New Hindu Spiritual Group Offers Readings, Community

May He protect us both. May He nourish us. May we acquire the capacity, to study and understand the scriptures. May our study be brilliant. May we not cavil at each other.

Mid-afternoon sunlight streamed through the windows of the Adams House Upper Common Room yesterday as Sameer A. Sheth '98 led the chanting of the Shantipath mantra, a traditional Hindu peace invocation.

Seated in the circle along with Sheth were eight other members of Dharma, their shoes left at the entrance to the room, heads bowed in humble solemnity.

While officially founded in the last academic year, the student group began its first programs this semester. Dharma is headed by co-presidents Maneesh R. Amancharla '99 and Rohin T. Malhotra '98.

It is the "first time we have a resource where students can get together and celebrate the holidays," said Dharma secretary Monica B. Shah '99.


According to the club's mission statement, Dharma seeks to "provide a forum in which Harvard students can learn about the Hindu religion and the culture associated with it."

The members gather to participate in weekly meetings for prayer and to discuss topics that relate Hinduism to the lives of college students. In addition to being a religion, said Dharma member Karthik Muralidharan '98, Hinduism also is "a way of life."

Muralidharan, a native of India, spent six years studying under the guidance of a swami, a traditional Hindu spiritual leader.

In addition to holding weekly discussions, Dharma members participate in monthly visits to Boston-area Hindu temples and celebrate major Hindu religious events.

This Thursday the group will be celebrating Diwali, literally translated as the Festival of Lights. The holiday commemorates the occasion of the Hindu New Year and has tremendous spiritual and cultural significance for many Hindus, Shah said.

Despite the low attendance at yesterday's meeting, Dharma has 50 students on its electronic message list. Malhotra said that mid-term exams may account for the low turnout.

While the club is dominated by Hindus of Indian descent, Malhotra said that Dharma programs are sometimes attended by non-Hindus, including some of his Christian friends and students studying comparative religion.

So far this year the club members have been discussing an edition of the Bhagavad Gita, a traditional Hindu text, edited by Swami Chinmayananda.

According to Amancharla, the group is currently not affiliated with the Harvard United Ministry, the body that oversees many of the University's religious groups, but said that it was likely that Dharma would become associated with the Ministry in the future.

Several students attested to Hinduism's connection to their lives as students.