Celebrating Diwali, Thanksgiving the Vedic Way

HOUSTON: Diwali, one of the most celebrated festivals among the Indian Diaspora worldwide was an occasion to connect Arya Samaj Greater Houston (ASGH) well-wishers, students, and parents of the two schools DAV Montessori & Elementary School (DAVMES) and DAV Sanskriti School (DAVSS).

The program started with the Yajna-Havan, Acharya Ji’s Divali message and wishes, followed by an hour full of bright and colorful programs by DAVMES and DAVSS students. The youth Emcees seamlessly led the audience through a much-applauded cultural program: a mosaic of dances by grade 1 students around the theme of light and enlightenment through the dissemination of knowledge, poems, and speech by winners of the Diwali competitions as well as kids dressed up as different personalities of the Ramayana. Thereafter all had good bonding time in the spirit of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam …all as one family, around the various food stalls and fireworks.

Celebrating Thanksgiving, the Vedic Way

The 4-day Yajna was the second year of regrouping members, well-wishers, students, and their parents around prayer sessions under the guidance of our two eminent Acharyas. It was indeed a blend of the Eastern and Western way to express gratitude.

The annual Yajna-Havan at Arya Samaj Greater Houston during the Thanksgiving weekend was time to enjoin the Indian Diaspora in North America in celebrations like the celebrations of Vasant Panchamee, Holi, Divali in India – a combo of spiritual moments, prayers, rejoicing, and sharing of meals and sweets. It was highly charged spiritual moments to express our gratitude to (i) Eeshvar (God) for the bounty of nature and the blessings in our life, (ii) our parents for the nurturing, upbringing and sanskaars, (iii) the gurus, teachers, and mentors for the gift of knowledge, and (iv) all who had a positive bearing in our lives. Participants from all walks of life had the opportunity to offer their ahutis (oblations) during the Yajna-Havan, and after that shared some prime friendship time around Prasad (lunch) served by ladies “with a smile and a sense of gratitude” exhibiting gratitude through “Sewa”.

Hats off to the ASGH team of volunteers for arranging the set up and welcome as well as the kitchen team at the backend and to Acharya Suryananda ji and Bramdeo ji who gave a glimpse of the profound knowledge of the Ved mantras and their applications in real life situations after every 10 mantras recited during the 4-Day Chatur-Ved Shatak Yajna.

A hundred-plus mantras were read from Rigveda on Thursday, Yajurveda on Friday, Samveda on Saturday, and Atharvaveda during the Poornahuti, concluding session on Sunday. We also had the opportunity to daily listen to children from DAV Elementary & Montessori School and DAV Sanskriti School speaking about the Vedas.

The bahukundiya (multi-Kund) Yajna was performed in nine eco-friendly Havan Kunds (fire pits) constructed from bricks and red clay on site, on the floor of the tent, which was erected specifically for program. Lady volunteers stepped in to decorate the Havan Kund.  The rising Agni, fire from the Havan Kunds with the continuous oblations of ghee and samagri (mixture of medicinal, fragrant, nutritious & sweet herbs) was a silent way of engaging the audience with the sense of gratitude not only for a day …rather rise in life by being grateful on a 24 x 7 basis, all year round.

The calm and smiling faces of the Yajmaans, elderly, young and well as young children after a two hours fully engaged in the Yajna-Havan lit the environment with “gratitude.” Sunday evening, the eco-friendly Havan Kunds were dismantled and safely kept for reassembly and use during the next 2024 “Chatur Veda Shatak Yajna”, the would-be third annual celebrations of Thanksgiving, the Vedic way.