Week-Long Exhibition on Hindu Culture and Dharmic Traditions at Texas State Capitol People-centric display about Hinduism receives praise from Texas State Representative Elliott Naishtat.
On Sunday afternoon, July 16, 2006, an intriguing and informative exhibition about the cultural traditions and technological legacies of ancient India began a week-long display at the State Capitol building in Austin. Texas. This was an historic event as it was the first time that an exhibit on traditions of India and Hinduism has been held at Texas capitol building . The fascinating assemblage of colorful posters features richly diverse information about ancient India’s contributions to world civilization, including discoveries in physics, geometry, astronomy, and chemistry. Of particular interest were the pictorial presentations on metallurgy and maritime history. One poster told about an iron pillar that had remained rust-free for more than 1400 years indicating ancient India’s prowess in metallurgy. Another poster told of Indian maritime history, which pictured an ancient compass described in ancient Hindu texts and also mentioned in historical Greek accounts of India.
The display showed how over a thousand years ago Hindu scholars made significant progress in astronomical calculations, including determining the circumference of the earth and the distance to the moon. Ancient Hindus devised the decimal system and the concept of zero. As Albert Einstein said, "We owe a lot to the Indians, who taught us how to count, without which no worthwhile scientific discovery could have been made."
The display was organized by the Texas Chapter of Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS). Mr.Arun Kankani, National Secretary of HSS made a presentation about the Exhibition. He also presented a book on "Science and Technology of Ancient India" to the Guest of Honor, Texas State Representative Elliot Naishtat.
The local HSS exhibition coordinator Mr. Venkata Subramanian introduced all guests and proposed a vote of thanks. Rep. Naishtat spoke at the inaugural function. He thanked the sponsors of the event for their contribution to pluralism in the Austin community. He was particularly impressed by the emphasis on Seva, or service, in Hinduism. He welcomed the spirit of service emphasized in the presentation, briefly giving his own history of service in the domestic “peace corps” established by former president Lyndon Johnson. Mr. Naishtat told a story that pleased and amused the crowd. Several years ago he had an opportunity to go hiking in the Himalayas in southern Nepal.
The guides and the Sherpas were full of smiles, putting their hands together with the traditional greeting “Namaste”, which means the divine within me bows to the divine within you. Since he was from Texas, Mr. Naishtat explained that he would always respond “Namaste, ya’ll’. After a few days all of the Nepali guides also began saying, “Namaste ya’ll.” Since the most of the Hindus in the audience had been Texas residents for a decade or two, this friendly expression was a big hit, with quite a few “Namaste ya’ll” greetings shared by one and all.
The display was cosponsored by the Austin Hindu Temple and Community whose priest, Srinivas Lanka , chanted the invocation. Mr. Uma Gupta, a long time resident of Austin, made a presentation about the Hindu temple that will soon be built east of Austin. He showed slides of the planned temple and community center that recently began construction. One of the colorful posters in the exhibition described Hindu temples that are seen as “earthly seats of God.” It explained that pilgrimage to temples is part of Hindu tradition and that in the USA there are now more than 400 Hindu temples.
Neha Verma, the Louisiana-born president of the Hindu Student Council at The University of Texas at Austin attended the opening function. She was “very impressed with the exhibition” and said that she would “like to bring the display to UT Austin in the fall”. One poster depicted the Hindu diaspora, showing demographics for Hindus dispersed across all the continents. There were also informative descriptions of Hindu traditions that have become popular in the USA such as Yoga, Ayurvedic medicine, and the architectural science of Vastu. Another attendee, Joan Marie Rivera, said that the display was “very interesting and well presented”.
The opening event at the Capitol building was well attended. Traditional Indian snacks were served amid intercultural camaraderie. One poster in particular, “Nature and Service” showed the connection between the humanitarian philosophy of Hinduism and the progressive people-centric social perspectives promoted by Rep. Elliott Naishtat. The poster stated, “Hindu dharma preaches happiness to all beings. Hindus practice coexistence with ecology. Based on such ideals, Hindus are nature lovers and consider service to humanity is a service to God.” The informative and artistic posters will be on display through Sunday, July 23rd.