14 May : City Council of Modesto, surrounded by some of the richest farmland in USA, reverberated with Sanskrit mantras from ancient Hindu scriptures on May eleven reportedly for the first time since it was incorporated in 1884.
Rajan Zed, acclaimed Hindu statesman, delivered invocation from Sanskrit scriptures before Modesto City Council on this day. After Sanskrit delivery, he then read the English translation of the prayer. Sanskrit is considered a sacred language in Hinduism and root language of Indo-European languages.
Zed, who is the president of Universal Society of Hinduism, recited from Rig-Veda, the oldest scripture of the world still in common use, besides lines from Upanishads and Bhagavad-Gita (Song of the Lord), both ancient Hindu scriptures. He started and ended the prayer with “Om”, the mystical syllable containing the universe, which in Hinduism is used to introduce and conclude religious work.
Rajan Zed sprinkled sacred water from river Ganga of India around the podium before the prayer. Mayor Jim Ridenour thanked Zed while Councilmember David F. Geer told him welcome. Mayor, Council members, employees and public stood quietly in prayer mode with heads bowed down during the prayer. Wearing saffron colored attire, a ruddraksh mala (rosary), and traditional sandalpaste tilak (religious mark) on the forehead, Zed said before the prayer: “This is a day of honor for us when wisdom from ancient Sanskrit scriptures is being read in this great hall of democracy of great city of Modesto.”
Reciting from Brahadaranyakopanishad, Rajan Zed said “Asato ma sad gamaya, Tamaso ma jyotir gamaya, Mrtyor mamrtam gamaya”, which he then translated as “Lead me from the unreal to the Real, Lead me from darkness to Light, and Lead me from death to Immortality.” Reciting from Bhagavad-Gita, he urged Councilors to keep the welfare of others always in mind.
Zed is one of the panelists for “On Faith”, a prestigious interactive conversation on religion produced jointly by Newsweek and washingtonpost.com. He has been awarded “World Interfaith Leader Award” by National Association of Interchurch and Interfaith Families.
Hinduism, oldest and third largest religion of the world, has about one billion adherents and moksh (liberation) is its ultimate goal. Modesto, whose motto is “Water Wealth Contentment Health”, is the hometown of Oscar nominated George Lucas (Star Wars) and nine-time Olympic swimming gold medalist Mark Spitz besides being home of E. & J. Gallo Winery, the world’s largest producer and exporter of California wines.