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Elizabeth Murray | Burlington Free Press | Burlington | Sunday, July 5, 2015:: Outside Burlington’s St. Joseph’s School on Allen Street, the neighborhood was calm as Independence Day celebrations had ceased on Sunday.
Inside the school, however, a bright and happy Hindu ceremony continued as it had for two days prior, celebrating sacred Hindu texts with prayer, song, dance and food.
At around noon, more than 50 members of the Vermont Hindu community and other community members had gathered in the main room, some sitting on colorful rugs on the floor, to listen to a Hindu priest speak from a microphone in the front of the room.
Then, the music started.
A woman’s voice set to the beat of a drum echoed throughout the hall, as several other women sitting on the rugs rose from the group to dance. The song continued, and several others joined the dance, their arms raised to the ceiling and the skirts of their traditional clothing swaying as the women twirled.
Event chairwoman Rita Neopany said the celebration, which usually lasts seven days, is meant to relieve stress and help Hindus reflect on their lives and “be present in the moment.” Neopany, a native of Bhutan, said the event was shortened to three days in Burlington since a venue for a seven-day ceremony was hard to come by.
Stories about the Hindu Gods from the Puranas, the Hindu texts celebrated during Puran, were read throughout the Burlington event, allowing locals who practice Hinduism a chance to reflect on how the stories relate to their lives, Neopany said. This is the second year the group, Vermont Hindu Temple, has held the event in Burlington.
“It’s wonderful,” Neopany said of celebrating the event. “It’s so wonderful. We have lot of people who practice Hinduism come to this celebration. They dance and they sing and they love. We have a good number of people involved in this program.”
Neopany said the group organized the celebration this year during Independence Day weekend as a nod to the American holiday and also since this month is thought to be an especially “lucky month” in the Hindu calendar.
“We want to celebrate Independence Day and peace,” Neopany said. “This type of month in the Hindu calendar comes every four years.”
On Friday, the first day of the celebration, about 250 were estimated to have come to the celebration at some point during the day, Neopany said. On Saturday, that figure jumped to 800. The group was expecting a similar number of people on Sunday. Countries represented included Bhutan, India, Nepal and America, she said.
Different families and groups donated food each day, making it possible to serve vegetarian Bhutanese Nepali snacks throughout the day. The Association for Africans Living in Vermont supported the costs for the first day, and two Vermont Hindu Temple families, the Bistas and the Adhikaris, covered food expenses for the second and third days respectively.
The celebration is held as a way to introduce Hinduism to the Burlington community as well as outer Vermont, Neopany said. Hindu people who have immigrated to Vermont also want to preserve their values and teach them to the younger generation, she said.
“I don’t want our children to forget our culture and how important it is to us,” Neopany said.
Neopany said Vermont Hindu Temple was just incorporated by the state as a Vermont domestic non-profit corporation, and it is trying to find a permanent place to build a temple.
“We’re the first Hindu temple in Vermont, that’s my guess,” she said.
Event vice chairman Chandra Pokhrel said establishing a way to practice Hinduism is especially important for older people of the faith who have trouble traveling.
The Vermont Hindu Temple is asking community members for any type of support, whether it is spreading the word about the organization or telling members about a place they can establish. Neopany said interested members of the public can find out more about the group on its Facebook page, “Vermont Hindu Temple.”
“People who want to learn about Hindu philosophy are most welcome,” Neopany said.
Courtesy: Burlington Free Press.