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The Irvine Shakha of the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS) celebrated Guru Vandana (Teacher Appreciation Day) on Sunday, May 2, 2010. The event was a huge success with over a dozen teachers attending the event and the total attendee list crossing the three digit mark, beating everyone's expectations. 

The event was inaugurated by Swami Bhajanananda Saraswati , of Kali Mandir, lighting a lamp while chanting sacred verses from Hindu scriptures. The lighting of the lamp symbolized removal of the darkness of ignorance by the light of knowledge. This ceremony was followed by a presentation from Gnanashanmugam Elumalai ji, a HSS Karyakarta, on the importance of the Guru. He explained that the word “Guru” is made up of “Gu” – darkness or ignorance – and “Ru” – the remover. Hence, the Guru is someone who removes the ignorance and replaces it with knowledge. (Learn more @ http://www.hindueducation.org)

The bala and kishore gana presented a cultural program where Sanskrit sholkas were recited in the honor of the Guru. The shlokas focused on the significance of the Guru, comparing him/her to the Gods, and pointing out the Guru’s role in achieving the supreme knowledge. The meaning of each shloka was explained to the audience.Next, an insightful speech was delivered by the mukya atithi, Swami Bhajananda Saraswati, on the importance of Guru, and on the ancient Guru-shishya tradition in India . Swamiji shared his personal experiences about his own Guru, and explained the difference between the original meaning Guru –a teacher -- as compared to the way it is used in contemporary English – as an expert. Swamiji’s speech was well received by the audience; his cross-cultural background came in handy in connecting with the non-Hindus among the audience.

Following Swamiji’s speech, teachers were individually honored by the shakha kids. Each teacher was presented with a bouquet, and a folder consisting of a greeting card and academic reading material about Hindu religion, culture, and science. The greeting cards were hand-made by the kids in Irvine shakha, and the bouquets were prepared by shakha karyakartas, thus giving a personal touch to the presented items.

The program was concluded with a thank you note from Irvine shakha Karyawaha, Deepak Sharma ji. Swamiji was presented with a dakshina consisting of a fruit basket and Mandir donation. During snacks, everyone had a chance to mingle, to share their thoughts about the program, and to look at the exhibition posters. Teachers expressed that they learned something new about the importance of a teacher in Hindu traditions, and the true meaning of the word Guru.