A 12-year-old Muslim girl, studying in Class 6 of a Mira Road school in Mumbai, secured the first place in a Bhagwad Gita competition organised by the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) last month.
Mariyam Asif Siddiqui, a student of Cosmopolitan High School in Mira Road, won the contest from among 4,500 students who appeared for the competition.
She received the first prize in an inter-school competition for explaining the teachings of the holy book.
Mariam Kadri, daughter of Asif Naseem Siddiqui, an editor of a local political magazine called Bartaman News, said, “My parents encouraged me to take part in the competition with a view that there is no need to hate any particular religion and it is important to know about the epics from religions to which they do not belong.”
Mariyam said she learned from Bhagwad Gita that humanity is the biggest religion in this world. "It was very interesting to read Bhagwad Gita as I have got a lot of information about life from it. The holy book has taught me the golden rules of life. It says that though there are many religions but humanity is the biggest religion among all," Mariyam said.
Students from more than 150 schools in Mumbai, Thane and Navi Mumbai had participated in "Shrimad Bhagwad Gita Champion League" organised by ISKCON, which included recitation of the Gita in English along with a written test conducted, in February. The prizes were distributed on March 15.
Siddiqui, her father, said, “These kids are the future of our nation. They should not be divided by religions and should be taught to respect all religions. We encouraged Mariam to recite the Gita, though in English, to make her understand the importance of the Mahabharata in Hindu religion. We also wish to teach her about different religions.”
"We are delighted. She prepared a whole month for the contest," he told PTI.
The English version of the holy book was given to students for a month for preparation purpose. A teacher was also appointed to help students understand the book in detail.
After a month, a written examination was held with 100 questions.
Asif said he is happy and a proud father as his daughter has shown a keen interest in reading a holy book of other religion.
"I have told children to respect every religion as they show us the right path," he said.
Sapana Brahmandkar, Mariam’s teacher at Cosmopolitan High School, Mira Road, said, “One day, Mariam had borrowed a book based on the Gita from me and she expressed a thought about participating in a competition organised by ISKCON. Every day, she would come to me and would ask doubts about the book. She would practice every day. She scored hundred percent in a competion despite being from different religion.”
The development comes as a whiff of fresh air at a time when politicians' comments about Gita created controversy.
(With inputs from PTI)