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By Malay Vyas
KATY: ‘Ashirwad A Blessing’ organized the third Vedic Fair at the Cinco Ranch High School on Saturday, March 1. ‘Ashirwad’ translates into “Blessing” and the temple’s mission is to preserve age-old Spiritual knowledge and impart the same to the next generation”. The Vedic fair went a long way in further enhancing the strength and value of the mission that Ashirwad is built on. The idea of a community outreach event based on the ‘Veda’ and ‘Puranas’ – the ancient scriptures of Hinduism is unique to the Ashirwad temple and its founder Geeta Ravulu. Hosting an event like this in a suburban high school speaks volumes of Ashirwad’s commitments to its own mission.
The Cinco Ranch High school was a calm setting as one drove into the parking lot. Hindustani Classical music wafted out of the single speaker set at the entrance. After appreciating the banners that invited the visitors, one couldn’t stop and wonder how the grand rotunda of the school was converted into ‘Kailash’ Mountain , abode of lord Shiva. Visitors including young children stopped in front of the faux and yet impressive replica of Kailas Mountain to take pictures with ‘live’ Shiva and Parvati seated in the middle of the diorama. Aptly called “Kool Kailash”. The physical structure of Kailash and Mansarovar was built by IACHF architects Sachin Sharma and Sukhi Kohli. Where did they draw their inspiration from? Sachin said “When Geetha and Sri narrated the theme of Vedic Fair-3 to us, we started to visualize Mahadev’s abode and started thinking about how many of us ever dreamt of visiting Kailash. That is when we decided to take on this mammoth task to replicate Kailash and bring it to Houston community”. Sukhi added” It is over 6 months of intense hard work at Sachin Sharma’s house, working most of the weekends, resulted in over 15 feet of magnificent work of art. It was at this Kool Kailash that young Vamshith Kundoor shared her experience of visiting 18 shakthi peetas along with archana kumkum (vermillion) with many visitors.
Going past the main rotunda, the left hallway hosted numerous food booths serving fresh vegetarian food. There were tables lined up for convenience of the visitors and it was refreshing to see all three generations of same families sitting down for a hearty meal after enjoying the fair. You could see youngsters in deep conversation with their grandparents on the significance of ancient Hindu scriptures.
The hallway to the right accommodated the various vendors that have been supporting the Ashirwad temple for a long time. From little toys that would entice small children to traditional Indian jewelry and even Lengha-Cholis for girls and women were available for purchase. The bookstalls carried books on varied topics in Hindu religion, philosophy and ancient scriptures. It was encouraging to see young visitors to the Vedic Fair stopping and glancing through various books at these bookstalls. In total there were more than fifty exhibitors at the Vedic Bazaar.
At 4 PM India Exhibit Presentation Competition began where 50+ diverse presentations on Gods, Temples, Places, Festivals, Lifestyle, Yoga, Health, Languages, Rivers, Dance, Music, Kings Scientists were excellently presented by young generation of Indo-American descent. Divena Donthi was winner and Anika Ravishankar was runner up in 10 and above category. Ruthvik Jonna and Vishnu Nataraja were winner and runner up in 9 and below category. Cooking Competition winner was Manjari Guturu for her dishes: Cranberry Fiber Rice and Quinoa Veggie Delight (Salad)) and Renu Ahuja was runner up for her dish Dahi Gujia.
At 6 PM Vedic Fair 3 Talent Showcase started with Sloka-thon recitation of Vishnu sahasranama slokas without seeing by Ashirwad’s students Rhea Bhat, Shreya Sarathy, Pritam Hegde and Saanika Halapeti. This was followed by classical music performance by Swarasudha Music Institute students and a flamboyant Bho Shambho dance performance by Abhinaya School of Performance Arts students choreographed by Guru Indrani Parthasarathy. At 6:30 PM Ashirwad’s Vedic Walk a colorful show case of Shiva Puran Icons by 25 kids (4 to 10 years) was cheerfully applauded by the audiences.
