Before Dharma was founded, Harvard’s Hindu Fellowship—a program sponsored by the Vedanta Society of Boston—played a role in establishing a Hindu presence on the University’s campus. Though the Hindu Fellowship still offers classes and worship services, a group of students decided that Hindu Harvard students would benefit from having their own social, political, and philosophical forum. “Dharma: Harvard’s Hindu Student Association” was founded in the spring of 1997. The group was formed in order to organize holiday celebrations, Pujas (devotional rituals), discussion opportunities, and visits to local Hindu temples. Dharma has remained active on Harvard’s campus under the leadership of different co-presidents each year. The group has created new traditions (such as Deepavali celebrations at Lowell House Masters' Residence) while still continuing old traditions as well. One of the Dharma's most notable accomplishments was the creation of a Hindu prayer space, which was completed in September of 2006. Furthermore, Swadharma, Harvard's Hinduism Journal, and the Harvard Garba team (a traditional Indian dance team) were formed with support from Dharma during the 2005-2006 school year.
Dharma holds services in a prayer space located in the basement of Canaday Hall, a dormitory for freshman on the Harvard University campus. This room is open for use twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week as a sanctified space for worship. The prayer room contains an altar with murti (images of Deities), and large, decorative rugs cover the floor. Posters explaining tenents of Hinduism hang on the walls. In the back of the room, there is a collection of books and movies related to Hinduism.
Activities and Schedule
Dharma holds frequent Pujas and Aartis (rituals) in the prayer space to honor various Deities. The styles of these rituals vary to reflect the different manners in which they are done in India. Additionally, the group hosts discussion forums on topics such as what it means to be a Hindu or Buddhist-Hindu exchanges. These discussions are meant for Hindus and non-Hindus alike. The group also hosts large celebrations of Hindu festivals including Deepavali and Holi. One of the groups most widely attended events is Hungama, a dance party, which has had over three-hundred people in attendance. Dharma is associated with the Harvard Garba team, which performs traditional Indian dance at various venues. Swadharma, a semi-annual journal dedicated to the presentation of Hinduism and Indian philosophy, is published in association with Dharma.