Hindu arti worship held weekly at Harvard

A weekly arti is reportedly held at Harvard University (HU), one of the world’s top and United States’ oldest institution of higher education established in 1636. Organized by Harvard Dharma (Harvard’s Hindu Students Association), it is held in Dharma Prayer Space at Canaday Basement in Harvard Yard of HU in Cambridge (Massachusetts) on Fridays at five pm, reports suggest.

Arti is a Hindu worship ceremony/offering performed in adoration/honor of deity/deities by circular movement of a lighted lamp accompanied by hymn singing and may include sounding of handbells and other instruments. Worshippers pass their hands over the flames of the lighted lamp and then touch their faces/heads with these hands, thus transferring the deity’s blessings.

Applauding Harvard for reported provision of dedicated prayer space, Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, in a statement in Nevada today, described it as a step in the positive direction. Zed commended Harvard for recognizing the intersection of spirituality and education, which was important in Hinduism.

Zed, who is President of Universal Society of Hinduism, urged all USA universities, colleges and residential schools; both public and private; to respond to the spiritual needs of diverse student body and provide permanent and dedicated Hindu prayer/meditation room for rituals, quiet reflection, festivals and spiritual exercise. It would help in the personal growth of Hindu students who were present in substantial numbers on various campuses. It was important to meet the spiritual needs of these students, Zed added.

Rajan Zed suggested that these Hindu prayer rooms should have an altar containing murtis (statues) of popular Hindu deities like Shiva, Vishnu, Rama, Krishna, Durga, Venkateshwara, Ganesha, Murugan, Saraswati, Hanuman, Lakshmi, Kali, etc.; besides being equipped with ghanta (big metallic bell hanging from the ceiling), dholak (two-headed hand-drum), Shiva-linga, etc. He or other Hindu scholars would be glad to help, if asked, regarding the structure of “Hindu Prayer Room”, Zed indicated.

Harvard Dharma, focusing on Hindu spiritual and cultural life at Harvard University, also celebrates various Hindu festivals like Deepavali, Holi, etc.; organizes discussions and speaker events about Hinduism and related issues on the campus; etc. Priyanka Kumar, Gunjari Raychaudhuri and Aniket Zinzuwadia are Co-Presidents.

HU, whose motto is Veritas (Latin for “truth”) and which has about 22,000 students, boasts of “48 Nobel Laureates, 32 heads of state, 48 Pulitzer Prize winners”. The Harvard Library—claimed to be the “largest academic library in the world”—includes about 20.4 million volumes. Drew Gilpin Faust is the HU President, while Kenji Yoshino is President of its Board of Overseers. It was named after John Harvard, a Christian minister. Hinduism, oldest and third largest religion of the world, has about one billion adherents and moksh (liberation) is its ultimate goal. There are about three million Hindus in USA.

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