BAPS Hosts Annual Women’s Conference Highlighting Timeless Hindu Traditions

Lamp lighting ceremony on the stage

Lamp lighting ceremony on the stage

HOUSTON: Committed to the progress and growth of women worldwide, BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha celebrated its sixth annual Women’s Conference in Houston, Texas on Saturday, March 30th, 2013. Over 600 women of all ages were in attendance at the conference which focused on this year’s theme of “Timeless Traditions: Celebrating the Past, Cultivating the Future”.  The conference focused on understanding the importance of Hindu traditions, communicating them with ease, and nurturing future generations by preserving a priceless culture and traditions.

Various speakers shared insights from their personal experiences and related to the audience on the various subjects.  The conference first started by welcoming all guests and hearing from the Chief Guest, Alpana Thakkar, a lawyer in the Houston community who also served on a legal team that consulted on procuring the land for Delhi Akshardham. Thakkar highlighted the importance of the role that parents play in ensuring our Hindu culture and values live on. Also, speaking at the start of the conference was special guest, Nandita Parvathaneni, wife of Honorable Consul General of India in Houston, Harish Parvathaneni. Addressing the old Hindu tradition of “Atithi devo bhava” or treating guests as God. She urged everyone to instill such values in our future generations.

Krupa Amin, a student, connected with the audience through conveying her personal pride of her Hindu heritage.  She spoke of the cherished values of her upbringing with emphasis on truth (satya), non-violence (ahimsa), and compassion, and how those values have guided her in all situations of daily life.  She stressed the role of her Hindu background in forming her healthy and proud Hindu-American identity and provided examples of many successful Hindu-American women who have done the same.  In highlighting her sense of pride, she also reminded the audience of the many contributions to the world by Hinduism (and India) in the areas of science, math, astrology, architecture, and medicine.  Her talk linked the audience to a priceless heritage and served as a reminder of the traditions and values of their upbringing.

As Hinduism is not just a religion, but also a way of life, Ramola Panchal, spoke about living that way of life with pride and conveying it with comfort and confidence.  She stressed the importance of having knowledge and understanding behind one’s religion, traditions, and values. In doing so, one can become a true ambassador of Hinduism and the Hindu way of life, better enabled to answer questions and clarify misconceptions.

Hiral Patel, a research professional, made the case for preserving these values, traditions, and culture and presented realistic, actionable methods to practice and preserve them for future generations.  Through personal stories and realistic examples, she illustrated how to incorporate traditions in one’s daily routines to maintain culture with language, music, and other practices.  She shared special ways one can celebrate Hindu holidays and festivals, which not only provide families with joy but more importantly, knowledge of the history and purpose behind them.  The most instrumental tool shared in all the testimonials was “family time”.  This one tool was stressed in order to maintain the Hindu family centric values based on shared sacrifices, and to pass on traditions and culture with solid historical foundations.

Women of all generations attended the conference, each group finding inspiration in the talks for the current phase of their lives and finding priorities to help shape their future. Daksha Nagar, a mother of young children agreed that the theme of this year’s conference was helpful for all generations. She added, “As someone that grew up outside of India, I am grateful for the steps my parents took to ensure I retained Hindu values and it is refreshing to have an opportunity to share ideas and thoughts about the same with other parents in similar situations. It helps me think of ways I can ensure my kids get a similar exposure to our culture that I had.”

After the conference, Alpana Thakkar, chief guest, shared her thoughts. Speaking on the significance of such conferences, she said, “As a woman, or the mother, is the backbone of the family, and in turn the local community. Any mother or woman who attends such conferences will surely find inspiration to do more.”  Not only did the attendees experience a rejuvenation of pride in their heritage, they felt more informed to better represent their faith and values.

The conference concluded with a traditional Hindu prayer for peace.  Attendees enjoyed the opportunity to network and socialize with one another during a post-conference reception. Participants noted the importance of holding an event focused on women and returning attendees were particularly pleased to see the continuation of discussions related to a popular theme such as ‘Timeless Traditions’.

BAPS, drawing inspiration from His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj, holds this annual conference as a stage to allow discussion of various topics important to women in society and to serve as a conduit for empowering women of all ages. This year, 10 such conferences were hosted by BAPS across North America.  Many women felt enriched by the discussion and identified the importance of implementing the message in their lives, particularly with their future generations.