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Princeton university to host first-ever Hinduism week

By Arthur J Pais in New York
March 27, 2009 12:27 IST
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Princeton, one of America's eight Ivy League universities and widely regarded as one of the world's leading universities, is creating history.

For the first time, the New Jersey-based university which was founded in 1746 and where Albert Einstein taught for many years and which is also home to Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison, will hold a week full of celebrations related to Hinduism.

Although student groups have presented a Hinduism week at Princeton in previous years, the organisers said this is the first year the celebration will be hosted by the Office of Hindu Life founded last year. And this sponsorship gives the event a high official profile.

Called Hinduism in the 21st Century: A week of Awareness and Celebration, the March 28-April 5 events will explore the intersection of India's spiritual traditions with the modernity of American life. The events are co-sponsored by the student group, Hindu Satsangam.

Organisers believe the celebrations will not only resonate with Hindu students and professors and staff and Princeton's Hindu community, but also serve as an impetus for those from the broader community to learn more about the faith. The events will be of interest to over 1,000 Indian families in and around Princeton.

'In presenting such a variety of programming, we wish to convey the diversity within Hinduism itself,' said Vineet Chander, Princeton's coordinator for Hindu life and principal organiser of the event. 'At the same time, we hope that each event will allow us to go deeper in exploring our theme, and gain insight into the faith as a fluid, living tradition faced with both challenges and opportunities in the modern world.' 

Uma Mysorekar, president of the Hindu Temple Society of North America which runs the Ganesha Temple in Queens, New York, will give the keynote address during a vegetarian banquet. Mysorekar will speak about challenges and opportunities facing the next generation of Hindu-Americans. She also will be honored by event organisers with the first Hindu-American Inspiration of the Year Award.

Other highlights of the week include a field trip to one of the first Hindu temples established in the United States, the Ganesha Temple which is over three decades old; a panel discussion exploring the tensions between the academic and practitioner's approaches to Hinduism (with professor Ravi Gupta from the College of William and Mary and professor Deepak Sarma of Case Western Reserve University); the Bhagavad Gita's case for monotheism (with professor Gupta), and a discussion about Hinduism's take on the real-life struggles faced by American college students.

Hinduism in the 21st Century also pays homage to the popularity of yoga and spiritual vegetarianism -- perhaps Hinduism's biggest contribution to American pop-culture -- with an interactive yoga class and a discussion of Hinduism and animal rights, held jointly with the student group Princeton Animal Welfare Society, a press release said.

The celebration is free and open to the public, but advance registration is required to attend some of the events; check the Hindu Satsangam's web site:

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Arthur J Pais in New York