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California's Merced City Council opened with Hindu prayer 1st time in 124 years
Merced City Council in California (USA), incorporated in 1889, had its reportedly first historic Hindu invocation on October 21 evening, containing verses from world's oldest existing scripture.

Distinguished Hindu statesman Rajan Zed delivered the invocation from ancient Sanskrit scriptures before the City Council. After Sanskrit delivery, he then read the English translation of the prayer. Sanskrit is considered a sacred language in Hinduism and root language of Indo-European languages.

Zed, who is President of Universal Society of Hinduism, recited from Rig-Veda, the oldest scripture of the world still in common use, besides lines from Upanishads and Bhagavad-Gita (Song of the Lord), both ancient Hindu scriptures. He started and ended the prayer with ?Om?, the mystical syllable containing the universe, which in Hinduism is used to introduce and conclude religious work.

Reciting from Brahadaranyakopanishad, Rajan Zed said, ?Asato ma sad gamaya, Tamaso ma jyotir gamaya, Mrtyor mamrtam gamaya?, which he then translated as ?Lead me from the unreal to the Real, Lead me from darkness to Light, and Lead me from death to Immortality.? 

Reciting from Bhagavad-Gita, he urged councilmembers to keep the welfare of others always in mind. Councilmembers, city employees and public were seen standing in prayer mode with their heads bowed down during this invocation.

Wearing saffron colored attire, a ruddraksh mala (rosary), and traditional sandalpaste tilak (religious mark) on the forehead, Zed sprinkled few drops of water from river Ganga of India, considered holy by Hindus, around the podium before the prayer. 

Zed presented a copy of Hindu prayerbook Srihanumanchalisa to Mayor Stan Thurston, who introduced and thanked Zed. ?It is a historic moment of pride for the community when the prayers from ancient Sanskrit scriptures are being read in this great hall of democracy of this great city of Merced?, Zed stated before starting the invocation.

Located near Merced River, Merced is home to University of California Merced and Merced Agricultural Museum. Prominent people associated with Merced include Youtube CEO Salar Kamangar; Child star Diana Serra Cary; actress Janet Leigh; novelist Daniel Silva; baseball players Doug Fister, Brian Fuentes and Dwayne Murphy; and basketball players Ray Allen and Bruce Bowen. Noah Lor and John M. Bramble are Mayor Pro Tempore and City Manager respectively.

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