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Atlanta community celebrates 150th birth anniversary of Swami Vivekananda

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By a Correspondent

Atlanta, GA: About a dozen functions were held in and around Atlanta on January 12 commemorating the 150th birth anniversary of Swami Vivekananda.

Celebrations were held in Vedanta Center of Atlanta in Tucker, Hindu Temple of Atlanta in Riverdale, Shakti Mandir in Lake City, Global Mall in Norcross, Art of Living Center in Duluth, Ivy League Academy in Cumming, IACA Temple in Smyrna and in Alpharetta near Wills Park. The celebrations included bhajans and songs by the singers of Bengali Association, cultural performances, lectures, panel discussions on Swamiji’s messages of strength, fearlessness, spirit of service and spirituality, yoga demonstrations, photo exhibition of Swamiji’s life, and other activities.

The speakers included Pravrajika Brahmaprana, resident minister of Ramakrishna Vedanta Society of North Texas based in Dallas, Pranab Lahiri of Vedanta Center of Atlanta; Ravi Ponangi, bureau chief of India Tribune; Mona Joshi from Art of Living Center, Atlanta-based social activists Malla Reddy, Manhar Valand, Dhiru Shah, and Aparna Bhattacharya and Ian Boccio of Bhakti Messenger group of Atlanta.

Vedanta Center of Atlanta and Atlanta Chapter of Hindu Swayam Sevak Sangh kicked off its yearlong celebrations of Swami Vivekananda’s 150th birth anniversary. As the first speaker of celebrations at Vedanta Center, Pravrajika Brahmaprana delivered two lectures — “In the Footsteps of Vivekananda” and “Swami Vivekananda had a specific message for the West.”

Hindu Swayam Sevak Sangh will conduct other events in 2013 as part of its observance of anniversary. These will include the Dharma Bee, a nationwide quiz contest for children; programs for high school and college students, such as a traveling exhibit on Swami Vivekananda’s life visiting major university campuses and “Vacation with Vivekananda” excursions to locations where Swami Vivekananda visited during his travels in the United States; and a culminating “Dharma and Yoga Fest,” scheduled simultaneously on a regional basis to commemorate Swami Vivekananda’s groundbreaking address at the World’s Parliament of Religions in Chicago on September 11, 1893.

Ian Boccio of Bhakti Messenger group of Atlanta  spoke very inspiring words on Swamiji and his influence in American, and the Eastern and the Western lives, and how they were connected.

In his opening remarks at the event in  Ivy League Academy, Cumming, Ravi Ponangi said that 150th birth anniversary celebration of Swami Vivekananda should be an occasion for all to know about the life, teachings and the work of Swami Vivekananda. Swamiji inspired people across the world for working towards the good of humanity. Swamiji toured the entire country as a wandering monk and interacted with all sections of Indians to know their problems and to understand the strength of India.

Ravi Ponangi encouraged audience for a group reading of the life story of Swami Vivekananda. About 20 people — both students and parents — enthusiastically read the life story of Swami Vivekananda and it was received well by all.  Audience felt that it was inspiring to read the story of Swamiji in a group. They said it was unique. Everyone, mostly students liked the reading and learning so much information. Swamiji’s two quotations —  “Take up one idea your life  —  think of it, dream of it, and live on that idea,” and another to the youth  “Awake, arise and stop not till the goal is reached.”

At Hindu Temple of Atlanta, the highlight for the day was the appearance of young child Karanam Arjun as Swami Vivekananda in bright orange robes and his speech. Women’s wing of HSS celebrated the anniversary along with Haldi-Kumkum on Makar Sankranti in a traditional way.  Sneha Mehta and Anita Houde gave very inspirational speeches on Dharma and Sankranti.

At Global Mall,  the speakers explored and analyzed Swamiji’s short lifespan of 39 years covering right from his birth, devotion to his guru, Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, relentless pursuit to awaken the spirit of the people of India, his travels to the West and the universal Vedanta  message to the world.  .

Sandhya Swaminathan from Chinmaya Mission-Atlanta delivered Swamiji’s famous speech at the 1893 World’s Parliament of Religions in Chicago.

Amitava Sen and his team of wonderful singers rendered melodious Bengali songs conveying the spirit and message of Swami Vivekananda.

Rhea Singi from VHPA Cobb Bal Vihar, dressed in bright orange robe as Swamiji, did 120 years ago, started off with a very informative PowerPoint presentation. Children from Gwinnett Bal Vihar — Pulkit Gupta and Muknd Loiwala  —gave his speeches in Hindi,  and Neil Pathak and Sadhana Dhurba from Chinmaya Mission Gwinnett Balvihar concluded the program with Swamiji’s message on “Acceptance vs. Tolerance.” These children stole the hearts and minds of the audience with their oratory skills, poise and simple but powerful language.

Dr. Bhagirath Majumadar and Dr. Uma Majumadar, both longtime associates of Vedanta Society, paid glowing tributes to Swamiji for his spiritual mission of bring awareness about Hinduism in the West.