3rd Hindu conference celebrates spread of Hinduism down under
Novotel in Parramatta turned saffron during April 26-27 weekend as hundreds of volunteers and delegates furled saffron scarfs and name tags around their necks at the third Hindu conference organised by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) Australia.
The conference was blessed by lighting the traditional lamp in front of majestic Ganesha idol and an aboriginal dance and didgeridoo by young ‘Kyle Freeman’, a 14-year-old aboriginal who said that according to tradition it took away the bad energy in the precinct and the event.
Veda Patsala teacher Narayan Krishnamoorthy said as he declared the conference open, “You protect the dharma and it protects you.” He added that Hindu dharma was the sanctum sanctorum of all religions and that the Hindu conference would help everyone to take home values imbibed by it.
Akila Ramarathnam, one of the main organisers of the conference, said in her keynote address that there were now 200 professionally trained teachers who were now teaching at Veda Patsalas around Sydney. She thanked guests that included Philip Ruddock, MP, and Laurie Ferguson, Federal MP for Werriwa, saying that their political support had helped tremendously to create a harmonious and democratic environment to practice and maintain as well as spread the message of Hindu dharma.
Mr Phillip Ruddock and Mr Laurie Ferguson with ladies
Mr Philip Ruddock said, “Australia is a unique country in the sense that it has around 25 per cent of people born overseas. People can come here, settle and be part of it as Australians citizen of this country.” He said, ‘not only we respect Hinduism, we share and rather learn from each other and acknowledge each other.’
Mr Ferguson praised the Hindu community for its engagement with the wider Australian society so that people understood each other better.
Dr Geoff Lee, Member Parramatta was all praise for his constituency that was a cultural melting pot. He said he had an idol of Ganesha in his office to remove hurdles that are aplenty in politics.
Swami Vigyananand, International Co-ordinator and Joint General Secretary, VHP, provided the saffron energy as he lighted the traditional lamp along with other dignitaries present. More than 250 delegates became part of the dialogue how Hindu Dharma was contributing to the society. They actively participated in five plenary sessions where speakers from various Hindu organisations Down Under (including New Zealand) talked about how they were spreading the tenements of Hindu dharma. They spoke about the work of their organisations as well as individual experiences as Hindus living in Australia.
Many among the participants were young people who would carry the flag in the future. They were more articulate in their presentations, relating concisely the message, having grown up in the local culture. The statistics provided about the Hindu population in Australia showed that the community carried the political weight and that they were at the top rung of the society in all fields be it education or the income they were drawing. Some as young as six or seven-year-olds showed their skills in reciting mantras from the Vedas and talked about how they were positively engaged in learning and practising Hinduism in their day to day lives.
Srini Vasudevan and Vidya Raghavan
Preservation of Hinduism and promoting it to the next generation were some of the issues that were at the core of the conference and how Hinduism was practised and preserved in Australia in myriad of ways. It was reassuring to sit and listen to inspiring speakers who were contributing to maintaining and spreading Hinduism through education, training, yoga, scriptural studies, meditation and participating in local activities such as ‘Clean Up Australia’, ‘Greenathon’, ‘Blood Donation Drives’ and connecting with the real custodians of the land and learning about their ways.
Two days of listening to over 50 speakers about Hinduism one came back with an evident conclusion that Hinduism was not just surviving but rather thriving and growing its roots in Australia at a fast rate. It was a revelation that Sydney now has 52 temples while many more organisations are involved in spreading Hinduism through education, especially interesting the younger generation in the ways of Hindu culture.
Mr Raj Natarajan
Mr Raj Natarajan of Oz India Media who chaired the first plenary session on ‘Hindu Temples – serving the Australian community’ said, “We, as Hindus, do not carry guns where we go but we go with holy books and build temples wherever we go. India is the only country that has never attacked. It may have replied back if attacked, yet it has led and lent the message of peace and its temples, especially, have imparted that lead role.”
Mr Natarajan Iyer from Sri Venkateswara Temple talked about how SVT was started by 17 members who had housed a statue of Lord Ganesha at the NSW campus. Now the temple in Helensburgh is a fine monument and a national heritage. The leading road in Helensburgh has now been named as Temple Road by the Mayor.
