Five and a half years after a Hindu prayer opened a US Senate session, Tulsi Gabbard, the first Hindu to be elected to the US House of Representatives, created history by taking the oath of office on the Bhagavad Gita, the sacred Hindu text.
Raised by a Hindu mother and a Catholic father in "a multiracial, multicultural, multifaith family," Gabbard, 31, the first American Samoan and one of the first female combat veterans in US Congress, became the first US lawmaker ever to take the oath of office on the Gita on Thursday.
In July 2007, when a Hindu clergyman offered the Senate's first Hindu morning prayer, three persons disrupted the ceremony and were arrested. But Gabbard's oath taking ceremony went without any incident on Thursday.
Proud of her Hindu religion, Gabbard, who is not of Indian origin but embraced a Hindu identity as a teenager, hopes to make her first trip to India soon.
Democrat Gabbard, who represents Hawaii in the Congress previously served on the Honolulu City Council and as a Hawaii state representative. She was the youngest woman in the United States to be elected to a state legislature.
"I chose to take the oath of office with my personal copy of the Bhagavad Gita because its teachings have inspired me to strive to be a servant-leader, dedicating my life in the service of others and to my country," Gabbard said after the swearing in ceremony.
"My Gita has been a tremendous source of inner peace and strength through many tough challenges in life, including being in the midst of death and turmoil while serving our country in the Middle East," she said explaining why she chose to take the office on the Gita.
"I was raised in a multi-racial, multi-cultural, multi-faith family. My mother is Hindu; my father is a Catholic lector in his church who also practices mantra meditation. I began to grapple with questions of spirituality as a teenager," Gabbard said.
"Over time, I came to believe that, at its essence, religion gives us a deeper purpose in life than just living for ourselves. Since I was a teenager, I have embraced this spiritual journey through the teachings of the Bhagavad-Gita.
"... In so doing, have been blessed with the motivation and strength to dedicate my life in service others in a variety of ways," she said.