World Hindu Federation, WHF, hosted the first woman Shankracharya, Sadhvi Hemanand Giri ji, of Nepal and presented some awards to Hindu leaders in a conference in Varanasi on 20 January 2019. Shankracharya is a status in Hinduism akin to that of an Archbishop in Christianity.
The conference held a day ahead of the 15th Parvasi Bhartiya Divas in Varanasi was attended by representatives from 28 countries. Varanasi is the constituency of the Prime Minister Modi ji, the oldets city of temples with its ancient name of Kashi, which as the population grew around a small river Varan it acquired the name Varanasi, and recently under the British Raj was called Benaras.
Dr Ajay Singh the President of WHF led the proceedings and presented the awards. The debates centred mainly on the coercive and forced conversions of the poorer strata of Hindu society in some parts of India, Nepal, Pakistan and Bangladesh.
The Shankracharya Hemanand Giri ji recited Mantras and said that Hindus need to do more ‘seva’ to fulfil their ‘Dharma’, that it is not sufficient to do just prayer, people must look after those who are less fortunate than them, emphasising ‘seva’, a selfless service without reward.
I lauded this message of seva, adding that it is a precursor to accumulating good karma, and thus the right way of life for any Hindu. On Christian coercive conversions I corrected the conference that judging from my past relations with Archbishops and Bishops they would not condone such a practice and possibly a meeting should be had among the Archbishops and Shankracharyas to develop a better understanding of each other’s faith.
I was presented with a ‘Hindu-Shree’ accolade which I humbly accepted with all the more grace of her Holiness being the first ever Woman Shankracharya presiding over it. To see a woman elevated to the Shankracharya position fills my heart with joy, for ours is a tradition of Gods being equal to Goddesses, ours is a tradition of the One God, infinite and formless, manifesting through the Many Gods, with names and forms, where equality of all goes without question, where no manifestation of God is superior or inferior to another, all are equal aspects of the One God, Brahmm or Brahman, chanted by Hindus with the sacred sound of Om.
Shree or Shri or Sri is an honorific to a name, as commonly used in several South Asian countries.
‘Shri’ Anil Bhanot OBE
Director and Founding Member HCUK