JOHANNESBURG: A book extolling the virtues of Hindu deity Vishnu by South African pandita Lucy Sigaban has found favour among not just Hindus but leaders of other religious communities as well.
The book transliterates the 1,000 names of Vishnu into English to make it accessible to all South Africans and especially Hindu youth, many of whom cannot read Hindi or Sanskrit.
The book "Vishnu" 1,000 Names' was inspired by an incident in Sigaban's life that led to a seven-year study of the Vishnu Sahastranam before she decided to share it with others.
"The year 2005 saw me at an all-time low. I was without a job for over a year by then and my car was repossessed by the bank. My sons Nitai and Gaura were young and it was extremely tough. As stated by the wise, during difficult times one needs to seek solace in the Almighty and by performing the Satya Narayan Vrat Katha one's challenges can be eased," Sigaban said as she explained how she and her husband at the time, Randolf, decided to undertake a fast and pooja to seek divine intervention to address their challenges.
As we set about our engagement for this pooja, Randolf asked me: "Katha means story, then what is the pooja because the Katha refers to Satya Narayan Katha and Pooja, what is so important about this prayer now when we are struggling?' I was dumb struck I didn't have an answer!" Sigaban said.
"Prior to that I was very reluctant to do Bhagwaan Vishnu's pooja. To me he is God, the embodiment of truth, love and righteousness. I always felt that I was not worthy to do his pooja, because he is the mighty God and I just didn't match up to be his devotee."
Randolf's questions set me on a quest of finding Vishnu, so I embarked on a journey of getting to know Shree Satya Narayan Bhagwaan, who is also known as Vishnu. I read the Vishnu Puran, Bhagavad Gita, Narayan Puran, Iso Upanishad and in the process of looking for him, I fell hook line and sinker for Vishnu Bhagwaan.
"In my search I discovered the pot of gold at the end of my rainbow the Vishnu Sahastranam which took me approximately seven years of daily practice to learn this beautiful prayer," said the pandita who trained in India.
Sigaban is renowned in the greater Johannesburg area for her work in assisting the Hindu community, especially those in the lower socio-economic group, with Hindu rituals ranging from various poojas to weddings and funerals.
Members of the Hindu, Muslim, Christian and Traditional African Religion communities attended the launch of the book at the weekend inside the Durga Mandir in the mainly Indian township of Lenasia, south of Johannesburg.
"Who told you that a member of the Christian Church would never attend a function inside a Hindu temple?" said K.Meshack Tembe, head of the Interfaith Desk in the City of Johannesburg, as he lauded Sigaban's progressive approach in bringing about social and religious cohesion through her work.
The book is to be distributed free to libraries across South Africa through the support of sponsors.