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The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

First designated Hindu prayer space on campus established in the Student Engagement Space

Vandy Karma unveiled the first designated Hindu prayer space on campus in an inaugural event on Feb. 22.
Urmika Nandwani
Layout of statues or “murtis” of Hindu deities at the prayer space, as photographed on Feb. 22, 2024. (Hustler Multimedia/Urmika Nandwani)

Vandy Karma inaugurated Vanderbilt’s first designated Hindu prayer space on campus in the new Student Engagement Space on Feb. 22. Used by various student organizations, the SES holds both religious and secular spaces, and the new Hindu prayer space will be open to all students. 

The inaugural event included Hindu religious rituals and a dinner. The ceremonies performed at the event were meant to sanctify the new space for religious purposes, according to junior Aditya Kurre, vice president of Vandy Karma.

“The ceremonies we conducted were Ganapati puja, punyahavachanam and vastu puja, which are typically held to eliminate obstacles associated with an endeavor, purify a new place of worship and protect a new home or space,” Kurre said. 

The new area will serve as a space for a Hindu prayer ritual called “puja” involving symbolic tributes offered to a “murti,” an image or statue representing a divine entity. Kurre said he hopes to have the space open for student use after spring break. 

“We hope to have this room open during the day and are looking into how we can maximize access without compromising on security,” Kurre said. “Anyone can visit the Puja room for contemplation or to learn about Hindu faith and tradition; however, it is a designated Hindu space that is managed by Vandy Karma.”

Kurre and senior Jeevan Rajkumar, president of Vandy Karma, told The Hustler that the creation of the space was a group effort between the board of Vandy Karma, the Office of Religious Life and the Dean of Students. 

“Knowing that we were in need of a space, University Chaplain Rev. Chris Donald advocated for us during the initial planning stages of the SES. Once the SES was put together, Rashi Gupta (our outreach coordinator) and I visited the space, selected our room and began setting up,” Kurre said.

Rev. Chris Donald, university chaplain and director of the Office of Religious Life, said the collaboration with Student Affairs to use the new SES as a place for community prayer is representative of the “belief and unity of purpose” of the university and the Center for Spiritual and Religious Life. 

“This pilot initiative introduces a shared multifaith prayer and non-sectarian contemplation space, highlighting our commitment to meeting the diverse spiritual needs of our students,” Donald said. 

Kurre said Vandy Karma hopes to transition their events to the SES in the future, where they have access to the puja room, basement, outdoor patio and community space. 

“In past events, we have had our puja set-up, dinner and performances all in the same space, usually the Student Life Center,” Kurre said. “This will ensure that individuals can have a quiet area to pray during our events even while dinner is being served or student groups are performing.”

Senior Shreya Gupta said she was eager to see future use of the new space by Vandy Karma and other student organizations. 

“I think it’s great that former Greek spaces are being reappropriated for all student organizations to use. I’m really excited to see what events Vandy Karma puts on in the new prayer space,” Shreya Gupta said. “I’m really excited as a Hindu student on this campus to see more representation and spaces for us too.”

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About the Contributors
Arman Amin
Arman Amin, Staff Writer
Arman Amin (‘27) is a student in the College of Arts and Science planning to major in political science. When not writing for The Hustler, you can find him listening to music, going for a run or spending time with friends. You can reach him at [email protected].
Shyla Lensing
Shyla Lensing, Staff Writer
Shyla Lensing (‘27) is from Corte Madera, Calif., and is double majoring in human and organizational development and public policy studies in Peabody College. Outside of The Hustler, you can find her running, solving NYT mini crosswords or eating an obscene amount of popcorn. She can be reached at [email protected].
Urmika Nandwani
Urmika Nandwani, Staff Photographer
Urmika Nandwani (‘26) is from South Jordan, Utah and studies biology and anthropology in the College of Arts and Science. When not taking pictures for The Hustler, she can be found cozied up with a good book or out and about on a run. She can be reached at [email protected].

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