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‘A place that feels peaceful and inviting’: Meet Priya Amaresh, Duke’s new Hindu chaplain

Priya Amaresh, Duke’s new Hindu chaplain, is excited to continue developing her passion for spiritual education in a new community. Photo courtesy of Priya Amaresh.
Priya Amaresh, Duke’s new Hindu chaplain, is excited to continue developing her passion for spiritual education in a new community. Photo courtesy of Priya Amaresh.

Priya Amaresh, Duke’s new Hindu chaplain, is excited to continue developing her passion for spiritual education in a new community.

“I'm here to offer study groups, I’m here to offer workshops, I’m here to offer one-on-one conversations,” Amaresh said. “I’m humbled by being in this position. I love working with students.”

Amaresh was born in Bangalore, India and moved to Flint, Mich. at the age of three. She went on to complete her undergraduate and graduate degrees in the field of education at the University of Michigan and has been teaching elementary and middle school classes for the past 20 years.

Since moving to Durham in 2006, Amaresh has worked in the restaurant and early childcare businesses—all while continuing to teach—and is currently a part-time yoga instructor. 

Hinduism has always been an important part of Amaresh’s life, she said. Growing up in a small Indian community in Michigan gave her “a good spiritual foundation.”

“Chaplains give you that moral support, the spiritual guidance to help guide you towards maybe certain teachings that will answer some of your questions,” Amaresh said.

Amaresh began her new position as Duke’s third-ever Hindu chaplain Aug. 12 and has been working closely with Duke’s Hindu Students Association, other Hindu organizations on campus and interfaith religious life groups ever since. 

Amaresh believes that teachers learn from their students just as much as the reverse and has brought this way of thinking to her new role. 

“We’re being educated all our lives, whether it’s from a sage or whether it’s from a child,” Amaresh said. “I would love to educate, to share the knowledge [with] non-Hindu students or faculty, or anybody who’s interested. It’s a great learning experience for all of us to step into another community and see how they practice and what their beliefs are.”

The Hindu community at Duke is very diverse, Amaresh said. 

“We are working with the diaspora of Hindus, the international students—it’s going to be great,” Amaresh said. “The numbers show that we need somebody similar in our own respective cultures and religious faiths. Ultimately, we’re all working towards the same goal to find that happiness and peace.” 

Amaresh aims to establish a Center for Hindu Life at Duke, but in the meantime, the yoga studio at Swift 300 will serve as a temporary gathering place.

“Our space should be open to whoever is interested, whoever has that inquisitiveness to know and then respect what we’re offering. A place that feels peaceful and inviting.”

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