Universal Hindu and Sikh prayers were offered at the interfaith service in the Washington National Cathedral on Saturday to invoke divine blessings for new President Donald Trump and the nation. Hindu priest Narayanachar Digalakote prayed in Sanskrit for the government leaders in the first part of the service when prayers were said for those who govern.
Jesse Singh, the founder of American Sikhs for Trump, recited in Punjabi a prayer said by Guru Gobind Singh, the 10th Sikh master, in the segment of prayers for the people. Singh who was dressed in a suit and wore a dark turban, translated the invocation that was for unity, binding the common bonds of all and equality. Expanding on it, he added prayers for the most vulnerable in society and for those who perform the dangerous and dirty jobs for the well being of all. “Bless all whose lives closely linked with ours,” he prayed.
Wearing a saffron shawl and religious markings on his forehead, Digalakote recited a ‘shloka’ or hymn to invoke divine blessings for those who govern, in the first part of the ceremony of prayers for leaders.
Unlike Singh, the Jewish rabbis and the Muslim imam, who provided translations of their prayers and religious texts, the priest of the Shiva Vishnu Temple in Lanham, a Washington suburb, walked away after his rote recitation, leaving the congregants without an idea of what the prayer was about.
Nicknamed the “White House Priest”, Digalakote has participated in Deepavali celebrations at the White House under Barack Obama. While most of the Christian prayers at the service were focused on Christianity, the Hindu and Sikh prayers were ecumenical, addressed to a common deity.
For the first time for either the Democratic or Republican parties, a Sikh prayer was said at the opening of the second day’s session at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland last year.
Harmeet Dhillon, the Vice Chairperson of the California State Republican Party, opened the second night of the Republican National Convention by reciting the ‘ardaas’ or prayer. Trump has reached out to the American Hindu community, addressing a rally held by them last October, where he said he would be their friend in the White House. After his election, Trump called out to the Hindus in the audience at a “Thank-You” rally in Florida.
Trump’s son Eric visited a Hindu temple in Orlando, Florida, in the final days before the November election and his wife, Lara, visited a temple in Chantilly, Virginia, to celebrate Deepavali.