American Hindu students organization starts Hindu awareness week

NEW BEGINNINGS | (From left) HSO coordinators Nita Ponnaganti, CC ’14, Shambavi Sadayappan, SEAS ’14, and Mihir Awati, CC ’15, want Hindu Awareness Week to promote discussion about Hindu religion and culture.

The inaugural Hindu Awareness Week, organized by the Hindu Students Organization to share information about the tenets of Hinduism on campus, starts Monday.

“For the past 20 years, HSO has been able to provide a forum for Hindus to practice their faith,” Shambavi Sadayappan, SEAS ’14 and co-coordinator of Hindu Awareness Week, said. “So we thought it would be a really good and new initiative for us to provide a more intimate setting for people to either explore their faith or to explore new faith.”

The week will include yoga and meditation sessions, a discussion circle on Hinduism, a movie screening, a lecture by a Hindu Pandit, and a trip to a temple in Queens.

“The goal of this week is not just to be a space for Hindu students to explore their faith—the idea is to have dialogue with other people,” Nita Ponnaganti, CC ’14 and another co-coordinator, said.

Mihir Awati, CC ’15 and HSO’s public relations director, said that the week is intended as much for non-Hindus as for Hindus, and that the ultimate goal is spreading the word and discussing about what Hinduism is.

“We want students to know that there are no barriers to coming and having an interesting discussion with us this week,” he said.

Gadadhara Pandit Dasa, the Hindu chaplain at Columbia, will lecture about how to incorporate Hindu tenets into everyday life on Thursday.

“We thought it would be a good way to give people a chance to interact with him and know that he’s there,” Ponnaganti said. “Everything that we do is related to awareness, and this week we think that it’s a good idea to have a closer-knit setting in which people can actually have discussion and dialogue.”

At the end of the week, HSO will lead a trip to Ganesh Temple, a large Hindu temple in Flushing.

“We thought it would be a great opportunity for students, who are either Hindu or not Hindu, to go to a place where Hindus actually worship,” Ponnaganti said. “Those who actually want to go and pray can do so, and those who are just there to look at it can see what other Hindus do … that’ll be an opportunity for them to do so.”

Upper West Side restaurant Shahi Biryani & Grill will provide food for the events throughout the week.

Awati said that the biggest challenge for the week was probably having Engineering Week—which kicked off with a commemorative lighting display illuminating Low Library Saturday night—fall on the same days.

Ponnaganti also said she had concerns about how well the week will turn out, even with HSO’s experience with large events in the past.

“We don’t know how people will be receptive to it … it’s very new, so obviously this year there is going to be filled with a bit of uncertainty,” Ponnaganti said. It makes it exciting in some ways.”

Source: Columbia Spectator