Hari Om Mandir Celebrates Baisakhi with Bhajans and Folk Dances

Chicago IL: Hari Om Mandir in Medinah, Ill., celebrated Baisakhi from noon on Sunday, April 14, 2013, with bhajans. Also known as Vaisakhi, Vaishakhi, or Vasakhi, the festival is celebrated across the Indian subcontinent. For Hindus, it is the start of the solar New Year, and is observed with requisite bathing, partying, and worshipping. Hindus plant poles (wrapped in flags of gold-embroidered silk) in front of their homes, and hang pots of brass, copper or silver on top.

For an auspicious start to the New Year, some devotees had arrived early to have their prized possessions specially blessed with prayers performed by the temple priests. One family could be seen outside in the car park performing puja together on the bonnet of their sparkling new Lexus. Another priest was returning brand new clothes after blessings to women devotees.

Tulsidas, Meera, and other classical and film bhajans were being sung continuously already from forenoon. Monica Sharma and Meghna Sharma, who had danced Bhangra just two days earlier at Asian American Awards Gala at Northeastern Illinois University, sang Bhajans at the beginning. Temple President Brij Sharma praised the two devoted sisters for being so exemplary in their contributions to Indian dance and to the community in general.

Sharma reminded the devotees of the wider significance of Baisakhi as the day when the Sikh Khalsa was launched in 1699 and the Arya Samaj in 1875 by Swami Dayanada. This was a double celebration for the Hari Om Mandir because the temple was likewise established on this auspicious day. Hindus celebrate Baisakh in sacred cities along the Ganges River after purifying themselves. Ram Navami celebrations for the following weekend were also announced with unbroken recitation of Ramayana from 10 am on Saturday and Sunday.

Among the committee goals announced for this year was ensuring greater youth involvement, and developing the senior citizens program. The temple newsletter is now emailed to 700-800 people. Outgoing President of the youth group Devanshu Bharel was felicitated for winning the third place in Skill USA Illinois in computer science for whole of Illinois State. The junior at Naperville Central High School had programmed a tracking database in Java. Tushar Sharma, who was then announced as the incoming President, introduced his new youth committee, which consists of Rhidhima Sharma, Devanshu Bharel, and Aman Bhardwaj. Going forth, the youth will take the initiative in organizing and conducting various activities, including the quarterly programs, while the adult committee members deliberately take a backseat.

Founder member Jagdish Sood was then called up to speak at the podium by the temple BOT Chairman, Mr Ayodhia Salwan. Mr. Sood was President in 1987 when the Lutheran church was bought, transformed into the temple, and a single mūrti of Lord Krishna installed. He recounted those humble beginnings when the space was very limited. Sood praised the Sawan family for their hard work and dedication over the last 20 years. Previously open only on Sundays, the temple is now open every day. He also stressed the need to collaborate with other Hindu temples in the Chicagoland area, for example, to invite visiting Swamis to speak also at Hari Om Mandir. Sood also revealed that the text of the Vedas that priest Yogesh Pandey recites mornings and evenings was brought by Sood’s father-in-law in 1987 from India. Pandey then clarified that this extremely old Geetha Press edition still preserved in the temple is a bound version of all the four Vedas, which is rather unique. Yogesh invited devotees to come and listen to his recitations.

The Singhla family was honored together for cooking for the entire congregation once every month. Brij Sharma also encouraged everyone to fall in line with the temple’s recycling program.

Before the gathering was adjourned for afternoon with the collective worship (āratī), Mona Sharma and group performed Gidha followed by Bhangra by Dipak Sharma and group. Devotees socialized over lunch in the basement dining hall before leaving the temple.