Sri Praful Jethwa of BAPS Mandir in Rosehill said that BAPS devotees contributed to the society by contributing several services. Mr Venkataraman of Ayappa Temple talked how they overcame many hurdles to finally have a temple in Guildford. Mr Divakar Harle talked about Vedic Cultural Centre of Australia in Greystanes and its contribution in training Vedic teachers. Mr Muthu Menon impressed the role of Shakti Temple in Tongabbie and its valuable contribution in not just imparting knowledge but also conducting community awareness about issues that can affect its members and supporting people during bereavements and helping people in distress.
Mrs Leela Gune
Mrs Lila Gune spoke with pride about the first Hindu temple in Australia, Sri Mandir, at Auburn. Its functions like Shiva Ratri, Janmashtami and Diwali draw thousands of Hindus from all around the town, she said.
Shri Vidyadaran R Sharma’s presentation was about the only Saraswati temple in Flemington and how it was a favourite of students. Mr Prem Misra of the Mukti Gupteshwar Temple explained how the continent of Australia was so unique with electromagnetic forces operating through this ancient land. His seven-year-old granddaughter mesmerised all with her chanting of Sri Siva Sahasranama shlokas with perfect ease and confidence. Mrs Pooja Sashi of the Hindu Youth Australia (HYA) talked about the role of temples and their purpose.
Mr Prem Misra and Rama Misra and their grand daughter
The second session concentrated on the role played by Hindu organisations in serving the Australian society in general and Hindu society in particular. Speakers included Mr Sajana Nand, Australian Hindu Multicultural Association and Neeraj Ram from Gayatri Pariwar. Sri Ram Sivan ji of Australian Council of Hindu Clergy said that there were now over 72 recognised qualified priests busy doing important work as marriage celebrants and performing last rites.
Friends of India from Liverpool talked about the Ganesh Festival and how it had charged the locals with enthusiasm as thousands participated every year in the iconic event. Mrs Geeta Devi, President VHP Victoria, enlightened all with an intensive weekend called ‘Vedic Village Project’ happening every year that was full of activities and disseminating information about Hindu religion and Vedic practices. While Shri Awindra Prasad of Arya Samaj talked about homams and yagyas carried by its members Srini Vasudevan and Vidya Raghavan talked about Sri Om Care and how it had helped transformed lives of senior citizens of the Indian community helping them age in a positive, fun filled environment.
Mr Raj Datta, Councillor Strathfield Council talked of having started Deepavali celebration at NSW Parliament House which has now become a much looked forward annual event enjoyed by the community and connecting it with the NSW parliamentarians. And Jet Australia’s Shri Navneeth Ramanuja Dasa talked about serving the community through Hindu Vaishnav philosophy.
Swami Vigyananand, International Co-Ordinator VHP, who has to his credit writing a book on Sanskrit grammar along with many other scholarly achievements, talked about ‘Hindu Organizations, Temples, & Associations (HOTA)’. He said ‘HOTA’ meant ‘happening’ and he could see a lot happening in Australia in regards to Hindu dharma. Swamiji launched HOTA Australia and encouraged all to join in a ‘Raksha bandhan’ festival that could promote a feeling of goodwill among the all Hindus. Ayyapa Temple took the lead to conduct this event for the first time in Sydney in August this year with 20 other organisations giving them a hand to organise the event.
Vijay Badhwar chaired the third session based on topic ‘Serving the community through education and shaping future generations’. His introductory message was to keep the Hindu culture alive for the coming generations, not to be lost in the persistent campaigns of many proselytising religions.
Second Day of the conference concentrated on youth development and shaping future leaders as two plenary sessions intensely discussed how the youth were being encouraged through providing opportunities for participation and positive engagement.
Speakers from Ekal Vidyalaya, Indian Seniors’ Group Hornsby, Bhutanese Association, Sri Sathya Sai organisation and many more highlighted the valuable work being carried out for the community, its seniors and the children with the aim of connecting, helping, serving, integrating and networking.
Master of Ceremonies Ms Chetna Padki
The 3rd Hindu conference concluded on Day 2 on a high note as people went back with a lot of positive input through inspiring speakers and workers who have contributed in a pioneering fashion to the cause of Hindu dharma in Australia. Each session was packed with interesting presentations from nearly 50 speakers who motivated the rest with a vigour and enthusiasm that Hindu dharma had come of age in Australia and its growth had to be steadily maintained for the coming generations.
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