Saturday 10th December 2016,
Hindu Human Rights Online News Magazine

Embracing Dharawal Aboriginal culture through Sanskrit

Embracing Dharawal Aboriginal culture through Sanskrit
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Students of Sydney Sanskrit School singing Australian National Anthem in Dharawal, Sanskrit and English

Inclement weather on November 17did not deter participants and guests who flocked to Redgum Community Centre to celebrate Samaskrutotsavam 2013, the annual day of the Sydney Sanskrit School (SSS). It was an event at which history was truly in the making. The SSS is the world’s first school to produce and launch a bilingual CD titled, Yabun Matra (‘In rhythm’ in Dharawal/Sanskrit), a carry along CD in the Dharawal language and in Sanskrit, also containing a songbook. The CD was created to embrace the Australian Indigenous culture with respect and reverence as SSS believes that we have a responsibility to our children and families to maintain a sense of belonging and connection to this land. Sharing Aboriginal history and culture and actively embracing reconciliation are key to achieving this.

While launching the CD, the Hon Victor Dominello, Minister for Citizenship and Communities and Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, lauded the community for its ability to blend seamlessly into the local culture, and yet retain its unique identity. The CD is a collection of Dharawal songs and sayings, translated into Sanskrit. On hearing the tri-lingual national anthem in Dharawal, Sanskrit and English sung by students of Sydney Sanskrit School the Minister was moved to say, “What a joy it was to watch those young angels sing the national anthem in Dharawal, Sanskrit and English, our national anthem. If that doesn’t give you goosebumps, I don’t think anything else would!”

The project, sponsored by the NSW Government through the Community Relations Commission, set a precedent by a migrant community in promoting multiculturalism and the indigenous language and culture. This combination of two languages into a harmonious blend of music and songs is a world first and a true product of Australia. The songs, written by Mr Les Bursill, OAM, Dharawal elder were translated into Sanskrit by Dr Meenakshi Srinivasan, Founder Principal of SSS, and were sung by Sydney musician Peter Morgan and students of the SSS under the leadership of Dr Lakshmi Satyanarayana, President, SSS. The CD also contains a song booklet with aboriginal artwork done by the students of the School under the guidance of teacher Meera Jagadeesh.

MCs Prerana Chuttar in English and Ranjani Rao in Sanskrit, commenced the program by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land, followed by a welcome to the country by Uncle Ivan Wellington, a Dharawal elder. Glenfield batch students sought the blessings of Lord Ganesha by reciting the Ganadhipa Stuti, while His Excellency Mr Biren Nanda, High Commissioner of the Republic of India and Ms Kesanee Palanuwongse, Deputy Consul General of the Royal Thai Embassy, lit the lamp amidst chants of ‘Asatoma Sadgamaya’, a Sanskrit verse seeking direction from illusion to enlightenment.

In his welcome speech in Sanskrit, Sumukha Jagadeesh stated that the bilingual CD was conceptualised as a mark of respect and reverence to the Adivasis (traditional owners) of Australia at the seventh annual Samskrutotsavam program.

Next followed the entertainment section of the evening with the Deepa Jwalanam (Lighting the Lamp), a classical dance performance by Aruna Gandhi and her students from Silambam Sydney. Not to be outdone, the tiny tots of SSS, some as young as 4, waddled on stage performing to the popular Five Little Ducks song composed in Sanskrit.

Being the International Year of Water, the theme was water, sustainability and spiritually. In line with this, Ganga Stotram written by Jagadguru Adi Shankaracharya on the importance and value of River Ganges was delivered by the Glenfield Vishnu Sahasranaman group and SSS parents. Aqua, a music ensemble conceptualised by Dr Lakshmi, portrayed the nature and sound of rain and water, leaving the audience mesmerised with the sounds of nature and eager for more.

The next two items were based on Dharawal songs translated into Sanskrit, as featured on the CD. The enactments of Marloo the Kangaroo and Yan-ma Garrigarana (Travel to the Sea) were enthusiastically performed and received resounding applause.

The event also showcased performances from an intergenerational perspective as seniors from the Resourceful Australian Indian Network (RAIN) group were in stiff, yet friendly competition with youngsters as they presented a classic performance of Kritva Nava Drada Sankalpam, accompanied by Pawan Narayan on the mrudangam. All the participants took a pledge to spread the message of unity and urging all present to work for the development of the nation, to always remain enthusiastic, progressive, protect and propagate values and ethics from the sages.

Vasudhaiva Kudambakam’ is an ancient Sanskrit phrase denoting ‘The whole world is one family’. Latcho Drom, a puppet show by Lenka Muchova, scripted by Romono Solo, a Gypsy Elder, voiced by Peter Morgan, portrayed the journey of gypsies from India and their contribution to different cultures as they traversed various lands.

A play in Sanskrit followed, based on the textbook, Varna-Rahasya Anveshanam, a project sponsored by NSW Government through the Department of Education and Communities, that was well-enacted by the young actors. In celebration of the 150th birth anniversary of Swami Vivekananda, the Glenfield batch students presented a group song titled Bhuvana Mandale, eulogizing the saint’s qualities and exploits. Two spirited Vivekanandas held the audience spellbound through recitation of his speech in English and Sanskrit about the need for mutual respect. Mr Nanda releasing a CD titled Samskruta Gita Ranjani, a collection of Sanskrit songs composed over the years by the SS school teachers, also used as teaching aids. Mr Nanda commended the school on its commitment to teach Sanskrit in an innovative and fun way, and the significance of learning the language with its rich literature on many subjects. Dr Geoff Lee, MP, Parramatta, released Medha 2013, the school’s annual magazine. Dr Nihal Agar, President of the Hindu Council of Australia and the Hon. David Clarke, MLC distributed prizes to the winners of the annual Bhagavad Gita Competition. Mr Paul Lynch, MP, State Member for Liverpool and Mr Raj Datta, Councillor for Strathfield also spoke on the occasion.

Anurag Dhar delivered the vote of thanks in Sanskrit, while Karthik Subramanian also thanked the students, participants, dignitaries, teachers, committee members and the NSW Government for being a part of this vision and dream to celebrate unity in diversity, to views cultural differences with respect and strengthen the foundations of a rich and diverse Australia.  The program concluded with the Indian National Anthem sung by all the students.

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