to the Hindu causes were honored by several dignitaries.

The events of the day were held in 7 parallel forums :-
World Hindu Economic forum
Hindu Educational conference
Hindu Women Conference
Hindu Organizational Conference
Hindu Youth Conference
Hindu Media Conference
Hindu Political Conference.

I attended some of these.

At The Hindu Youth conference, it was heartening to hear young Hindu students talk about how they are impacting the Hindu society through their public services, community programs, college seminars etc. They seem to be playing a vital role in Hindu Resurgence and Renaissance. The coordinator of Hindu Youth Conference Sri. Parth Parihar and the Chairperson of the Hindu Students Council Sri. Ravi JaiShankar, conducted the conference with energy and enthusiasm. A young student who is the President of National Hindu students Forum UK named Drishti Mae, and Prashanta Singh, a student of Dental surgery inTrinidad and Tobago gave inspiring speeches on changing the Hindu Narrative and firming Hindu Identity .

I was lucky to get a ‘Speaker’ tag in my ID card! This entitled me to meals indoors with other speakers. More importantly, I was spared Chicago’s infamous wind. I truly valued this privilege. Some local friends I made laughed at how cold I felt; it was like pleasant summer for them, they bragged. I was not amused!

I was drawn to The Hindu Women Conference. Stories of success of women is personal and lifts my spirits. Women always have to face that extra struggle being torn between running their respective families and developing their talent. Only some are lucky to make it .

One such lucky women among the many panelists was Padma Shri Shital Mahajan — an Indian extreme sportsperson, skydiver, and holder of Six World records and 17 National records in the sport. She mentioned that she was at crossroads of decision in her life : between choosing to have a family or pursue her passion for sky diving.  She persevered with her passion for sky diving, and made the best of both worlds; now both her husband and children are supportive and proud!  It was very touching to hear her thank her father for his unconditional love and encouragement.

The Hindu Media Conference brought together journalists, bloggers, twitter and face book users, and you tube publishers to share their ideas and experiences. Chaired in an amicable manner by Sri. Avatans Kumar, Marketing PR and IT consultant, USA,  the panel featured well known authors, columnists and writers like Smt. Shefali Vaidya, Smt. Neha Srivastava, Smt.  Sunanada Vashist, Sri. Sree Iyer who shared their perspectives and experiences.

As a person not being very active on social media, I learnt how effective thoughts and  information on social media can be, and the far reach it can have! The panelists also discussed the problems of  trolls and fake news while standing up for a  dharmic cause .

Prof. Makarand Paranjpe, Director, Indian Institute of Advanced studies, Shimla, chaired a session on Hindu Identity in the Era of Multiculturalism and Globalization with felicity and authority. Shri. Amish Tripathi, an acclaimed author of Shiva Trilogy, focused on the importance of telling stories from Mahabharata and Ramayana in an easy and relatable way to the younger generation . Shri. Hari Kiran Vadlamani, Founder of Indic Academy, succinctly spoke about the importance of Indian thought, Indic Knowledge and Art and Culture as soft power playing a prominent role across the world. His message was to have unity in purpose; not necessarily uniformity in opinions and perspectives.

The journalist, Sri. Francois Gautire, expressed that India deserves to be a super nation. Indian  culture, Indian heroes, philosophers, litterateurs and poets, and Indian spirituality, have to be celebrated in order for our people to experience pride in their Indianness. “I  was born and brought up as Catholic, but this makes me ashamed”, he remarked.

There were thousands of pearls of wisdom and knowledge that one could gather at the conference, hundreds of people who in their own significant ways are contributing to the preservation of our invaluable heritage. Words and time are insufficient to capture the spirit of it all.

Towards the last hour of my stay at WHC, I caught a glimpse of the Honourable Vice President of India, Sri. Venkaiah Naidu. Fascinated by the warm welcome he received with the singing of National Anthem of India, I wished I had time to attend his speech. I had only a few moments left to leave for the airport to board my flight back home .

And as the plane took off from the grounds of the Windy City of Chicago, I was filled with gratitude to Indic Academy and  Smt. Jayalakshmi Narasimhan Endowment for Women Scholars and Intellectuals, managed by it. They had given me a grant, meeting my travel costs to participate as a delegate in the WHC.

I was overjoyed that I had performed in such an incredible congress so fabulously organized by the volunteers. A gathering of around 2500 delegates from 60 countries is no small task . It was not an event but a phenomena , a movement which will , nourish Hindu Dharma and humanity .

Hindu Dharma is the most liberating spirituality in the world, and its art and culture are highly aesthetic! There are 1 billion Hindus in the world. If each one could wake up every day with a pride and ownership of this crowning glory, it would make the world a more beautiful and happy place to live. With these thoughts, I closed my eyes, eager to reach my motherland BhArat and shake off the shivering fever and cold that caught me in Chicago!

Jai Bharat !
Vande Mataram !