Faith in Action: The Tireless Contributions to Hinduism’s Flourishing Diaspora

L to R: Achalesh Amar, . Dr. Narasimham Dasika, Surya Sahoo, Vijay Pallod, Beth Kulkarni, Kusum Vyas, Umang Mehta, Arun Mundra, Mahendra Kumar, Manisha Gandhi, Thara Narasimhan. (Not in picture – Suresh Patel & Arun Verma). Photo: Bijay Dixit.

By Thara Narasimhan & Rajesh Kumar

HOUSTON: On the momentous day of January 21st, 2024, the Hindus of Greater Houston gathered in celebration for the inauguration of the Ram Mandir in Ayodhya, India. This historic event was marked by a profound gesture of recognition towards those steadfast individuals whose unwavering commitment to Shri Ram and the principles of Hindu Dharma has significantly enriched the community. These individuals, revered as “Ram Bhakth,” were honored for their devotion and service, embodying the very essence of gratitude and respect on this auspicious occasion.

In a proud acknowledgment of enduring dedication, Beth Kulkarni, a founding pillar of the Hindus of Greater Houston and the Hindu Temple of Woodlands, was celebrated. Even in her octogenarian years, she remains a beacon of guidance and support, her wisdom an invaluable asset, particularly in her media liaison efforts for the organization. Her initiative in organizing a pivotal gathering at the Mahatma Gandhi Center on December 6th, 1992, played a crucial role in the historical claim to rebuild the sacred Ram Temple in Ayodhya. Her successful endeavor to feature this significant event in the Houston Chronicle highlighted the communal spirit and dedication to the cause.

Kusum Vyas, a visionary force, magnified the presence of the Ayodhya Ram Mandir cause with striking billboard displays along Highway 59. These captivating visuals, heralding the connected car rally, not only drew the gaze of Houstonians but also of travelers passing through, effectively broadcasting the message to a wide and diverse audience.

Manisha Gandhi, celebrated for her dynamic leadership, has been instrumental in bridging resources and connections for impactful outreach programs. Her role as a correspondent for TV Asia USA since 2011 and her viral coverage of the “Ayodhya Ram Temple Car Rally” on January 7th, 2024, underscored her exceptional dedication to promoting Hinduism and its values.

Surya Sahoo’s devotion as a Ram Bhakth is evident in his establishment of the SKAI Foundation and CHAR DHAM Hindu Temple, bringing the spiritual legacy of India’s ancient pilgrimage sites to the Houston community. His dedication to creating a local haven for worship and reflection, including a shrine to the revered “Rameswaram” Island Temple, has offered countless devotees a piece of spiritual India in their backyard.

Achalesh Amar, Umang Mehta, Arun Mundra, and Mahendra Kumar, fervent devotees of Shri Ram, were the key architects behind the resoundingly successful car rally prior to the Ayodhya Ram Mandir Prana Prathista. Their unparalleled leadership and deep-seated devotion played a critical role in masterfully organizing this magnificent prelude, while also deeply immersing the community in meaningful traditional practices. This not only cultivated a profound sense of unity but also enhanced the spiritual well-being of all participants. Their efforts are recognized as the foundational pillars of the event’s success, marking their indelible impact as central figures in this historic celebration. Special accolades are due to Mahendra Kumar, whose role as the charioteer for Ram Lalla was exemplary. Steering the colossal truck across Houston, Sugarland, and Pearland, he connected the diverse Hindu temples and communities, embodying the spirit of pilgrimage and devotion that defines this sacred journey.

The narrative also honored Shri Arun Verma of the Shri Sitaram Foundation, a stalwart in celebrating Dussera/Diwali and enriching Houston’s cultural landscape for over a decade. Despite his absence on January 21st, his and his wife Vinnie Verma’s dedication to the ideals of Shri Ram were warmly acknowledged as exemplary.

In a poignant letter addressed to Vijay Pallod, penned by Ashok Singhal, General Secretary VHP, India upon his return from a tour, he reflects on the disheartening events that unfolded during the Indian Prime Minister’s visit to Houston in 1994. Singhal expresses dismay at the treatment meted out to Bharateeyas, specifically highlighting the commendable efforts of Suresh Patel and Vijay Pallod. Despite their zealous and enthusiastic attempts to ensure the success of the Prime Minister’s program, they were regrettably denied entry. Singhal condemns this exclusion as a manifestation of mental hollowness and an unfortunate result of pseudo-secularism, which also prevented the Hindus of Greater Houston from presenting a memorandum to the visiting dignitary. This, he argues, contravenes the very essence of democratic principles and rational norms. Yet, Singhal remains optimistic about the future, believing in a societal shift that will eventually isolate those who currently marginalize and disregard their contributions.

This heartfelt message underscores the challenges faced by Suresh Patel and Vijay Pallod, yet also highlights their undiminished spirit and dedication as true “Ram Bhakthas.” Their steadfast devotion and service, highlighted against the backdrop of such trials, shine even brighter, showcasing their remarkable faith and dedication. Celebrated for their contributions, they stand as luminaries within the community, their efforts a testament to their deep spiritual fervor and commitment to unity and righteousness on this significant occasion.

The global resonance of Shri Ram Lalla and the Ram Janmabhumi Prana Prathistha celebrations, amplified by the aerial banner proclaiming “Universe chants Jai Shree Ram,” beautifully encapsulated the timeless wisdom of Hindu Dharma. This event, bridging ancient traditions with the modern era, has not only celebrated a pivotal moment in Hindu spirituality but has also set a benchmark for how devotion and unity can create a lasting impact, echoing the universal message of peace, devotion, and unity across the globe.