A Hindu Thanksgiving
If Thanksgiving is a festival of gratitude, then Hindus have been preparing for it their whole lives.
In India, take a walk down the Mumbai waterfront in the early morning mist, and you see ordinary citizens quietly feeding the fish and the birds. Their daily day doesn't really begin until the deities in their home shrine have been venerated with fresh flowers and offered prasadam. It is only after eating a little of this blessed offering does the family sit down to their meals. Many remember to keep aside a portion of the food for a hungry person or the birds. It is all about sharing. Every Hindu festival is about counting one's blessings and thanking God for them. Indeed, buying a new car or new home entails special puja or prayer ceremonies to bless the new item and to offer thanks. "Gratitude is exalted as one of the most important virtues (dharma) in many Hindu texts," says Dr. Vasudha Narayanan, Distinguished Professor of Religion, University of Florida.
"It is both a human and divine virtue; prayers and panegyrics say Vishnu has qualities such as compassion and gratitude. By this they mean that if a human being does a good deed, the divine being wants to show his gratitude in many ways. The Ramayana says: Krte ca prati kartavyam esham dharmah sanatanah (Ramayana, Sundara Kanda) "To repay a good deed with another--this is the essence of Sanatana Dharma." Narayanan, who is also Director, Center for the Study of Hindu Traditions (CHiTra) , has lived in Florida for many years and has seen how Hindu Americans have interacted with the festival of Thanksgiving.