A Very Successful Sanatana Dharma Banquet - by Bhakti devi dasi, HCCV Administration Assistant.

HCCV's Sanatana Dharma Banquet was held on Friday 1st July. It was an evening for presenting the culture of Sanatana Dharma to members of various religious groups, both interfaith and intrafaith - meaning: groups of other religious persuasions, as well as groups from our own Sanatana Dharma viewpoint.

Attendance exceeding all expectations - we approximate that just over 300 people attended.

In the reception hall of the St.Kilda Town Hall, a beautiful 3 foot tall deity of Lord Ganesh greeted all who came. Guests were welcomed and honoured with application of kumkum to the forehead by HCCV Vice-President Vamsi Krishna Gollamudi. Two large vases filled with fresh flowers flanked the stage and a perpetual slideshow of Hindu Gods and Godesses was screened on the stage wall - appropriately larger than life.

The Sanatana Dharma presentation pamphlets on the tables said it all:

" Sanatana Dharma, or ‘Eternal Harmony’ is the original name of what is now called Hinduism. Sanatana Dharma comprises spiritual laws that govern human existence and believes in a universal sense of purpose. It is a code of ethics, and a way of living by which a human being may achieve moksha (enlightenment, liberation, divinity). Sanatana Dharma says no religion should claim their path as the only right one.  Sanatana Dharma has spiritual freedom at its core. Any religious path that accepts the spiritual freedom of others is considered part of Sanatana Dharma. Therefore each person should be allowed the freedom to think, believe and worship in a way that suits their temperament. "

In a warm and friendly atmosphere, the evening began with instrumental music on sitar and drum by Ganesh and Manu from the Shiva Ashram, Mt. Eliza, followed by HCCV's Communications & Public Relations Officer Stephen Stanford and Geetha devi introducing the event and presenting the speakers and entertainers. They did a wonderful job of MC-ing the night.

Some photos are inserted in this article and, thanks to photographer Guna Mani Nitai devi dasi, you can view a whole slideshow here:

Sanatana Dharma Slideshow

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Ganesh and Manu - traditional Hindu Instrumental music.

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Stephen & Geetha - the MCs for the night.

You can see a YouTube video of the event here:

Youtube - Sanatana Dharma Banquet - 1st July 2011

The opening speech was by Mr. Nick Wakeling MP, (the Member representing the Hon. Nicholas Kotsiras, Minister for Multicultural Affairs and Citizenship). Minister Kotsiras sent his warm regards in his absence and congratulated HCCV for "organizing such a terrific event."

Mr. Nick Wakeling MP, who is the Parliamentary Secretary for Health mentioned that: "this benefit presents us with a great opportunity to reflect on the various contributions made to Victoria by our Hindu communities. It is also a chance to celebrate the diversity of all Victorians, to celebrate the role that the multi-faith and multicultural communities play in shaping Victoria into a vibrant, inclusive and harmonious state."......"Tonight's dinner strikes a chord with the principles of multiculturalism embraced so wholeheatedly by our State, because it plays an important role in providing inter-cultural understanding and harmony which is an integral and noted feature of the Hindu religion." ...

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Mr. Nick Wakeling MP.

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Audience intently listening to speeches.

Abhay Awasthi, President of HCCV, delivered an enlightening speech, after which we heard some purifying and auspicious mantras from the rig veda, by Pandit Akashdeep.

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Mahamandaleshwar Swami Shankarananda, patron of HCCV and Founder of the Shiva Ashram in Mt. Eliza, gave a wonderful explanation of religion, by video, as Swamiji was not able to attend in person due to travel commitments. I heard one guest comment that Swamiji's explanation on religion was the "best I have ever heard." Swamiji's address received a generous applause.

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Gitanjali and her Bhajan band gave us high quality entertainment by singing transcendental bhajans. The Holy Names of God sent spiritually uplifting sound vibrations throughout the hall while guests enjoyed some vegetarian snacks and entrees.

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Gitanjali, with husband Dale in the background.

The Annual HCCV Sanatana Dharma Appreciation Awards for service to the Hindu community were presented by HCCV General Secretary Bhakta dasa and HCCV treasurer Dileshwar Judd to:
Dr. (Mrs.) Rama Rao, Mr. Ramaprasad, His Grace Aniruddha dasa & Her Grace Acintya Rupa devi dasi and Mr. Sandhi Kouroupidis.

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Awards presentations.

The separate video of the award presentations can be viewed here:

Sanatana Dharma Banquet - Awards

The Satya Sai Baba bhajan group, led by Dr. Rama Rao and accompanied by world renowned Ashok Chawalic on tabla, gave us a taste of traditional bhajans.

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Father Bob Maguire even dropped in after having been awarded "Victorian of the Year".

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Father Bob with Bhakta dasa, HCCV's general secretary.

A wonderful vegetarian banquet was served up by members of the Melbourne Hare Krishna movement who catered for the event.

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Ganesh and Manu played more instrumental music during the main course.

The night was topped off by a rousing kirtan by Gitanjali with Manu, Ganesh and Guna Mani Nitai joining in to accompany the bhajan band.

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All in all, everyone who attended had a wonderful time.

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HCCV wishes to thank the Victorian Multicultural Commission for sponsoring the event, as well as everyone who had a part in making the evening such a success. We are hoping to make this an annual event and look forward to an even bigger attendance next year.

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