Several members of Hindu Students Council’s National Leadership team attended and spoke at the recently concluded Hindu Mandir Executives’ Conference (HMEC), in Indianapolis. The annual conference, which spanned the weekend of September 17- 19, is organized by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America (VHP-A) and aims to help mandirs connect with each other and dialogue on several important issues. This year, the theme of the conference—the Digital Mandir—lent itself crucially to a strong youth presence, and HSC members spoke and participated in dynamic ways.
Treasurer Sohini Sircar and General Secretary Parth Parihar, along with members of the Coalition of Hindu Youth (CHY), helped to coordinate youth sessions related to bettering the ways in which mandirs can harness social media to better reach a youth demographic. Today, in many mandirs, the faces that populate the worshippers are often those of the first-generation that arrived here decades ago. Their children have grown disconnected from their Hindu roots. HSC leader Riddhi Patel underscored that even when younger children attend, they often do so at the behest of their parents, and don’t have an inherent stake in the mandir or the community.
Here, HSC plays and can continue to help play a crucial role. This is precisely the topic that HSC President Ravindra Jaishankar addressed in his plenary talk on Saturday, calling on mandir leaders to diversify programming and services to attract youth. Jaishankar proposed SAT tutoring, classical dance and music, along with a host of other programs that could be harnessed to deliver what the Hindu youth of today is looking for, transforming the mandir into a community hub.
As Parihar pointed out, HSC’s presence on social media remains a vital connection for youth throughout the country, as it is the Hindu American organization with the largest reach on Facebook and is transitioning into other fora like Instagram and Twitter. The presentation Parihar delivered on the misrepresentation of Hinduism in Western education was in the form of a YouTube video to make content generated through HMEC easily accessible to participants outside the venue. Sircar helped formulate a ‘Digital Guide’ for mandirs that is a user-friendly list of “do’s” and “don’ts” that will help shape the ways mandirs reach out to a youth base.
HSC leaders Venkat Ganesh and Riddhi Patel helped shape the discussion during the youth session and enthusiastically networked with others throughout the duration of conference. Said Ganesh of his first HMEC experience, “HMEC 2017 was a memorable first for me. I had the opportunity to meetup with many like-minded, young followers of Dharmic traditions (and celebrate Ravi’s birthday with my HSC friends!). Representing HSC at the event, it gave me a platform to share the work that our organization was doing across different campuses in the country. I enjoyed discussions at the youth session where one of the topics was – how to engage the youth to be more involved in temple activities and leverage social media platforms to stay connected with the local temple. It was pleasing to see active participation and good suggestions put forward by the young group. Also having Aarti at the HTCI temple and subsequent live music-dance performances gave a nice touch to the event. Overall, the event was well planned out and I look forward to attending it next year”.
Through its pool of dedicated leaders, Hindu Students Council hopes to continue to have a strong presence at future HMEC’s and contribute to this very noble effort to uplift Hindu dharma for the next generation.