Dalal delights all at Hindu ceremony

Attendees experienced a service to goddess Saraswati

Amanda Krehbiel, Assistant Website Editor

The smell of incense and burning candles filled the high ceilings of Ley Theater.

Dr. Meena Dalal stood barefoot in traditional Indian dress, greeting the guests as they filed in to hear her speak.

Next to her was a colorful display of artwork, flowers and offerings including a large array of fresh fruit.

Last Wednesday, Dr. Dalal gave a presentation about Saraswati, the Hindu goddess of knowledge. The presentation, put on by Interfaith Action Group, which started about a year ago, was more of a “demonstration” of a worship ceremony, according to Dalal. “The priest does it, so I’m faking it,” she said lightheartedly.

Dalal opened the gathering by putting her hands together in a greeting.
Then she talked about Saraswati—the goddess of not only knowledge, but learning, fine arts, music and wisdom. A large, beautiful piece of artwork depicted the goddess riding a swan.

This piece, comprised of blue cloth and white cotton wool, was created by Dalal’s father, whose picture was also set upon the display.

He made the artwork as an “image to worship,” Dalal explained. Other artistic impressions of Saraswati were present as well.

“Just like in any culture, artists have different ways of expressing,” she said.

In Hinduism, Dalal estimated that there are over 33 million gods and goddesses. Hinduism is a pantheistic religion, meaning it worships many gods.

Dalal explained that all are worshipped, but her presentation was just to highlight one—Saraswati.

She mentioned that last weekend in Calcutta, her birthplace, every educational institution studied the goddess.

The worship service began with a call and welcome to the goddess. Dalal lit incense and waved it around in the air, while simultaneously ringing a bell that resembled a school bell. Then she did the same with candles and began monotone humming.

Lastly, she shook leaves toward the image of the goddess while ringing the bell before a silent, engaged audience.

Dalal broke the imperturbability of the audience by turning around and smiling, saying she would “cut short” the ceremony for fear of fire in the building.

Dalal invited attendees to come up and worship with her. About 20 listeners, ranging from college-age to elderly, arose and went forward. One student, 2014 alumna Natalie Barber, removed her shoes.

“[Dalal] had hers off. I did that out of common courtesy,” she said.

Each participant received a mark on his or her forehead and was touched by the heat of a candle by Dalal’s hand.

“In meditation, that’s where [there is] focus of mind, that’s the special place,” she said.

Then they were given flower petals to hold while repeating a chant. After the chant, they threw the petals toward the image of the goddess as offerings.

They repeated another chant now with their hands together, finishing with a bow toward the image.

“I pray for you that all of you will do very well on your next test,” Dalal said jokingly, pointing at each of the students.

An intent audience then listened to Dalal sing a song to Saraswati. She admitted she was nervous, but sang the song with confidence and emotion.

“It’s good to experience something not normally available to you in Wayne, America,” senior Faith Sheldon said after the event. Barber said that she also was interested in Hinduism.

Of the ceremony, Dalal said it was “a much larger picture of god that’s not just church. We don’t have churches; it’s always just a mass of people. Whoever you want to worship is just ‘god’ in different names.”