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Hindu prayer opens Virginia's Portsmouth City Council 1st time in 262 years
Portsmouth City Council in Virginia (USA), established in 1752, had its first historic Hindu invocation on June 24 evening, containing verses from world's oldest existing scripture.

Distinguished Hindu statesman Rajan Zed delivered the opening prayer 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 presented a copy of Hanumanchalisa to Mayor Kenneth I. Wright, 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 Portsmouth”, Zed stated before starting the invocation.

Rajan Zed is a global Hindu and interfaith leader, who besides taking up the cause of religion worldwide, has also raised huge voice against the apartheid faced by about 15-million Roma (Gypsies) in Europe. Bestowed with World Interfaith Leader Award; Zed is Senior Fellow and Religious Advisor to Foundation for Religious Diplomacy, Spiritual Advisor to National Association of Interchurch & Interfaith Families, etc.

Hinduism, oldest and third largest religion of the world, has about one billion adherents and moksh (liberation) is its ultimate goal. There are about three million Hindus in USA.

Portsmouth, located on the western side of Elizabeth River, is known for its Olde Towne. Prominent people associated with it include recording artist Missy Elliott, bestselling novelist V.C. Andrews, stand-up comedians Patton Oswalt and Wanda Sykes, golf champion Chandler Harper and bassist Mike Watt. Paige D. Cherry and John L. Rowe are the Vice Mayor and City Manager respectively.

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