One of my most vivid memories growing up is sitting by the Mandir with my Baa, as she paints a Chandan Om onto our Shiva Linga with the end of a matchstick. Every single action of her Puja is so infused with love, so rich with devotion, and her eyes shine with the same tears that my mother’s do as she sits in the same place today. I bow my head in front of Bhagavan next to my dad, just as he did next to his, and it is right here that I begin to form my own identity of who I am and who I want to be. Everything that I believe and learn and do is rooted in my spirituality and my Dharma, as these are the roots that my family embedded in my heart and mind from a very young age, and these are the roots that have always been the open arms of infinite love for me, whenever and wherever. This is because when I light a Divo or dress up for Garba or make a Rangoli flower (or well I try to) with every single colour powder I can get my hands on, I am brought back to years and years of the same. Surrounded by the people who raised me, realising what it means to belong; to know what ‘home’ truly is.

Every single person in this life has one moment (or many!) when they feel like they have to start all over again. When the identity that we have been building since birth seems blurry, and the people that we have linked to this sense of us are no longer with us. I had this moment during the first few weeks of university, when my room seemed like it was someone else’s, and there were strangers who appeared as if they knew exactly who they were, striding around Guy’s Campus with giant bookbags. Craving that familiar sense of belonging that made me feel like myself, I went to the KCL Hindu Society Meet and Greet. Looking around that room, we were all reflected in each other. The same stories and traditions and ceremonies and festivals, we found a safe place in each other, reminded of who we were and where we all came from; not as different from each other as we seemed at first glance. Sitting in the Dharmic Prayer Room in my 3rd year, I feel just the same.

A beautiful reminder of our roots, that makes each one of us feel rooted in ourselves again and makes every new student away from home realise that ‘home’ never has and never will be, far away.

Avani Purohit, Events Officer for KCL Hindu Society (2021-2022)
The milestone event of the Dharmic Prayer Room Opening at New Hunt’s House, King’s College London, is one of pride for all our students. We were joined by the Hindu Society committees of Imperial, Queen Mary, UCL, LSE, as well as alumni and the founding members of our NHSF (UK) movement. The event commenced with a Puja for Shree Ganesh Ji (the remover of obstacles) and Mata Saraswati (the embodiment of knowledge and learning), which was conducted by one of our previous KCL Hindu Society President Samyak, who explained step-by-step the purpose behind the rituals and the meanings of the Mantras. This was streamed live for all to watch in the lecture theatre.

Everyone then gathered in the Lecture Hall where a series of talks were given by: the current KCL co-presidents, Dhra Gandhi and Sraavya Kocherlakota; our national NHSF (UK) president, Bhavya Shah; the founder and CEO of Maiora Governance and one of the founding members of our movement, Janhavi Dadarkar Ji; a former KCL Hindu Society Treasurer and VP (2017-2018, 2018-2019) and National Sampark Team Secretary, Dr. Pinky Kotecha; former KCL president (2019-2020) and current NHSF (UK) National Sampark Team Coordinator, Samyak Pandey – and to top it all off, the key driver of this achievement, our NHSF (UK) National Vice President, and former KCL Hindu Society president (2016-2017), Dr. Akshaya Rajangam. As we can see, the speakers have extremely impressive achievements, far too many to mention in this article, and each speech had the crowd tearing up as they delved into the nostalgia, reminding us of our new privilege to have this space.

They spoke about the importance of having this sacred space on campus and the positive impact this is going to have on the future generations. They highlighted that this is just the beginning of Dharmic prayer rooms at universities around the UK, and that we should guide one another to actively bring about that change. One phrase of Akshaya didi that has stuck with me till now:

“an extraordinary moment, shaped by a series of ordinary acts by ordinary people.” 

While these alumni have gone far and wide, the Sanskaars they developed at their time in the Hindu Society have stuck. The value of working to achieve the great good, together. We were reminded that it was the cumulative efforts of years of students that liaised and succeeded in creating this space. They were students just like us!

This sacred space will be host to a number of functions; it will be a quiet area to use for personal worship; it will also be the hub of the weekly Aartis and learning sessions; but also be a safe space for those of Dharmic backgrounds to practice and express their own identity. Open 24/7, this will really transform campus to becoming a home away from home. 

As one of the Vice Presidents of the society, I will personally be using it for my Prarthana, and to attend/ organise debates and discussions on Dharma. I hope that we are able to make it into a vibrant place of worship in the time to come.

I take this opportunity to encourage all Hindu students to not be shy of who they are, to work with fellow youth of Dharmic background and create similar safe spaces for their campuses.

 

Devina Patel, Vice-President of KCL Hindu Society (2021-2022)