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Hindu service honors Parkland shooting victims, urges healing

The BAPS Hindu temple in Melville invited Long

The BAPS Hindu temple in Melville invited Long Islanders of all faiths to gather and pray for the victims of the Parkland, Florida, school shooting.  Credit: James Carbone

One day after protesters across the nation rallied for stricter gun control legislation, hundreds of people gathered at a Melville Hindu temple to offer prayers for peace.

From Vedic mantras to excerpts from the Bhagavad Gita, the BAPS Swaminarayan Mandir community took to spiritual healing in response to the Valentine’s Day school shooting that claimed 17 lives in Parkland, Florida.

“The power of prayer is something that should never be underestimated,” said Samir Bhatt, a 38-year-old temple member from Hicksville. “That’s how we can offer our help.”

Saahil Brahambhatt, 24, of Hewlett, recited a mantra called the Shanti Paath that ended with the word peace repeated three times.

Brahambhatt said that the mantra offered a different way to get the message across in these “turbulent times.”

“Humanity has one common goal and that’s peace and prosperity,” he said. “The message is the same — we want peace.”

The names of the 14 students and three teachers who were killed last month were read, followed by a moment of silence. Among the list was Scott Beigel, a Dix Hills-raised teacher who died shielding students from harm.

Huntington Town Supervisor Chad Lupinacci, who attended the prayer service, spoke of Beigel’s heroism and sense of community.

“As we come together in prayer today, we can hope to continue Scott’s legacy of giving to others, being a better person, and doing good, above all else,” Lupinacci said.

After the service, hundreds lined up to place flower petals in the temple’s ceremonial prayer room to honor the victims.

Members of the temple said that it was important for their community to hold events like the prayer service to provide solace and help inspire change.

“School has to be the last place for parents to worry about,” said Tina Shah, of Muttontown. “The more events we do like this, the more we’ll see change.”

Suniti Patel, 20, of New Hyde Park, said that she was gratified to see so many voices together.

“It helps you remember there is a greater purpose,” Patel said. “If you’re just one person, there’s no way you can make a change, but with that combined voice, you can.”

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