(Left) Bal Vihar’s Acharya Geetha Raghu; Swami Adhyatmananda, president of the Divya Jivan Sanskrutik Sangh, Sivananda Ashram, Ahmadabad; Chinmaya Mission president Dr. Raghu Grandhige; and Manhar Valand, vice-president of Chinmaya Mission.
A prayer ceremony was organized for the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader Ashok Singhal at the recently inaugurated spiritual and educational Niketan Center of Chinmaya Mission–Atlanta in Norcross, Georgia, on Sunday, November 22, 2015.
The solemn homage ceremony was attended by leading members of the Indian American community, past and present members of the VHPA (Atlanta Chapter), and volunteers, and graced by the presence of Swami Adhyatmanandaji, President of the Divya Jivan Sanskrutik Sangh, Sivananda Ashram, Ahmadabad; Dhirubhai Shah, president-elect, Georgia Indian Business Council (GIBC); founder of Sai Health Fair Dr. Sujatha Reddy; Dr. Vasudev Patel, past president of Gujarati Samaj of Atlanta and coordinator of Overseas Friends of the BJP; Global Mall’s Shiv Aggarwal; Vasav Mehta and Sneha Mehta of Ekal Vidyalaya–Atlanta; Siddhi Vinayak Mandir–Atlanta’s priest Gyan Prakash Upadhyay; and National Convener of United States Hindu Alliance, Gokul Kunnath, to name a few.
Vice-president of Chinmaya Mission, Manhar Valand greeted Swami Adhyatmanandaji when he arrived with Ravi Ponangi of India Tribune, Chinmaya Mission president Acharya Dr. Raghu Grandhige, his wife Acharya Geetha Raghu, who conducts and coordinates Bal Vihars with over 500 students, and Dr. Sujatha Reddy. Swami Adhyatmanandaji lit the diyas, and all joined him in front of the dazzling Ram Parivar deities to offer prayers and aarthi. Then, in the adjoining room, VHPA past president Kusum Khurana noted that Atlanta had been fortunate to host Ashok Singhal in August this year and to listen to his scholarly talk.
The gathering was shown a video clip of his address on August 30. Ashokji was born in Agra, India, and was an international working president of VHP for over 20 years. He graduated from the Benares Hindu University in metallurgy and geology. He then joined the RSS soon after as a pracharak and held many VHP positions from 1983. He was one of the leading lights of the Shri Ram Janmabhoomi movement. Despite poor health he undertook a month-long organizational trip along with some of his Sah-Yogis to the UK, Holland, and USA in August-September this year. In Atlanta, on Sunday, August 30, he guided his listeners on the meaning of Dharma and their responsibilities in protecting it. Singhalji led an inspiring life of service. Narendra Modi described him as a “force behind several noble deeds and social works,” and said, “The demise of Singhal ji is a deep personal loss. He was an institution in himself whose life was centered around serving the Nation.”
Swami Adhyatmanandaji, here for the Maha Ati Rudra Yagnam and no stranger to Atlanta, addressed the gathering in Hindi. Swami exhorted all to remain united. Different states and regions in India may have different ways, but that should not divide the nation. They are like different flowers, but the string that runs through the beautiful garland and binds them is India. “We should all consider ourselves Bharatiyas. You have all come to the United States. Many of you have become U.S. citizens. There is nothing wrong in being loyal to and proud of your adopted land but you should not forget your roots in India. … Please remember what Lord Rama said,Janani janmabhoomischa swargadapi gariyasi(Mother and motherland are superior to heaven).
May we abide in lofty thoughts of Truth, Nonviolence, Forebearance, the ways of our scared Ramayana, our Bhagawatam, our Vedas, our Upanishads. Ahimsa Paramo Dharma (Nonviolence is our topmost duty).” He said he felt very happy to see Bal Vihar’s young students chanting highly revered Gayatri mantra and other Vedic mantras in early morning at the Hindu Temple of Atlanta and complimented Bal Vihar’s dedicated teachers for their noble work of imparting Ved Gyan to the young generation. Noted founder of Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Dr. K. M. Munshi in Mumbai had said that children can memorize at early age and understand the meaning when they grow up. Swamiji touched upon the need to protect and conserve the sacred Ganga and the Himalayas and to promote awareness against environmental degradation. Swamiji said he has very fond memories of his close friendship with Singhalji.
Lake Manasarovar has depth and the Himalayas have height but Singhalji had depth and height. He was proud to call himself Hindu. Wherever he went he chanted Bharat Mata ki Jai (Glory to Mother India) to inspire his supporters. “May his soul rest in eternal peace. Let us forward carry his legacy. My sincere prayer for total Hinduism, and Bharatiyata.” Shyam Tiwari recited the Chidananda Mantra, “Chidananda Roopah Shivoham Shivoham,” and Jayant Daftardar recited Verse 20, Chapter 20 from Bhagavad-Gita on the soul’s immortality. All joined in singing two popular and uplifting bhajans: “Ab somp diya is jivanka” and “Parmatma ae atmane shanti sachi aapjo.” Attendees made floral offerings to the Singhalji.