West Point makes history with Hindu Baccalaureate service

(L to R) 2LT Nakul Rao, 2LT Aaryan Gautam, 2LT Rathin Shah and 2LT Rahil Thanawala (Photo provided/Rupal Thanawala)
(L to R) 2LT Nakul Rao, 2LT Aaryan Gautam, 2LT Rathin Shah and 2LT Rahil Thanawala. (Photo provided/Rupal Thanawala)

The United States Military Academy at West Point (USMA) made history with its first Hindu Baccalaureate service.

For the first time in its 222-year history, West Point performed a traditional Hindu Baccalaureate service for four of its graduating cadets and their friends and family on May 22. The formal graduation service took place on May 25 with President Joe Biden delivering the commencement speech.

“It was our home away from home, and I am so glad the Hindu community finally came together,” 2nd Lt. Rahil Thanawala said in a statement. “I empower cadets to take it from here, make it bigger and keep up the traditions.”

USMA, which was founded in New York in 1802, has a long history of excluding woman and people of color from attending until the 1970s. To this day, West Point is known as the world’s premier military academy.

Graduation week at West Point features several events for the community and families. The ceremony saw 1,036 cadets graduate. The ceremony is usually covered by most national news outlets and was broadcast live on C-Span.

Other religious groups have been traditionally honored during graduation ceremonies — including a ceremony in 2020 for second Lt. Anmol Narang, the first Sikh observant to graduate from West Point.

In a small chapel in West Point, cadets chanted the Hindu mantra in Sanskrit to respect, protect and serve the nation, citizens, friends and family. The priest tied a wristband as a shield of protection, and parents joined in prayers to offer blessings to the soon-to-be second lieutenants.  

Ten Hindu cadets graduated from class 1036. However, only four attended the ceremony. Four cadets from the class of 2025-27 joined and vowed to continue this tradition.

For more information, visit westpointaog.org.


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