NextGen Hindu Youth Leadership Convention Empowers Sanatani Youth for a Bright Future

Today’s youth, tomorrow’s leaders. Photos by Bijay Dixit.

By Varsha Vasu

PEARLAND, Texas: In a historic event that gathered approximately 400 attendees o ages 17 & above, the inaugural NextGen Hindu Youth Leadership Convention took place at Sri Meenakshi Temple (MTS). Enthusiastic participants, particularly youth, drove and flew in from cities across Texas and the US to take part. The convention, co-sponsored by Hindus of Greater Houston, Hindu Temple of the Woodlands, and Hindu University of America, aimed to forge a community of Sanatani youth, fostering connections through spirituality, advocacy, and entrepreneurship.

NextGen Youth Leadership Convention organizers.

The day began with the vibrant and welcoming drumming sounds of the Chenda , followed by prayers  recited by MTS Vedic Heritage School students and soul-stirring renditions of the American and Indian anthems.  The morning emcees welcomed the attendees and invited MTS Chairman, Vinod Reddy Kaila to say a few opening words. Then was introduced the visionary behind NextGen, Dr. Dhamo S. Dhamotharan whose leadership in driving NextGen forward provided the youth with a powerful voice.

The conference featured an inspiring lineup of speakers who drew connections between Hinduism and their respective professions, encouraging the attendees to embrace ancient wisdom and contemporary innovation.

Honorable D. C. Manjunath, Consul General of India in Houston, highlighted the tremendous accomplishments and trajectory in which India is economically progressing, largely with vision powered by young adults in the country. Suhag Shukla, Executive Director, and co-founder of Hindu American Foundation delivered a compelling talk titled “It’s in Your Back Pocket: A Timeless Roadmap to a Happy Life,” guiding youth on finding fulfillment within themselves. Joseph Emmett, the Director of Vedanta Institute Houston, enlightened attendees about the practical application of Vedanta philosophy in daily living.

After a coffee break followed a Spirituality Panel, moderated by Dr. Madhuri Vasudevan, a prominent NextGen leader in Satsang. Panelists included Siddhant Patil, Mika Rao Kalapatapu, Dr. Lavannya Pandit, and Nikhil Balasubramanyam, all of whom attributed their Hindu faith and values to their successful journeys thus far. Then followed Professor Shobita Parthasarathy from the University of Michigan delivered an impassioned talk titled “Leading Towards Social Justice,” inspiring youth to take up the mantle of social change as their dharma.

The afternoon session began with Pooja Jesrani, an esteemed NASA Flight Director who shared insightful remarks on Hindu and South Asian representation through her talk moderated by the lively Dr. Aiyasawmy Dorairajan. Next, Eddie Stern, renowned for his multi-disciplinary approach to yoga, engaged the audience with his particularly captivating talk, “Yoga and Life’s Big Question.” Following Mr. Stern, Vasudha Narayanan, a Distinguished Professor, shed light on the cultural and spiritual importance of the sacred spaces of temples.

The session continued with Honorable Federal Judge Arun Subramanian, who drew attention to the power of a united generation in transforming society, citing several inspiring examples. An entrepreneurship panel discussion followed, moderated by Sanjay Ramabhadran, and featured Indira Vishnampet, Mythili Varanasi, Abhishek Balakrishnan, and Rishi Bhutada, who inspired the attendees to pursue their dreams fearlessly.

The convention proceeded with Partha Sarathi Chatterjee, a digital transformation and technology strategy executive, delivering a thought-provoking presentation on “AI and its impact on our lives.” This was followed by Arun Venkataraman, the Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Global Markets and Director General of the U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service, who emphasized the role of Hindu principles in guiding his dedication to public service. Then followed Jodi Bernstein, Vice President of Interfaith Relations, and Community Partnerships at IMGH, who inspired youth to channel their energy towards driving positive change. Lastly, Kalyan Viswanathan, President of Hindu University of America, shared the university’s empowering vision for the next generation of Hindu leaders.

The evening dinner sponsored by the Hindu University of America, culminated in an enthralling musical experience by “Ragaverse”, an Indo-Jazz band. They received roaring applause from the audience. This also offered a venue for networking and socializing.

The NextGen Hindu Youth Leadership Conference marked a momentous occasion and was made possible with the dozens of volunteers and leaders working diligently behind the scenes. Panelist and attendee Rohit Raina summarizes the experience: “I loved the ambience of the event [and the] many interesting topics…I look forward to attending the event next year!” With the flame of inspiration ignited, young Sanatani leaders are poised to shape a prosperous future. As the first of its kind conference, the NextGen Hindu Youth Leadership Conference has set the stage for an exciting journey ahead, fueling the aspirations of the next generation of Hindu leaders in Houston and beyond.

Varsha Vasu is an enthusiastic NextGen leader and young performing artist: dancer, singer, and violinist. She combines her passion for the arts with a passion for serving her community through her 501(c)(3) nonprofit, VAH (@Virtual Arts for Humanity on IG/FB).