Relevance, Role and Resurgence of Vaishnavism studies in 21st century.
Scholars and academicians from various parts of the country and abroad converged at the Kalina campus of Mumbai University to participate in a first of its kind International conference on the topic “Relevance, Role and Resurgence of Vaishnavism studies in 21st century.” Jointly organized by the Bhaktivedanta Vidyapitha Research Center of ISKCON and Shree Halari Oswal College, the conference witnessed participation of more than 200 students, scholars and administrators from the field of academia. Honorable Vice Chancellor of Mumbai University, Dr. Sanjay Deshmukh and several other dignitaries like Dr Satish Modh, Director of Vivekanand Institute of Management Studies, Mrs Maya Shahani, Chairperson at Thadomal Shahani Centre for Management, Dr. Chandrakant Puri, a Chair Professor at Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Contemporary Studies, HG Gauranga Das from ISKCON Mumbai inaugurated the conference by lighting the lamps. It was followed by Sarasvati Vandana and the University Anthem.
Dr. Sanjay Desmukh in the Welcome note spoke that ethos and scriptures have always guided the nation since time immemorial and universities can play a major role in resolving the problems and needs of the society by connecting to the sacred ethos.
HG Gauranga Das, Chairperson of Bhaktivedanta Vidyapitha Research Center in his Key note address mentioned that today the World is changing faster than ever before and in such a state of flux we need to ground ourselves into the unchangeable principles of scriptures like the Bhagavad Gita. He said that the root cause of modern day problems lies in the disharmony of the self with the people and environment around, and this can be addressed by developing one’s connection with divinity leading to harmonious co-existence of self, society and surroundings . This attempt to connect with the Supreme is the common principle amongst various spiritual traditions.
The conference witnessed scholarly paper presentations by Dr Ferdinando Sardella, a Swedish scholar on the history of religions from Stockholm University, Dr. Sk. Makbul Islam, Ph. D. in Comparative Folklore from the University of Calcutta, Dr Ruby Sain Head of the Department of Sociology at Jadavpur University, Dr. Gauri Mahulikar and Dr. Madhavi Narsalay, former and current HOD at Department of Sanskrit, MU respectively.
Dr. Ferdinando Sardella mentioned that study of Vaishnavism has been long neglected in India and there is a need of scholarly work bring to light several unexplored areas in the field of Vaishnavism which deserve attention. Dr. Makbul Islam’s paper on ‘Vaishnavism in Cultural Space: East and North-East India’ was a special attraction. A keen follower of Jagannath culture, Dr Makbul presented an interesting account of the history of Vaishnava art, culture and worship. He also drew parallels between Vaishnavism and Islam.
The conference concluded with a Panel Discussion on the topic “Mapping the field of Vaishnava studies: How to develop the field of Vaishnava studies in India”. Dr Shubhada Joshi, former HOD Department of Philosophy, MU, Dr Kala Acharya director of K.J. Somaiya Bharatiya Sanskriti Peetham, Dr. Shakuntala Gawde Assistant Professor, Department of Sanskrit, MU and Dr Ferdinando Sardella threw light on various ways in which research and studies in field of Vaishnava studies could be facilitated.
Dr Vinayak Dalvie, an eminent academician and OSD for the Mumbai University congratulated ISKCON for organizing this conference and initiating a new field of research on Vaishnavism. A concluding Vote of Thanks was presented by Dr. Rambhau Badode, Professor, Department of English, University of Mumbai. Special thanks were offered to Dr. Snehal Donde, Principal, Hillary Visa Oswal College and Dr Sumanta Rudra, Director of Bhaktivedanta Vidyapitha Research Center who played pivotal role in conceiving and organizing the conference. Overall the conference registered novel ideas and inspiration on how the knowledge and art rich tradition of Vaishnavism could help contribute to the social, cultural, scientific, economic and ecological wealth of humanity.