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15.8.09

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Appointed by US President Barack Obama as a member of a faith-based advisory council of the White House, Anju Bhargava, a
banker and a Hindu priest, hopes to remove the ignorance about Hinduism and spread the "real meaning" of the rituals associated with the religion.

42-year-old Anju Bhargava, president of the Asian Indian Women in America (AIWA), is the second Indian American appointed to the council which is part of the White House Office of Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships and includes religious, secular leaders and scholars from different backgrounds as its members.

A graduate of Stella Maris College, Madras University, Bhargava, who was born and brought up in Chennai, says, "Most people do not understand Hinduism or the ritual process. I have a computer presentation to explain the context, the meaning of the symbols and why we do the puja. It is not just a traditional recitation.

"I would say, actually, for me, doing pujas took 25 years of preparation. Most people go from ritual to philosophy. I have gone from philosophy to ritual", Bhargava, possibly the only Indian American women priest in the United States, told PTI in an e-mail.

She stressed on the need "to bridge the gap between philosophy and rituals".

"Only then will the rituals be meaningful and not just something we are doing because someone is telling us to do them and in a language we don't understand," Bhargava, whose mother Sarla Bhargava hailed from Rewari and who herself shared a "deep-rooted" connection with the district, said.
"I want people to come away with more of an understanding of the Vedantic Hindu tradition and the richness of the puja," Bhargava, who was appointed to the Council in April for a period of one year, said.

She began her career over two decades ago as a banker and has held senior level positions in corporate America, focusing on business transformation, organizational development and risk management.

Currently she is also working with Rutgers Business School as a Fellow of Department of Accounting, Business ethics and information systems.

She is the president of Asian Indian Women in America (AIWA) and has worked extensively in areas such as employment, career development, cultural acculturation, integration, health, education and general.

Bhargava was the only Indian-American to serve in the Community Builder Fellowship, former U S President Bill Clinton's White House initiative (1998-2000).

For the past 20 years, she has been the Hindu representative for Livingstone's Interfaith Clergy Association and is a member of the Collective Hindu Initiative.

The Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) is organising a special function to felicitate Bhargava for her achievements here on August 16.

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