During the course of the Vedic Fair, there were numerous workshops hosted for the benefits of the participants – the ‘How To’ workshop aimed at explaining little nuances of Hinduism such as basic puja to complicated procedures such as ‘conducting a Hindu wedding. The Sanskrit workshop was another popular workshop that was well attended by the young and old alike. Other informative “how to” workshops covered subjects such as Yoga, Classical Dances, Styles and Ways of Wearing Sarees, Meditation, Importance of Ayurveda, how to adorn a dhoti, drawing a rangoli as well as Dandiya.
The highlight of the evening was the play “I am Shiva – The Mahadev”. In tune with the tradition that has been followed every year, Ashirwad puts one particular Hindu diety in focus for every Vedic Fair. Vedic Fair 2 saw the theatrical presentation of “Arjun the Chosen”. “I am Shiva – The Mahadev” was a dance – drama created and directed by Geeta Ravulu. She was also an actor in the play. Before the play opened, there were recitals and bhajans inside the auditorium. Chants of Hare Rama Hare Krishna echoed through the highschool hallways.
The play with a cast of 46, opened with creatively set screen backdrop with tranquil scenery and calm music. This year’s play was even more interesting because it was on ‘Shiva’ – the Mahadev. Often misunderstood as the “destroyer” or the “angry god who chopped off his son’s head”, this play showed the human side of the “Neelkanth”. Geeta Ravulu and her onstage cast as well as the back stage crew ensured that the play including the audio visual part of the show went off without a hitch.
The Vedic Fair is also a brain child of Geeta Ravulu – she has been teaching Hindu Spirituality and Puranas for over ten years now. The challenge was to get the kids to retain more of the heritage knowledge and information imparted to them. Just teaching them from books wasn’t helping. The Vedic Fair helps the children from the Ashirwad Temple School learn and present on various topics of heritage and spirituality. It enables the older children to work one on one with the younger children benefitting both the age groups. The Ashirwad temple school started with six children – now there are over a hundred students.
“We want to involve people of all ages – little kids to senior citizens but the idea behind hosting the Vedic Fair in a highschool is to involve middle and high schoolers” adds Geeta. As was evident from the Vedic Fair attendees, there were a lot of young volunteers working enthusiastically to make sure that such a spiritual event was a success. Geeta explains that the initial challenge was to explain to the community what the Vedic Fair was about. Once she and her excellent organizing committee overcame the ‘reaching out’ challenge, Vedic Fair 2 and 3 were well attended. Infact, Geeta added “we are already planning for Vedic Fair 4 in March 2015. Next year along with India exhibits and Workshops, they will show case the diorama of GOLOK and the prime time play will be “KRISH – The Blue Man” .
The Ashirwad Temple school along with Geeta Ravulu and Sri Ravula, are very thankful and appreciative of the support provided to them by their sponsors and volunteers. Sponsors such as Shri Sita Ram Foundation, IACHF, ISKCON, Hindus of Greater Houston, Mandap Creations, Katy Indian Cultural Association, Frontier Consulting and Voice of Sanatan Hinduism ensured that the Vedic Fair was a success. It is because of such sponsors that a sense of competition is generated amongst the participants. The winning presentation amongst more than fifty exhibits this year won a handsome prize of $1001.
As the Vedic Fair wound down, parents were amazed by the enthusiasm of their children towards the various events. As R. Ramalingam of Katy explained “my teenage daughters rushed out of the LEGO movie to get here on time”. It is probably inherent amongst Indian parents to pass on the legacy of spirituality to the younger generation.
The Vedic Fair is a unique event on the Houston Calendar – it is an independent event that has seen success because of the participants and the organization. The Ashirwad Temple firmly believes in enriching the community by spreading the knowledge of Hindu Spirituality. The belief of Ashirwad Temple is “One-ness of God” and the Vedic Fair shows us how. Houston now looks forward to Vedic Fair 4 where the theme is Golok (land of the sacred cows) with “Krish-The Blue Man” as the main play.
For updates visit FB page facebook.com/VedicFair or AshirwadABlessing.org.