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Posted: Wednesday, February 27, 2002 10:00 pm

An Indian couple from Stockton came to Lodi on Wednesday night to give a brief explanation of India to anyone interested in listening.

What S.K. and Nagalakshmi Harihareswara described is a culture steeped in religion with a strong belief in the power of education.

The Harihareswaras' visit was made possible by the Lodi Branch of the American Association of Educated Women and Lodi's Breakthrough Project.

"There is so much to gain from other cultures. We are enriched so much by this type of thing," said Joanne Donovan, of Lodi, a member of the AAEW.

The forum was attended by about 25 curious Lodians, eager to learn about India and the prevalent religion there: Hinduism.

The Harihareswaras spoke for nearly two hours at the Lodi Public Library, describing Indian culture, politics, education and religion. They brought along trinkets and artifacts to display to the mainly white audience.

The Harihareswaras moved from India to Oklahoma City in 1977. In 1992, they then moved to Stockton, where they now live.

Mr. Harihareswara spoke emphatically about religion and education in India, and became particularly animated while describing the monuments of his native country.

He described one sculpture that is made up of 12 pillars, each to represent one of the 12 solar months. Rays from the rising sun fall directly on each of the pillars at a certain date every month, he said.

Most of the monuments are related to Hinduism, he said.

"Eighty percent of the Indian population practices Hinduism," Mr. Harihareswara said.

"We teach our children to pray to God every day," Mrs. Harihareswara said.

Mr. Harihareswara drew a laugh from the crowd when, after having described many Hindu artifacts and monuments, someone asked him what the significance of an article of clothing over his shoulder was.

"This is a shawl," he said slowly. "It protects you from the cold and that sort of thing."

He had previously explained that although the worship of material representations of God is practiced, it is understood that those material items are not especially significant.

"The symbol or icon of God in Hinduism is varied, but the true believer knows that there is no single representation of God," Mr. Harihareswara said.

Along with an adamant belief in and commitment to Hinduism, the Harihareswaras said education is one of the top priorities in the Indian culture.

"Education is the only remedy for all ills," Mr. Harihareswara said.

"We push our children to study hard."

The couple then explained how India's public education system allowed them to make it from poor families in India all the way to America, where both of them have earned master's degrees.

Mr. Harihareswara finished his presentation with a Hindu hymn, which he asked the audience to join in with. The small group in attendance gladly obliged.

At the end of the presentation, Donovan stood up to thank the Harihareswaras.

"You've done the impossible, which is, capture the essence of India."

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