On February 26, 2018, both Iowa State Senate and House of Representatives in Des Moines started their respective sessions with Hindu prayers, containing verses from world’s oldest existing scripture.
Distinguished Hindu statesman Rajan Zed delivered the invocations from ancient Sanskrit scriptures before the Senate and House. After Sanskrit delivery, he then read the English interpretation of the prayers. Sanskrit is considered a sacred language in Hinduism and root language of Indo-European languages.
Zed, who is the 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 prayers with “Om”, the mystical syllable containing the universe, which in Hinduism is used to introduce and conclude religious work.
Wearing saffron colored attire, a ruddraksh mala (rosary), and traditional sandalpaste tilak (religious mark) on the forehead; Rajan Zed sprinkled few drops of water from river Ganga of India, considered holy by Hindus, in the Senate before the prayer; where Senate President Jack Whitver introduced him. Senate adjusted its start time by few minutes so that Zed could pray in both House and Senate.
Reciting from Brahadaranyakopanishad, Zed said “Asato ma sad gamaya, Tamaso ma jyotir gamaya, Mrtyor mamrtam gamaya”, which he then interpreted as “Lead us from the unreal to the real, Lead us from darkness to light, and Lead us from death to immortality.” Reciting from Bhagavad-Gita, he urged Senators and Representatives to keep the welfare of others always in mind.
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, on the Advisory Board of The Interfaith Peace Project, etc. He has been panelist for “On Faith”, a prestigious interactive conversation on religion produced by The Washington Post; and leads a weekly interfaith panel “Faith Forum” in a Gannett publication for over seven years.
Hinduism, oldest and third largest religion of the world, has about 1.1 billion adherents and moksh (liberation) is its ultimate goal. There are about three million Hindus in USA.
Linda L. Upmeyer is Speaker of Iowa House of Representatives, which has 100 members; while Iowa Senate has 50 members. Iowa, also known as Hawkeye State and whose flag states “Our liberties we prize and our rights we will maintain”, is said to one of the safest states to live. Bordered by Mississippi, Missouri and Big Sioux rivers; its top exports include corn, tractors and soybeans. US President Herbert Hoover, actor John Wayne, Nobel laureate Norman Borlaug, football player Kurt Warner and Olympian artistic gymnast Shawn Johnson—all hail from Iowa. Kim Reynolds is the Governor.