The Wilton chapter of Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh USA and its youth wing organized a teacher appreciation event called Guru Vandana on Saturday, May 13. Three dozen teachers from Wilton, Trumbull, Westport, Stamford, Norwalk, Danbury and Wilton were honored at the event.
Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS) is a nonprofit socio-cultural Hindu organization with over 235 branches in 164 cities and 34 states; in Wilton, HSS fosters a sense of civic duty, care for the community, responsibility, volunteerism, and an understanding of selfless service through activities and outreach projects such as a food donation drive during the festival of Diwali, and a “Health for Humanity” yogathon.
Devotional worship of the guru, the teacher, is one of the most valued and long-standing traditions of Hinduism. Guru, in Sanskrit, means “teacher, spiritual master, and mentor.” Vandana means “salutations to the teacher.”
The Guru Vandana demonstrates one of the guiding priciples in the Hindu culture: that a Guru is considered as next to God, and is loved, revered and respected at the same level. It promotes the idea that teachers are a source of motivation and inspire their students to become better individuals and contribute positively to society.
During the celebration, or ‘Felicitation,’ the youth of HSS Wilton expressed gratitude and reverence towards their teachers. According to the invitation issued by HSS, the ceremony included applying a sandalwood Tilak on each teacher’s forehead to symbolize Puja (worshiping), and touching their feet to show the highest respect for teachers/elders and to seek their blessings. Students then gave each teacher a small token of appreciation, and younger children presented cultural dances and skits and played Indian Raag on musical instruments they learn at school.
Along with Superintendent Kevin Smith, several teachers from the Wilton School District attended the program, including John Priest, Kimberly Romero, Dave DiCrescenzo, Alyssa Sharpe, Jennifer Ginsberg, Jennifer Kaminski, Andrea Rio, Michael Gordon, Peggy Meurer, Michelle Cota, Malcolm Karlan, Lauren Kantor, Melissa Giovanniello, Suzanne Steadham and Sandra Tallman.
The event was inaugurated with a ceremonial lamp lighting by the honored guest, Marilyn Van Raalte, a Hebrew school teacher at Temple B’nai Chaim and a member of the Wilton Interfaith Action Committee (WiACT).
Sarvesh Damle, the HSS Connecticut Chapter Lead, said that the teachers and their families enthusiastically enjoyed participating in the event and learning about the rich and diverse Hindu cultural practices, traditions, and beliefs that have evolved over thousands of years.
Speaking at the event, one of the teachers they were honored to be part of the event. “I feel humbled by the love and respect shown by the Hindu community towards us. It’s heartwarming to see such appreciation and recognition for our work. I got to learn so much about Hindu Culture today,” they said. After keynote addresses by Van Raalte and the HSS regional executive director, the event concluded with a vote of thanks by the organizers, who expressed their gratitude towards the teachers and all those who contributed to making the event a success.