Dr. Mohan Bhagwat, Sarsanghchalak of RSS, delivered the Keynote Address where he stressed the need to nourish the balance of nature. He praised the efforts and resolve of the Elders in preserving their traditions and cultures. He recalled the priceless treasures of Indian thought like ‘Live and Let Live’, ‘Unity in Diversity’, ‘World is one family’ & ‘Let us ennoble the world’ and remarked that these have extreme relevance today. Universal outlook is the hallmark of Indian thought and the happiness and well-being of everyone is always sought, he reminded. Dr. Bhagwat stated that it is only through integral view and not compartmentalized view that we can bring about the change in attitude. He also felt that it is our responsibility to show to the world that the age old traditions have solutions to modern problems. We have to become the instruments of change and for this we need to organize ourselves for the benefit of everything in this creation he concludedl
Haridwar, a holy city known for the Kumbh Mela where over 100 million devotees had gathered last year, saw a Kumbh with a difference this year. Over 400 delegates belonging to 50 traditions from all over the world assembled from 4-7 March 2012 for the 4th International Conference and Gathering of the Elders of Ancient Traditions and Cultures at Dev Sanskriti Vishwa Vidyalaya. There were Maoris from New Zealand, Mayans and Navajos from the Americas, European Pagans, Balinese Hindus, Romuva from Lithuania and many others. These delegates discussed the ways and means of preserving the priceless ancient traditions and cultures inherited from their ancestors and share their experiences.
Since its inception at Nagpur in 1994 the International Center for Cultural Studies (ICCS) has been active in reaching out to all the ancient traditions of the world, exploring the commonalities in them and bringing them together to foster the sense of oneness in humanity. It promotes the preservation of these traditions and cultures and engages in academic research. From 2003, it organizes an international gathering every three years which is now established as a platform for all such traditions to exhibit their heritage, find similarities existing in other parts of the world and resolve for efforts to sustain these traditions.
The first international conference was held at Mumbai in 2003 with the theme “Mitakuye Oyasin – We are all related”. It was attended by delegates from more than 30 countries. The second conference was in 2006 at Jaipur with the theme “Spirituality beyond Religions”, attended by delegates from more than 40 countries. The third conference was held in 2009 at Nagpur with the theme “Renaissance of the Ancient Traditions: Challenges and Solutions” where more than 357 delegates attended from 32 countries. The theme of this 4th Conference was ‘Nourishing the Balance in the Universe’. The event was jointly organized by International Center for Cultural Studies (ICCS), Dev Samskruti Vishwa Vidyalaya (DSVV) and co-sponsored by the Council of Elders Mayas, Xincas and Garifunas, European Congress of Ethnic Religions (ECER) and Children of Mother Earth. A total of 458 delegates from 33 countries including 178 from overseas participated in the conference.
Procession and Inaugural Session
The conference started with a colorful procession by all the delegates in their traditional attires accompanied with rhythmic dances to the tunes of trumpets and beating of drums. The procession went around the campus of Dev Samskriti Vishwa Vidyalaya (DSVV) and culminated at the spacious and modern Mrutunjaya Auditorium. Latvians with their baritone prayers, Maoris in colorful attire and dancing Damais from Karnali – Nepal were the attraction throughout the procession.
The inaugural session started with the welcome song by the students of DSVV. Prof. Dr Radhey Shyam Dwivedi, President ICCS, USA welcomed the delegates to the Conference. He mentioned that we are all a large family and this was a gathering of relatives. This was followed by prayers by 23 representative individuals and groups of various traditions like, Mayan, Maori, Druid, Navajo, Cham, Romuva, Ramava, Pagan, etc from different parts of the world. These prayers invoked the Universal Spirit but in a variety of ways and languages.
Swami Dayanand Saraswati founder of Arsha Vidya Gurukulam delivered the Keynote Address. He said that as ‘managing trustees’ of the indigenous traditions and colorful cultures we need to protect all that we have inherited from our ancestors. Every one of us should be able to contribute in these efforts and nourish our cultures and traditions. Dr. Pranav Pandya, Chancellor, DSVV thanked the organizers for providing his university a chance to host such a wonderful conference at its premises. He observed that it is our duty to preserve the precious diversity. A souvenir magazine was released at the hands of the dignitaries. ICCS representative and Vishwa Vibhag Samyojak Shri Saumitra Gokhale and Professor S. C. Bagri representing Indian Hospitality Congress also addressed the inaugural session. Shri Suresh Soni, Joint General Secretary, RSS, Dr.S D Mishra Vice Chancellor DSVV and Dr.Chinmay Pandya, Pro VC – DSVV were among those present on the dais along with various dignitaries.
The typical daily schedule started with the demonstration of ceremonies and rituals of the different cultures. Several similarities like use of fire, water for their performance was quite evident. There were also many that were unique. The rituals performed by the delegates exhibited the harmony of cultures, traditions and customs of different groups. Worshipping Nature was the underlying principle of these cultures and traditions. Though in different ways, they all worshipped the five basic elements of Nature i.e. Earth, Air, Water, Fire and Sky. “Love Mother Earth” was the message that emanated from all these rituals and religious ceremonies.
After breakfast was a plenary session in which scholars from various traditions spoke on topics and issues relevant to all. This was followed by three parallel sessions that included paper presentations on various sub-themes by speakers from various traditions. Many papers generated a lot of interest and lively interaction as well. Just to quote some paper headings; ‘Lasting World Peace for Every human being’ – Nina Meyerhof, ‘Finding Balance in a Chaotic World’ – Rev Patrick McCollum , ‘Yoga’s Approach to Universal Balance’ – Rajen Narayanan etc.
