Williams College, the second-oldest institution of higher learning in Massachusetts established in 1793, now has a Hindu Prayer Room.
Reverend Gary C. Caster, Catholic Chaplain at Williams, responding to an email of distinguished Hindu statesman Rajan Zed which asked “Is there an exclusive Hindu prayer room in Williams College?”, wrote: “I hope you are pleased to learn that we do indeed have one.”
According to reports, this Hindu Prayer Room is located in the basement of Thompson Memorial Chapel and other student groups on the campus have also welcomed it. Vedanta Study Group at Williams had been reportedly meeting on Sundays. Interestingly, mascot of Williams is the Purple Cow.
Applauding Williams for provision of Hindu Prayer Room, Zed, who is President of Universal Society of Hinduism, in a statement in Nevada today, described it as a step in the positive direction. Zed commended Williams for recognizing the intersection of spirituality and education, which was important in Hinduism.
Rajan Zed urged all USA universities, colleges and residential schools; both public and private; to respond to the spiritual needs of diverse student body and provide permanent and dedicated Hindu prayer/meditation room for rituals, quiet reflection, festivals and spiritual exercise. It would help in the personal growth of Hindu students who were present in substantial numbers on various campuses. It was important to meet the spiritual needs of these students, Zed added.
Zed suggested that these Hindu prayer rooms should have an altar containing murtis (statues) of popular Hindu deities like Shiva, Vishnu, Rama, Krishna, Durga, Venkateshwara, Ganesha, Murugan, Saraswati, Hanuman, Lakshmi, Kali, etc.; besides being equipped with ghanta (big metallic bell hanging from the ceiling), dholak (two-headed hand-drum), Shiva-linga, etc. He or other Hindu scholars would be glad to help, if asked, regarding the structure of “Hindu Prayer Room”, Zed indicated.
Williams in Williamstown offers 40 majors and concentrations and has about 2084 students enrolled in its various graduate and undergraduate programs. Although the tuition is $55,140, but Williams claims to admit U.S. students “without regard to their ability to pay”. Maud S. Mandel is President-elect, while Michael R. Eisenson is Chairman of the Board of Trustees.
Hinduism, oldest and third largest religion of the world, has about one billion adherents and moksh (liberation) is its ultimate goal. There are about three million Hindus in USA.