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I was delighted to witness the Daya Kanya Gurukulam inauguration in Godhra, Gujarat, on 1st April 2024. The evening ceremony began with an opening prayer and dance by children. Then the Gurus of the lineage, along with Shri Swami Sakshatkrtananda, Shri Swamini Svatmavidyanada Saraswati, Shri Swamini Sadvidyananda Saraswati, Swami Kevalananda Saraswati, Swamini Paramananda, Shri Pratibhananda, Swamini Spashtatmananda, Swamini Tadakarananda, and the host of Swaminis and Swamis who had gathered were honored. 


Young girls of different ages performed dances, songs, and mantra chanting. It was a joy to observe chanting and singing from girls as young as four. Swamini Paramananda ensured the little boys were included, even though the occasion was for girls. They sat on the stage rim in deity costumes (Krishna, Shiva, etc.) and watched the young girls perform. 


Swamini Svatmavidyanada Saraswati spoke about the importance of training the girl child in the Vedic vision and how the Gurukulam training will bring about societal changes. A popular slogan in India is “beti bachao, beti padao,” she said, loosely translated as "save the daughter by educating the daughter." India has seen remarkable strides in girls' education and overall progress in many fields, such as academics and sports. However, there is a marked lag in spiritual education of girl children. Although the number of Bal Vihar and Sunday schools is burgeoning in contemporary India, age-old taboos against girls and women chanting the Vedas and being denied rites of passage, such as the thread ceremony and initiation into Gayatri mantra still persist. 


Santana Hindu Dharma, she said, and its rich culture offer myriad ways of connecting with the divine and overcoming a sense of alienation that one inevitably feels as one grows up. Spiritual customs and practices such as wearing a bindi, wearing flowers in the hair, and bangles are a way of anointing and celebrating the presence of Ishvara as the indweller of ones body-mind-sense complex. These practices have been eroded by the secularization of education and the gradual loss of connection to extended family and kinship networks. Arsha Shakti Foundation, in a small way, attempts to revive such practices, which will contribute to strong and confident girls and women in India. 


Without a strong spiritual education, the sense of being cut off from oneself and others leads to a nagging sense of self-doubt and loss of self-confidence. The Hindu Dharma is geared towards liberation from samsara, a sense of bondage. Vedanta accomplishes this goal through the discovery of a relative sense of wellness, connection, and oneness with all creatures. The place of mantras, pujas, and meditation in this endeavor cannot be overstated. The more we invest in young girls' spiritual education, the greater the well-being of the entire society.  


This was followed by a talk by Shri Swami Sakshatkrtananda, who spoke about Arsha Shakti Foundation and the importance of training balikas (girls). He elaborated on Swamini Svatmavidynanada Saraswati’s talk of alienation. He shared how, in ancient times, Gurukulams were far away from the city and how, in modern times, Gurukulams have come close to the city to make it easy for children to receive the bounty of knowledge and wisdom from the culture. He congratulated Arsha Shakti Foundation and blessed the endeavor. 

At the end of the function, we had a beautiful arati and the best Sindhi food I have ever had! And just when I thought everything had ended, we were invited to meet people eagerly waiting to hear from Shri Swami Sakshatkrtananda and Shri Swamini Svatmavidyanada Saraswati. The shraddha of the community was incredibly beautiful to see. People gathered late into the night, followed by visits to houses. Swaminis, Swamis, and guests were honored appropriately with flowers, shawls, and gifts everywhere we went. The shraddha and hospitality of the people in our country truly amazed me!


Dr. Pravina Rodrigues

Director, Vidya Institute

Mumbai 

10th April 2024




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On 30th April 2024, six students from marginalized communities in Mumbai graduated from the Beauty Care Vocational Training Course! The course was funded by Arsha Shakti Foundation and was in collaboration with Vidya Institute, Mumbai, which is in the process of being established as a NGO. 


We had the honor of having Shri Tejasvee Abhishek Ghosalkar (Shiv Sena Nagar Sevika Ward no. 1), Shri Swamini Svatmavidyanada Saraswati, Shri Swamini Sadvidyananda Saraswati, Dr. Pravina Rodrigues, Mary Rodrigues, Shalina Rodrigues, and Mini Malik for the occasion. Shri Swamini Svatmavidyanada Saraswati traveled all the way from the United States to grace us with her presence, and Shri Swamini Sadvidyananda Saraswati attended all the way from Bardoli, Gujarat, to bless the new grads. 


As we prepared for the graduation ceremony, I realized how time flies. It was going to be four months, and the six girls who were interviewed and selected to be part of the Beauty Care Vocational Training Course were now ready to graduate. We began our graduation ceremony with the students chanting the Gayatri Mantra. I then introduced Arsha Shakti Foundation, and we maintained a moment of silence in memory of our dear and beloved leader, Abhishek Ghosalkar, who had initially inaugurated the project. Our dignitaries were then felicitated with flowers, and the students briefly shared their learning experiences. They were grateful for the scholarship, and many stressed that since the cost of such training was prohibitive, none of them would have been able to afford it. One of the girls mentioned that the teaching was very thorough and easily outdid similar courses in the market. In all, the girls were satisfied with the breadth and depth of the learning. One of them has secured employment in a Beauty Parlor, while the others will be freelancing as there is a burgeoning demand for in-home beauty treatments and bridal makeup. 


While we were supposed to be honoring Shri Tejasvee, she showed herself to be a lovely, humble, and mindful leader by honoring each one of us with flowers and shawls and gifting each graduate with a water bottle! Each of our dignitaries then shared words of encouragement with our graduates. The students were then given certificates, vanity kits, and mithai. During our meeting, we also had the opportunity to discuss future collaborations with Shri Tejasvee and Arsha Shakti Foundation. 


The best part of the day was to see our graduates beaming with joy and empowered with a new tool to uplift themselves. This was followed by a wonderful homemade vegetarian meal cooked by Mary and Shalina Rodrigues and served on banana leaves by Shalina, Mini and Gini Malik! 


We are truly grateful to our donors for their efforts to change the world and for their care for the underprivileged! The students and teachers thank Arsha Shakti Foundation from the depth of their hearts!


Dr. Pravina Rodrigues

Director, Vidya Institute

Mumbai 

10th April 2024




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