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Home > News > Report

Hindu chaplain to deliver prayer in US Senate

Aziz Haniffa in Washington, DC | June 27, 2007 12:03 IST

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Although Hindu prayers have been recited at the opening of some US state legislative assemblies, including in Maryland and New Jersey, thanks to Indian American legislators Kumar Barve and Upendra Chivukula -- House Majority Leader and Deputy House Speaker of the Maryland and New Jersey House of Delegates respectively -- when Hindu chaplain Rajan Zed opens the US Senate on July 12 with a Hindu prayer, he will create history because this would be the first-time ever the US Congress' powerful Upper House -- since its formation in 1978 -- that such a prayer would have been delivered.

Zed, told, "I delivered the first Hindu opening prayer in Nevada State Assembly in March this year and followed it up by delivering the first Hindu opening prayer in the Nevada State Senate in May, but it will be a great honor for Indians, Hindus, Nevadans, myself, and my family, when I deliver the opening prayer in the US Senate because I have been told that never has there been a Hindu prayer delivered in the US Senate since its formation."

He said that he was 'looking forward to this honor for all of us as Indians and other religious minority communities because in my opinion, despite out philosophical differences, we should work for the common objectives of human improvement, love, and respect for others'.

Zed said, "I am still to finalise the exact prayer that I shall deliver, but I am thinking of something from Rig Veda, the oldest scripture of the world still in common use, dated from around 1,500 BC, besides some lines from the Upanishads and Bhagavad-Gita, which are both ancient Hindu scriptures."

"I plan to start and end the prayer with 'Om' the mystical syllable containing the universe," he said, "which in Hinduism is used to introduce and  conclude religious work."

"Overall, it should be universal in nature and this is the prayer I will finally select to open the US Senate on that particular day," he added, which he reiterated 'will be a illustrious day for all Americans and a memorable day for us Indians living in this great country because for the first time the ancient Hindu scriptures will be read in the great hall of democracy'.

Zed, who lives in Reno, which is about five hours away from Las Vegas [Images], with his wife Shilpa Zed, a community volunteer, son Navgeet, a youth volunteet and daughter Palkin, an author, said, 'I am very active in interfaith dialogue in the region', besides being director of public affairs and interfaith relations of the Hindu Temple of Northern Nevada.

A native of Punjab and an alumnus of Punjab University, from where he received his bachelor of arts degree in journalism, Zed is also the public relations office of the India Association of North Nevada.

After coming to the US to do graduate studies, Zed received his master of science and master of business administration from San Jose State University in California and the University of Nevada, Reno, respectively.

He also serves on the governing board of directors of Northern Nevada International Center, the board of directors of the Nevada World Trade Council, and last November was elected to the board of trustees of the District of  Verdi.
Zed is also a member of the Citizens Advisory Committee of the Regional Transportation Commission and a member of the Reno Police Chief's Advisory Board and a member of the Diversity Action Plan Committee of Washoe County School District.

Earlier, he has also served as a member of the editorial board of the Reno Gazette-Journal and as a member of the University of Nevada's Planning and Budget Committee.