(Left) Rashmi Samant, coordinator of the conference, (Right), Swami Vigyananand Ji, founder of the World Hindu Foundation. (Image by arrangement)
More than 2,500 delegates from as many as 60 countries will to fly into Bangkok on November 24-26 when the World Hindu Congress (WHC) takes place at the spacious Impact Exhibition and Convention Centre.
With 1.2 billion Hindus living in more than 20 countries of the world accounting for 16 per cent of the global population, the World Hindu Congress is a global platform for Hindu leaders, activists, academics, industrialists, parliamentarians, to come together and express their solidarity.
The first World Hindu Congress was held at New Delhi in 2014, which attracted 1,800 delegates from 53 countries.
The second was held in 2018 at Chicago, United States, the city famous for Swami Vivekananda’s brilliant speech introducing Hinduism at the World Parliament of Religions in 1874. This WHC attracted 2,450 delegates from 55 countries.
More numbers are expected for the WHC in Bangkok, Thailand.
Swami Vigyananand Ji, founder of the World Hindu Foundation that organises the WHC, described the Thai capital as a "very special venue", with its airport named Suvaranbhumi and its most revered religious text being the Ramakien (Ramayana).
"With our shared heritage, this is a landmark World Hindu Congress in Thailand," he declared. The purpose of the WHC, according to the swami, a former graduate of IIT, is "to make Hindus visible, respectable, and acceptable".
Like the earlier Congresses, the three-day Bangkok event one will have seven important conferences on diverse subjects including economics, politics, education, youth, women, and media and organisations.
The World Hindu Economic Forum is one of the most important segments and will bring together industrialists, entrepreneurs, bankers, economists and business strategists. Swami Vigyananand Ji quoted Swami Vivekananda’s words from his Chicago speech in this regard to say "Whenever any religion succeeds, it must have economic value."
Among the speakers, are Uday Samant, minister for industries, government of Maharashtra, Sridhar Vembu, CEO, Zoho Corporation, Ashish Chauhan, CEO, NSE, Upendra Mahato, chairman, Nepal Mediciti Hospital, and others.
The Hindu Education Conference will discuss educational policies to promote justice, equity and economic opportunities. The speakers include educators, academicians, historians and writers. They are Dr Anurag Mairal from Stanford Varsity, historian Dr Vikram Sampath, poet Arjun Bharadwaj, author David Frawley (Vamdev Shastri) and others.
The Hindu Women’s Conference, will include women from diverse backgrounds such as lawyers, activists and authors. The speakers comprise Dr Asha Pillai from the University of Miami’s Miller School of Medicine, Deepti Kataria, president of the Indian community in Egypt, Supreme Court lawyer Monika Arora, life coach Akila Swaminathan, actress Pallavi Joshi and others.
The Hindu Youth Conference will strategically align the regional, national and international Hindu youth to work on capacity building, in the fields of economy, education and human rights. Among the speakers are Kushagr Sharma, founding member of the Canadian Hindu Chamber of Commerce. Praneet Madhu, former president, Hindu Yuva, Ohio, USA, academician Deepali Kulkarni, health tech entrepreneur Brinda Kotak, and others.
The Hindu Media Conference will discuss the role media play in shaping global perceptions and narratives of the Hindu community, and includes journalists, film-makers, TV and media professionals. The speakers include Anand Narasimhan, Mg Editor, CNN News 18, author Amy Ganatra, film-maker Vivek Agnihotri, and others.
The Hindu Organisations Conference will enable dialogues for coordination and collaboration among various Hindu organisations. The delegates include dharmic scholars, and representatives of various Hindu religious organisations. Among the speakers are Prof. Prakasarao Velagapudi, president of the Global Hindu Heritage Foundation, Sradhanand Sital from the Netherlands, Sri Aru Thirumurugan from Sri Lanka, well-known religious leader Mata Amritanandmayi and others.
The Hindu Political Conference is one of the most looked-forward-to, as it has a wide range of leaders, lawmakers, politicians and academics, from diverse countries.
According to Rashmi Samant, coordinator of the political conference, these include prominent Hindu personalities from as many countries as Fiji, Surinam, Maldives, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Australia, Norway and Qatar.
She informed that invitations have been sent to British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and American politician Vivek Ramaswami. Their attendance would depend on their schedules. She spoke with pride of the presence of a Hindu activist from Pakistan and the first Hindu MP from Colombia.
Rashmi Sawant is well-known for being the first Indian woman to be elected as the president of the prestigious Oxford Students Union in 2022, only to resign soon after, because "I was vilified for my caste!" She wrote a book about her experiences On being a Hindu in Oxford, and when she returned to India with her master’s degree, spoke at length about it to diverse Indian groups, from media to students and professionals. It was after her Oxford experience that Rashmi turned to the Bhagwad Gita for emotional and intellectual comfort. A meeting with Swami Vigyananand Ji inspired her further, and Rashmi is now intensively preparing for her first World Hindu Congress.
One noticed how she used the name Bharat instead of India during our long conversation.
The articulate youngster was excited that the WHC was being held in Bangkok which she described as "The Gateway of SE Asia".
She was proud that there were Hindu temples, in almost all the southeast Asian countries, from Thailand to Cambodia, Indonesia, Mauritius, Burma, and even Vietnam.
"This is a time for Bharat to celebrate our shared heritage," she declared.
The World Hindu Congress will be held on November 24-26, at Impact Arena Exhibition and Convention Centre, Bangkok.