June 22, 2014
Jyeshtha Krushna Paksha Ekadashi, Kaliyug Varsha 5116
Tuesday’s City Council meeting will begin – for the first time – with a blessing in Sanskrit, spoken by a Hindu statesman from Nevada.
After Rajan Zed reads from the ancient scriptures, he will translate the prayer into English.
City Clerk Debra White researched City Council minutes.”From the looks of it, we have not had a Hindu prayer,” she said.
Zed describes himself as a global Hindu and interfaith leader. In July 2007, Zed received national media attention after three people shouted protests as he gave the first-ever Hindu prayer for the U.S. Senate.
Since then, he has offered prayers for local, state and federal government groups to raise awareness and educate others about the Hindu faith.
“And bring harmony,” he added.
Zed said government groups rarely refuse his invocation offers.
Zed, 60, traveled last week to Washington, D.C., to deliver Thursday’s invocation for the U.S. House of Representatives. Friday morning, he posted a photo of himself with House Speaker John Boehner on his Facebook page.
Since he’s on the East Coast for a week, he decided to pray at other government meetings. Hours after delivering the prayer for Congress, he did the same at a City Council meeting in Frederick, Md. He will pray in Laurel, Md., on Monday, then for Portsmouth’s government on Tuesday.
“Portsmouth is my last one,” Zed said.
Staffers from the city clerk’s office generally rely on local ministers or pastors to give the invocation – and they usually have to seek them out. “We don’t have them beating down our doors,” White said.
City Councilwoman Elizabeth Psimas said she didn’t know of any Hindu temples in Portsmouth. The Hindu Temple of Hampton Roads is located on Dominion Boulevard in Chesapeake.
“I think it’s cool. We’ve had rabbis and many different denominations. Why not a Hindu?” Psimas said. She wondered what led him to Portsmouth.
Zed said he chose Portsmouth because he’s heard good things about the city, although he was vague about the positives.
“I can’t give you the details,” he said.
His visit comes less than two months after the Supreme Court upheld legislative bodies’ right to begin meetings with prayer.
Zed has not kept track of the number of invocations he has offered; his best estimate was “many.”
“It is a lot of work, but it is very satisfying,” he said.