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Marghazi at Chennai, Thai at Manjakkudi

The 14th annual convention of the Swami Dayananda Educational Trust (SDET) was held in Manjakkudi from January 27th to February 2nd 2019. There was an interesting line-up of programmes on all seven days with discourses ranging from Agamas to Vedanta. In addition, there were cookery demonstrations, Carnatic kutcheris and dance dramas by prominent artists and troupes.

In this section, we present a roundup of the main programmes.

On January 28th, there was a heritage walk to the Nageswaraswamy temple in Kumbakonam in the afternoon. Sri. Pradeep Chakravarthy who led the walking trail to the temple explained in detail the brahmi writings and how the whole story of the temple was inscribed meticulously in its pillars. He also explained the uniqueness in simplicity of dressing styles as reflected in the sculptures.

The next morning, historian Dr Chitra Madhavan gave a talk on the Madurai Meenakshi temple. She elaborated on the historicity of the temple in great detail and the Pandia kings’ long rule and contribution of each of the rulers to the development of the temple. The Vijayanagara Empire (1336-1646 CE) and the Nayaks’ contribution are reflected in the various inscriptions found in the temple. The vast number of gopurams and the architecture tell the story. The session was highly educative for the student community as they got a sense of India’s history through the stories of its temples.

In her presentation on agamas on January 30th, Smt. Suganthy Krishnamachari explained how these practices evolved in temples. The participation of the commoners in vaidika rituals, nigamas they are called, called for rigorous observance of vidhis and hence the rituals were mainly conducted by adhikares. The participation of others was only by contribution of wealth and acting as yajamanas. Agamas helped in greater participation by the commoners. Smt.Krishnamachari then went on to explain elaborately the agamas the divisions thereof like Vaikänasa ägamas and Päncarätra agamas.

Vaikanasa agamas had mantras and pancaratra agamas involved tantras and yantras. She explained in great detail the practices now prevalent in agamacastra in the performance of pujas, prasadamas, etc in and around Kumbakonam and other parts of Tamil Nadu.

In her lecture demonstration on February 1st, Smt. Radhika Srinivasan did a comparative study of Buddhist sculptures spanning vast areas of India, South-east Asia, Japan and China. She tried to explain how all Buddhist practices had their origin in Sanatana Dharama and how the differences came into vogue.

On February 2nd, Smt. Gowri Ramnarayan gave a graphical account of the dancing Naoaraja in various places and museums and how each of them has a story to tell.

In all these sessions, we saw good participation of students of AIM for Seva Chatralayas and SDET run institutions in Manjakkudi. Their questions reflected their keenness to know the history of our temples and the practices that prevailed in such places of worship.

The 14th annual convention at Manjakkudi came to a close with the 15th graduation day of the Swami Dayananda College of Arts & Science, Manjakkudi on 3rd February. The graduation day speakers were like icing on the cake on the last day after a week of festivities. Swami. Paramatmananda Saraswati ji, the convenor of Hindu Dharma Acarya Sabha was the Chief Guest. He explained how true ecology involves in maintaining the cultural ecology of the people respecting their roots in culture and religion and how harmony among humans, animals, plants and environment has to be maintained. He highlighted how the various diverse forces operate, seemingly opposite but maintaining the balance in the creation. He called upon the students to maintain the balance in society by becoming contributors, a vision propounded by the founder of AIM for Seva and SDET, Pujya Swami Dayananda Saraswati ji.

The Guest Speaker, Dr. Sridhar Vembu founder CEO of Zoho Corporation who had his roots in a place close to Manjakkudi elaborated his plan, how by being inspired by what is happening at Manjakkudi and in the SDET group of institutions, he dreams of opening up job opportunities for the vast majority of students who graduate from rural areas by opening industries in such places. This would help in bigger cities getting decongested. He compared the sucking of soil of its nutrients by wrong forms of agriculture rendering it infertile in the long run with taking away a large part of educated people from rural areas to cities and abroad for employment leaving the rural areas impoverished and depriving them of being alive for future generations.

The speeches of both guests called for a change in outlook towards education and employment generation. It is important to retain our cultural roots and values. Adequate employment opportunities in villages would lead to rural prosperity and that would eventually help in harmonious development of the nation.

The week long convention saw good deliberations by speakers who are all cultural doyens. The 14th annual convention at Manjakkudi was designed as a knowledge sharing platform. In addition, there were cultural appreciation programmes by renowned masters in music and dance.

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