From 6 to 6.15 p.m. there would be a nada yoga and meditation session with total silence and tranquility. On 6th March, four parallel workshops were conducted in which practical topics that needed more hands-on participation were included. Some topics were, ‘Elemental approach to Conflict resolution – theEastern Way’ by Deidre Combs, ‘Native Indian Story telling’ by S. D. Young Wolf.
The much awaited event used to be the colorful and spectacular evening cultural programs that were held from 8 to 10 p.m. These were put on by the delegates on the first and the third day. The students of DSVV provided an assortment of folk dances and shows on the second evening. These were most entertaining and the performers would always amaze the audience by their talent and skills. The pulsating activities of the day would come to a close with the recitation of the shanti mantra after which the delegates would silently retire to their quarters.
The Valedictory function was held from 3.30 to 5 p.m. on the 7th of March. Dr. Pranav Pandya, Chancellor, DSVV and P. P. Sarsanghchalak of RSS Dr. Mohan Bhagwat, started the proceedings by the lighting of the lamp. Shri Shyam Parande, Zonal Coordinator of ICCS, Bharat welcomed the gathering and gave a brief account about the conference. This was followed by a geet – ‘Vishwa Hamara, Dharati Apani’, rendered by the students of DSVV that portrayed the vision of Late Pandit Shriram Sharma Acharya, the founder of Gayatri Pariwar.
Five dynamic and promising young elders namely Inra of Vietnam, Cholponai of Kyrgyzstan, Katrina Pihera of New Zealand, Ghulam Asgar Zaidi of DSVV, Haridwar and Lyla Johnston of USA spoke about their dreams, ideas, aspirations and expressed their feelings that they have experienced in the 4-day conference. Each of them confessed that the four days of interactions have been their finest experience in life and a great learning opportunity.
Awarding of Hon. Ph. D
Setting a new precedent, University of World Ancient Traditions and Cultural Heritage, USA (UWATCH) awarded Honorary Ph. D. degrees to five eminent personalities for their knowledge of the tradition, distinguished leadership and outstanding social service to their respective traditions. Dr. Pranav Pandya and Dr. Mohan Bhagwat conferred the degrees to the recipients. Brief introduction of the five recipients is as follows. The awardees were Kenneth Kennedy of New Zealand – a Kaumatua (Elder) of the Te Arawa tribe and an acknowledged expert in Maori Language and culture, Alejandro Cirilo Perez Oxlaj of Guatemala – a Grand Elder of the National Council of Elders of Mayas, Xincas and Garifunas of Guatemala, Jonas Trinkūnas of Lithuania – a father figure in the revival and popularization of the ancient Baltic faiths of the Lithuanians and chairmen European Congress of Ethnic Religions (ECER), Grand Chief Stan Beardy of Canada – Grand Chief of Nishnawbe Aski Nation and Shri Jagdeo RamUraon – President of Akhil Bharatiya Vanavasi Kalyan Ashram. This was followed by soul stirring traditional prayers by Pat McCabe a Navajo from USA and Solyomfi Nagy Zoltan of Hungary representing White Horse tradition of the Huns.
Dr. Pranav Pandya, Chancellor, DSVV, in his Presidential Address remarked that incomprehensible damage has been done to ancient cultures and traditions by a few groups who could not appreciate the diversity. He recalled the Mayan belief that a New Era is due in 2012 and proclaimed that the DSVV would be the epicenter of the same and hoped that differences would melt and future is sure to be of humanity seeking welfare and wellbeing of everyone.
Dr. Mohan ji Bhagwat, P. P. Sarsanghchalak of RSS, delivered the Keynote Address where he stressed the need to nourish the balance of nature. He praised the efforts and resolve of the Elders in preserving their traditions and cultures. He recalled the priceless treasures of Indian thought like ‘Live and Let Live’, ‘Unity in Diversity’, ‘World is one family’ & ‘Let us ennoble the world’ and remarked that these have extreme relevance today. Universal outlook is the hallmark of Indian thought and the happiness and well-being of everyone is always sought, he reminded. Dr. Bhagwat stated that it is only through integral view and not compartmentalized view that we can bring about the change in attitude. He also felt that it is our responsibility to show to the world that the age old traditions have solutions to modern problems. We have to become the instruments of change and for this we need to organize ourselves for the benefit of everything in this creation he concluded.
The 4-day event had transformed the delegates who arrived as strangers but returned as relatives. They felt empowered with the new connections and network. They could communicate with each other not with the help of a language but by their love, warmth, respect and affection for each other. The delegates returned with a renewed vigor and a greater clarity as to why the revitalization of their traditions is the need of the hour for the welfare of the world through a balanced and holistic approach.
Like Inra Jaka, who represents the small community of native Cham Hindus of Vietnam, convincingly stated that his struggle to retain everything that he finds closer to nature including arts, clothing, and philosophy is strengthened through this conference. His conviction for preservation of his tradition has grown thousand fold now.
Dr. Gulnara Aitpaeva attended such Gathering in Bharat for the first time and before setting off for her group’s journey back home to Kyrgyzstan said, “we would be attending the next conference in larger number and would also try to get representation from our neighboring countries. This conference has bolstered our self confidence.”
Report of the 4th International Conference Gathering of the Elders of Ancient Traditions and Cultures