2016-06-30
Sri Meenakshi Temple in Pearland, Texas, held Athma Shanthi Prarthana, a prayer service, on Sunday, February 2, 2003.

The Mayor of Pearland, the Consul General of India, and Chawla's relatives stand in front of lamps to be lit for each astronaut.





NASA scientist Vasantha Putcha, who worked closely with Kalpana Chawla, speaks at the ceremony.





From left to right, Chawla's father, cousin, and sister.






Chawla's father lights the fourth lamp for his daughter.






Service Program
Provided by Ranjana Narasiman

The service proceedings were lead by Dr. Vaduganathan, Secretary of the temple. Priest Emeritus, Sri. Rajarathna Bhattar recited a sloka (prayer) to begin the ceremony. Vice Chairman Mr. A.K. Subramanian explained about the importance of the Athma Shanthi Prarthana and the Chairman of the Advisory Council, Mr. Sam Kannappan spoke next. The Consul General of India, Honorable Skand R. Tayal, highlighted the grief that was personal and the glory that all human beings shared with these astronauts. Pearland Mayor Tom Reid, spoke kind words about the temple's social activities and offered his condolences to the family and friends.

Dr. Vasantha Putcha, who knew KC personally and who was her colleague at NASA, spoke emotionally about KC. KC was a very private and hard-working individual, she said. After witnessing the Challenger disaster herself as a NASA employee, she never thought something like that would happen again. She never was in any sense superstitious, she said, but her right eye was twitching constantly for the past one week perhaps could be explained. She was looking forward to the debriefing sessions with Will [McCool] and KC, she said. She also mentioned how closely Will and KC worked together as a team and how very much KC enjoyed attending her daughter's dance performance recently. Hindu Priests, Sri. Manicka Bhattar, Sri Doraiswamy Bhattar and Sri Tatacharyulu performed the "Athma Santhi Prarthana" (Prayer for the peace of the souls) by reciting some verses from the Upanishads (a segment of the Vedas - the scriptural texts of the Hindus). Seven brass lamps were arranged on the stage in front of the Hindu deity to remember each of the astronauts. KC's father, Mr. Chawla, lighted one of the lamps to remember his daughter. The priests and a few dignitaries lighted each of the other six lamps.

To conclude the service, Dr. Arun Mukhopadhyay recited a famous verse from "The Bhagavad Gita" (Song of the Lord) in Sanskrit and expounded the meaning of the verse in English. This verse is advice to the disheartened warrior Arjuna by the Lord Himself asking Arjuna to carry on with his duty and not to lose heart, for the soul is eternal and immortal, and can never be destroyed by the elements. An elder of the community, Mr. V. Arumugam, recited another prayer in Tamil from "Periya Puranam." Prayers and time alone can heal the personal sorrow that the families face today. All of us will, forever, remember the glories of these seven astronauts.

more from beliefnet and our partners