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Surya Peeks at Worshippers Through a Cloudy Sky

BY KALYANI GIRI HOUSTON -- If you'd ever been to the dimmed, cool, bluelit meditation hall on the Vivekananda Rock in Kanyakumari, memory would have whisked you right back to India's glorious Cape if you stepped into Keshav Smriti this past Sunday. Superimposing the almost meditative quiet, Arun Kankani's mellow voice guided young and old through the hypnotic graceful ballet that the Suryanamaskar ritual became. He gently instructed the ebb and flow of bodies through breathing exercises and wellpaced movement. A wide cross-section of people from Houston and all over the nation responded to the healthful challenge put forth by the international sociocultural organization Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS) USA to observe two weeks of yoga awareness by offering one million salutations to the Sun over a period of two weeks. The offering, or yagna, started on January 13, the day of Makar Sankranti when the Sun enters the realm of Capricorn, through January 28. In this city HSS had collaborated with other distinguished organizations such as the Yoga Association of Houston and the Vivekananda Yoga Anusandhana Samsthana (VYASA) in the planning of a community event where the public could gather outdoors at an area park and celebrate the Surya Namaskar ritual. But the weather did not cooperate, and the day-long indoor event was planned at Keshav Smriti on January 21 from 8.00am to 6.00pm, drawing wide participation from a diverse age group ranging from two to seventy year olds. Many enthusiasts performed the ritual in their own homes or at the weekly gatherings called shakhas. This day, O Gods, while Surya is ascending, deliver us from trouble and dishonor. This prayer of ours may Varuna grant, and Mitra, and Aditi and Sindhu, Earth and Heaven. Traversing sky and wide mid-air, thou metest with thy beams our days, Sun, seeing all things that have birth. HYMN CXV. Surya

Top: Ramesh Bhutada, owner of Star Pipe Products where Keshav Smriti is located, did thirteen sets of 13 rituals Bottom: Young enthusiasts eagerly share their ritual numbers and experiences Photos: KrishnaGiri

Her 6 year-old brother Anuj and mother Meena were all on the floor. "All over the US we are doing this with the objective of encouraging families to practise this simple ritual daily and enjoy the benefits of good health," said Kankani. While I was there, 11 yearold Ayush Sharma had triumphantly completed 8 sets of the yoga ritual. His parents Arun and Meena, and brother Aman were targeting 3000 both at home and at shakha over the two week period. Sushma Pallod teaches yoga "When the weather makes it impossible to enjoy the outdoors, Suryanamaskar is the best and safest exercise for mind, body, and soul," confided President of Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Pravin Vyas. On Sunday at Keshav Smriti I talked with several yoga enthusiasts eager to share their ritual numbers and experiences. I began with the spritely Mallikarjun Shintri who celebrates his 70th birthday on February 25. He had earlier performed 130 Suryanamaskars, that is, 10 sets comprising of 13 rituals. Shintri, who teaches yoga at Houston Community College, confided that he had participated the week before in his 4th Aramco half marathon of 13.5 miles downtown. "Suryanamaskar is sarva anga sundar vyama, the flexing of all muscles in the body. It helps to maintain a healthy body for a lifetime," he added. Arun Kankani's daughter Karuna, a bright 10 year-old that very day, did 14 sets which translated to 182 Suryanamaskar rituals. "I found it easier with the rhythm and breathing pattern. When the floor got too crowded, I took a break," said Karuna.

at Keshav Smriti occasionally. She'd been practising about 26 rituals everyday and had already surpassed her target. "It was such a great feeling. After every three hours, we did relaxation techniques to soothe and ease the muscles. I believe that with all our salutations, the Sun did come out," she referring to the Sun making an appearance after days of cold blustery weather. Pallod's 11 year-old daughter Namita did the ritual 191 times through the week. Her tally that Sunday was eight sets of 13 rituals. Philanthropist Ramesh Bhutada, owner of Star Pipe Products where Keshav Smriti is located, did thirteen sets of 13 rituals. "It was a very good effort for HSS to promote holistic health. It's a fun way to bring awareness to the general public," said Bhutada. In New York, local chapters of HSS hosted a 24 hour marathon. Seventy three people participated bringing the tally to 5,700 Suryanamaskar rituals. For local results from all city-wide locales, please consult the box on this page. For more information visit

Total participants = 117 Total Suryanamaskar = 7327 9 of the participants performed over 180 Suryanamaskar each Highest performed by an individual = 234 each by a 11 and 14 year-old Over twelve organizations participated Maximum participants were from HSS and VYASA



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