Hindus are urging for a permanent and exclusive Prayer Room at Lehigh University (LU), internationally recognized research university in Bethlehem (Pennsylvania) founded in 1865.
Distinguished Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, in a statement in Nevada today, said that LU should respond to the requirements of Hindu students to provide designated prayer-meditation hall for rituals, quiet reflection, festivals and spiritual exercise; which would help in their personal growth.
LU already has Packer Memorial Church, said to be built in 1885 when the university was affiliated with the Episcopal Church and which holds Catholic Mass on Sundays; a Muslim Prayer Room (Musalah); Jewish Student Center and The Chabad House.
Zed, who is President of Universal Society of Hinduism, pointed out that Hindu Prayer Room would be a step in the positive direction in view of presence of a substantial number of Hindu students at LU, as it was important to meet the spiritual needs of these students. Some other universities/colleges in USA now offered Hindu prayer room.
Rajan Zed urged all US higher education institutions, both public and private, to respond to the needs of their considerable Hindu student bodies and offer prayer facility. LU needed to recognize the intersection of spirituality and education, which was important in Hinduism, Zed added.
Zed suggested that the Hindu Prayer Room preferably should have a shrine containing murtis (statues) of popular Hindu deities like Shiva, Vishnu, Rama, Krishna, Durga, Venkateshwara, Ganesha, Murugan, Saraswati, Hanuman, Lakshmi, Kali, etc.; besides being equipped with ghanta (big metallic bell hanging from the ceiling), dholak (two-headed hand-drum), Shiva-linga, etc.
Rajan Zed noted that Hindu students could not even get married according to their age-old traditions in Packer Memorial Church because it discouraged rice at weddings, and throwing rice was an important Hindu wedding tradition.
If LU really believed in its Mission Statement where it described itself as “a caring community deeply committed to harmonious cultural diversity”, it should be more receptive to the needs of its diverse student body and staff, Zed indicated.
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.
LU, spread over 2,358 acres campus serving nearly 7,000 students; reportedly ranked in the top tier of national research universities each year. John D. Simon is President, while Brad Eric Scheler is Trustees Chair.