January 29th, 2008 14:07 EST
Hindu Prayer Historically Opens New Mexico Senate
Santa Fe (New Mexico, USA):
New Mexico State Senate here heard its first Hindu opening prayer today, when prominent Hindu chaplain and Indo-American leader, Rajan Zed, recited Gayatri and other ancient Sanskrit mantras.
Starting with "Om", the mystical syllable containing the universe, which in Hinduism is used to introduce and conclude religious work, he read from Rig-Veda, the oldest scripture of the world still in common use, dated from around 1,500 BCE. He also delivered from Brahadaranyakopnishad and Taittiriya Upanishad, other ancient Hindu scriptures.
Reading from Chapter three of Bhagavad-Gita (Song of the Lord), he urged senators to "Do your work with the welfare of others always in mind." He ended the prayer with last mantra of Rig-Veda, "samani va akutih", before concluding with "Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti", which he then translated as "Peace, Peace, Peace be unto all".
Before starting the prayer, he sprinkled Gangajal (holy water from river Ganga in India) on the podium, which is traditional in Hindu worship. He presented a copy of Srimad Bhagavad Gita to Lieutenant Governor Diane D. Denish before she introduced him to the Senate.
Wearing saffron colored attire, a ruddraksh mala (rosary), and traditional sandalpaste tilak (religious mark) on the forehead, Zed, after reciting the original lines in Sanskrit, then read the English translation of the verses. Sanskrit is considered a sacred language in Hinduism and root language of all Indo-European languages.
Senator Michael S.Sanchez thanked Zed for the prayer, while Senator Nancy Rodriguez personally welcomed him. One of the paragraphs of this Hindu prayer read in Sanskrit was "Asato ma sad gamaya, Tamaso ma jyotir gamaya, Mrityor mamrtam gamaya", which was translated in English as "Lead me from the unreal to the Real, Lead me from darkness to Light, Lead me from death to immortality."
Zed was accompanied to the New Mexico Senate by Padam Shukla, President of India Association of New Mexico; Dr. Bopana Ballachanda, President of Hindu Temple Society of New Mexico (HTSNM); Ajay Gupta, Member of Board of Directors of HTSNM; Dr. Sameer Roy, Indo-American community leader of Albuquerque; and Chacha Ji Shyam Jaitly, Hindu leader. "This is a great day for New Mexico and a historic day of honor for us when prayers from ancient Sanskrit scriptures are being read in this great hall of democracy," Zed remarked.
Rajan Zed created history on July 12 last when he opened the United States Senate session in Washington DC with Hindu prayer for the first time in its 218 years history. He has also read first Hindu prayers in California and Nevada State Senates and Nevada State Assembly.
Hinduism, oldest and third largest religion of the world, has no datable beginning but some scholars put it around 3,000 BCE. It has no founder, no one authoritative figure, and no single prophet or holy book. One of its scriptures, Mahabharata, is the longest poem ever written, comprising over 100,000 couplets. Hinduism in North America was introduced in 1830s with Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau studying Hindu scriptures like Upanishads and Bhagavad-Gita. Vivekananda made a strong impression at World's Parliament of Religion in Chicago in 1893 and he then founded Vedanta Society. Protap Chunder Mozoomdar of Brahmo Samaj delivered his first American address on September 02, 1883 in Concord, Massachusetts.
New Mexico State Senate is composed of 42 members, with each district having a population of about 43,000. New Mexico, which has the lowest water-to-land ratio is USA, was the home of first atomic bomb. Native Americans have been living in New Mexico for about 20,000 years and it has the oldest public building of America, The Palace of Governors in Santa Fe, built in 1610.