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Vedic Heritage Shlokathon 2018 at Sri Meenakshi Temple

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By Anirudh Karunakaran

PEARLAND: The Shlokathon is an annual event where students in the Sri Meenakshi Temple Vedic Heritage School program are able to display what they have learnt throughout the year in the form of a light-hearted competition. More than one hundred children participated in the 2018 VHS Shlokathon. Teachers, parents, and relatives filled the audience, eagerly watching students as they recite Sanskrit shlokas and narrate stories and speeches related to Hindu culture.

The event started with a prayer from our priests and introductions by our coordinators. This was followed by group presentations; first was the Junior Assembly chanting the Ganesha Pancharatnam, followed by the Senior Assembly chanting the Vishnu and Lalitha Sahasranamams. After the group performances were the individual competitions. The toddlers who are in the beginner’s classes recited a number of shlokas and bhajans.

Other children in the junior assembly recited the Nama Ramayanam and Gita Govindam. The senior assembly children chanted various portions of Lalitha and Vishnu Sahasranamams. Hearing the children recite the shlokas in Sanskrit that is a completely new language to them was very remarkable and a culmination of the hard work by the students and assembly teachers, Nalini Sadagopan, Bhavani Iyer, Pankajam Ramachandran,Jyotismathi Swaminathan and Vijay Krishna throughout the year.

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Following the shloka competition was the speech competition. This year’s speech and story topics were centered on the Nayanmars, Alwars, and the Acharyas, in honor of the newly constructed parts of the temple. Students were allowed to present a story about their favorite Nayanmar, Acharya or Alwar and tell their life story as well as their contribution to the Bhakti movement. Achut Karunakaran spoke about his favorite Alwar, Nammalwar.

The senior assembly children were asked to speak about the three Dharmic philosophies – Dvaita, Advaita, and Vishishtadvaita, championed by the Acharyas – Madhava, Shankara and Ramanuja. The speech gave me an excellent opportunity to learn more about these very important philosophies. Some Children also spoken about their favorite Hindu festival – Diwali, Pongal and Holi.

The event was followed by a delicious lunch, organized by our wonderful kitchen staff and Board Member for Food services, Rani Chilukuri and her wonderful team. The award ceremony for the students was part of the lunch, and first, second and third prizes were awarded to the most outstanding performances by students in all classes by the MTS board members and VHS coordinators.

The 2018 Shlokathon was a blast, and overall a fun experience. Family members and friends were able to see all the hard work put into the program by the students and teachers. Students were able to present in front of an audience as well as learn more about their culture from other performances. Personally, I look forward to the Shlokathons each year, I’ve learned a lot from this year, and can’t wait for the next.

Panguni Uthiram, A Divine Day

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By M.K.Sriram

PEARLAND: Panguni Uthiram is an extra-ordinarily special day in the Hindu calendar.  It occurs on the star Uthiram, on normally a full moon day in the Panguni month (the very last month) of the Tamil year.  It is believed to be the day when the divine wedding of Lord Subramanya and Deivanai took place.  This divine wedding event was celebrated with great religious fervor at Sri Meenkakshi Temple on April 1st.   This calendar day is so auspicious that it is believed it was the wedding day for Parvathy and Parameswara as well as for Aandal and Ranganatha and Rama and Seetha.  Lord Ayyappan’s Jayanthi falls on this day too.

We are most fortunate that Sri Meenakshi Temple (MTS) brings to our community a very vivid glimpse of the grand celestial spectacle, which is the wedding of Lord Subramanya.  This wedding festival was conducted with great detail and every step of the process as laid down in the shastras was followed.  Starting with the Seer Varisai procession, the wedding function includes Rakshabandanam, Pravaram, Kanyadhanam, Agni-pradakshinam, Mangalya Puja, the most important Mangalya Dharanam, Homam, Lajaa homam and finally Purnahuthi. 

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The utsava murthis were then taken on a procession on the silver mayil vahanam (peacock vehicle) around the temple by ardent devotees singing bhajans and slokams.   This joyful celebration elevated the devotees to ecstatic heights.  A group of ladies led by Maha sang the Thiruppugazh, so beautifully.  This is a famous Tamil composition by the saint-poet Arunagirinathar.  It is a “musical mantra” in praise of Lord Muruga and is so powerful as to transform one’s life into one of enlightenment and bliss.  

More than 500 devotees were treated to a sumptuous lunch, after the function.  The entire event was organized and executed under the leadership of Mrs Padmini Nathan, the Chairman and the very dedicated Board of Directors, temple artisans, priests and staff, as well as a host of devout volunteers.  Sheila Sriram from RAC and Nach Vaduganathan and Meera Srikanth were the event coordinators.

This day was indeed a day to celebrate the glory of grahasta dharma (or the married life of a householder). Married couples re-dedicate themselves to each other and their families, so that their own lives and homes are filled with peace, joy and bhakti to God. The aforementioned Thiruppughazh is so beautiful and rhythmic that    every devotee is enthralled listening to it. It is really worth presenting a couple of lines from this great work.

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