Utah created a religious milestone on February 13 when its State Senate opened with a Hindu prayer containing Sanskrit mantras for the first time.
Rajan Zed, a prominent Hindu chaplain and Indo-American leader, read this historic opening prayer from ancient Hindu scriptures before Utah Senate in Salt Lake City. After first delivering in Sanskrit, he then read the English translation of the prayer.
All the Senators, Senate employees, and visitors stood respectfully with the heads bowed down listening intently during this prayer. Zed sprinkled Gangajal (holy water from river Ganga of India) on the podium before starting the prayer and presented a copy of Srimad Bhagawad Geeta to Senate President John L. Valentine after the prayer. Sanskrit is considered a sacred language in Hinduism and root language of all Indo-European languages.
Rajan Zed recited from Rig-Veda, the oldest scripture of the world still in common use, dated from around 1,500 BCE, besides lines from Upanishads and Bhagavad-Gita (Song of the Lord), both ancient Hindu scriptures. He started and ended the prayer with “OM”, the mystical syllable containing the universe, which in Hinduism is used to introduce and conclude religious work.
Reciting from Brahadaranyakopanishad, Rajan Zed said “Asato ma sad gamaya, Tamaso ma jyotir gamaya, Mrtyor mamrtam gamaya”, which roughly translates as “Lead us from the unreal to the Real, from darkness to Light, and from death to Immortality.” Reciting from Chapter three of Bhagavad-Gita, he urged the Senators to act selflessly.
John L. Valentine thanked Zed for the historical prayer and Senate Majority Leader Curtis S. Bramble, said that the theme of the prayer was peace and he put forth a resolution to include the prayer in the Senate Journal, which was unanimously passed. Senator Darin Peterson and few other Senators personally thanked Zed for the prayer. Louis Nickens, a technical writer in Utah, in an e-mail to Zed, wrote, “…God bless you and your efforts to build bridges…”
Various local leaders of Hindu community, including Dinesh Patel, Indra Neelameggham, Mahesh Pokala, etc., accompanied Zed to the Senate. Adi Gundlapalli, President of Sri Ganesha Hindu Temple of Utah, applauded Zed’s efforts to spread the message of love. “This is a great day for Utah and a historic day for us,” Zed said at the beginning of the prayer.
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, and no single prophet or holy book. One of its scriptures, Mahabharata, is the longest poem ever written, comprising over 100,000 couplets. Hinduism in North America was introduced in 1830s with Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau studying Hindu scriptures like Upanishads and Bhagavad-Gita. Vivekananda made a strong impression at World’s Parliament of Religion in Chicago in 1893 and he then founded Vedanta Society. Protap Chunder Mozoomdar of Brahmo Samaj delivered his first American address on September 02, 1883 in Concord, Massachusetts. About 900 Hindu families currently live in Utah.
Utah State Senate is composed of 29 members, with each constituency representing a population of about 77,000. Utah, which is the world headquarters of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is a great vacationland with 11,000 miles of fishing streams and 147,000 acres of lakes and reservoirs. It ranks number one in the country in average household size, highest birth rate, and population of wild horses; while it ranks at the bottom in alcohol consumption. Known for Mormon Tabernacle Choir, Utah is rich in natural resources and has long been a leading producer of gold, zinc, molybdenum, silver, lead and copper.