Hindu prayer in Nevada Legislature in Sanskrit
Nevada (USA), Mar 21: History was created when Rajan Zed, Director of Public Affairs of Hindu Temple of Northern Nevada, Public Relations Officer of India Association of Northern Nevada, and a Hindu chaplain, read ancient Hindu prayer/blessing in Sanskrit at the opening of the Nevada State Assembly session here.
This is the first time any Hindu prayer is delivered in the Nevada State Legislature since its formation in 1864, says Pastor Albert Tilstra, Chaplain Coordinator for Nevada Legislature.
Wearing saffron colored garb, a ruddraksh mala (rosary), and traditional sandalpaste marks on the forehead, Zed started with "Gayatri Mantra" in Sanskrit (said to be the language of the gods and root language of all Indo-European languages) from Rig-Veda, dated from around 1,500 BCE, considered the oldest holy book still in common use in the world. Keeping with the Legislature tradition of offering inspiration, reflection, and encouragement, he read the next prayer from Brhadaranyakopanisad, composed around 400 BCE, reciting again in Sanskrit (Asato ma sad gamaya, Tamaso ma jyotir gamaya, Mrtyor mamrtam gamaya), which roughly translates as:
From the unreal lead me to the real,
From the darkness lead me to light,
From death lead me to immortality.
The last part of the prayer was from Bhagavad-Gita (Song of the Lord), the famous philosophical and spiritual poem often considered the epitome of Hinduism dated around third century BCE. He concluded by uttering "Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti", which translates as "Peace, Peace, Peace be unto all". The whole prayer will be included in the Daily Journal of the Legislature, which is a permanent public record.
At the opening of the Nevada Assembly session, after Speaker Barbara Buckley introduced Rajan Zed, he started Hindu prayers with "Om" (the mystical syllable containing the universe) and all assemblymen and assemblywomen stood up and listened intently while standing. "Today is a glorious day for all Nevadans and historical day for us when opening prayers from ancient Hindu scriptures are being read in this great hall of democracy," Zed said during the prayer.
Laddus (ball-like Indian sweetmeat) were distributed on the occasion by local Hindu volunteers Annabelle and Maryanne. Besides people from the area Hindu community; ministers/priests from various Christian denominations like Presbyterian, Episcopal, Pentecostal, Church of Christ; and activists from Satyachetana International and World Peace and Divine Mission also attended the prayers as a gesture of support. Rajan Zed, along with his wife Shipa Zed, sat next to the Assembly Speaker at the podium.
Hinduism, oldest and third largest religion of the world, has no datable beginning but some scholars put it around 3,000 BCE. It has no founder, no one authoritative figure, no one deity worshipped by all, and no single prophet or holy book. One of its scriptures, Mahabharata, which dates around third century BCE, is the longest poem ever written, comprising of over 100, 000 couplets.
Rajan Zed, affiliated with World Congress of Faiths-London and listed in "Who's Who in America" 2006, is active in interfaith dialogue in the region. He lives in Reno with wife Shipa Zed, a community volunteer; son Navgeet Zed, a youth activist; and daughter Palkin Zed, an accomplished author of two published books.