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Sri Ramakrishna’s 182nd Birth Anniversary Celebrated at VSGH

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HOUSTON: On Saturday, February 17, the Vedanta Society of Greater Houston (VSGH) celebrated the 182nd Birth Anniversary of Thakur Sri Ramakrishna at its temple premises on Lindita Drive. Though rains were predicted for the whole day, after a few early showers the day turned out to be perfect. It was cloudy, but that made the day cool and comfortable; and a slight breeze perfected the ambiance.

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The 16 – item worship (Shodasa – Upachara Puja) began at 10:00 a.m.  It was performed by Revered Swami Atmarupanandaji Maharaj, the Minister of VSGH, and lasted for about two hours. While the puja was in progress, some devotees sang devotional songs on Thakur Sri Ramakrishna, Holy Mother Sri Sarada Devi, and Swami Vivekananda.

The whole atmosphere was so charged with spirituality and holiness that there was pin-drop silence in the shrine hall. The intermittent commingling of Swami’s soft puja mantras and the songs enhanced the prayerful mood of the devotees. The worship was followed by Arati (the waving of lights) and Pushpanjali (the offering of flowers by the devotees).  Lunch prasad was served after the morning program.

Some of the comments from the attendees were, “It was a beautiful worship”, “It was so peaceful”, “For the first time I really got what puja is about”….

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The celebration of the Birth Anniversary continued from 3 p.m. with the program “An Evening of Classical Music”. It commenced with vocal music, presented by two of Pandit Suman Ghosh’s outstanding students, Apurva Ghosh (who is his daughter and who recently received the ‘Mewati Pradeept’ award from the Living Legend Pandit Jasraj-ji himself) and Prasun Kolhe, a young singer of only 14 years.

Though so young, their beautiful voices and their control over the notes of the songs enchanted the audience.  Every song was followed by loud applause. VSGH is also sincerely grateful to them that, at the request of the devotees, they continued presenting several encores.

The evening program then continued with the presentation of instrumental music on violin played by Houston’s very own violin virtuoso, Biplab Samadder, accompanied on the tabla by Raja Banga, another brilliant and magnificent performer. The raga was “Puria dhanashri” played on an 8.5 beat, then 12 beat, and finally 16 beat cycle.  Samadder’s rendition of the “Alap” was so beautiful that it created a natural meditative environment in the shrine hall.

The continuation of the raga with Raja’s tabla accompaniment was superb. The whole audience was totally engrossed in the presentation, and during the “Jhala” (the fastest cycle) everybody’s head or fingers or feet moved with the rhythm of the music. It was an enthralling experience for everyone present.

Revered Swami Atmarupanandaji Maharaj and the devotees of the Vedanta Society of Greater Houston are extremely grateful to all the musicians, especially to Raja Banga who performed even after undergoing a major surgery a few days ago. A great big thanks to all of them for making this important event so successful.

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