From Saturday, February 13th to Monday, February 15th, Shri Surya Narayan Mandir held another Winter Retreat. Our goal was to keep our Hindu youths actively engaged with our culture and our religion during the winter break [to provide a supplement to our Summer Retreat], and to give the students a chance at positive social interaction. About forty campers were in attendance.
Every day began with Surya Namaskar and Sandhya (prayers, havan, and bhajans). After breakfast, the campers reconvened in the mandir for a lecture and discussion on the fifteenth chapter of the Srimad Bhagvad Gita. The fifteenth chapter deals with the qualities of God (or Atman) and how we can realize the nature of Atman. During yoga, campers performed Surya Namaskar and learned the twelve main names of Surya Narayan. They also learned about the various benefits of Surya Namaskar.
After lunch, the campers were divided into two groups. The younger campers enjoyed their own activities in our upstairs classroom with senior camper Hema Devi Hansraj and Mataji Sabita Hardowar. They learned special prayers, dhoons, and did arts and crafts.
The older campers remained in the mandir for a lecture by the senior campers. Unlike the summer camp, these lectures were focused on contemporary and cultural topics or life-skills. The first presentation was about applying to high school in New York City, which was followed by a discussion on applying to college and what high school and college life is like. Because of the small group size, we were able to discuss everyone’s future career plans as well. On the second day, campers were given a lecture on Indian sports and games. They learned about familiar games that originated in Ancient India and games that are commonly played in India and Indo-Caribbean countries today. Campers enjoyed games of Kabbadi (in which Pt. Toolsie and Pitaji Kedar Singh played) and Kho Kho.
On the third day of camp, campers were engaged in the 2010 Winter Camp Olympics. Campers were split into two teams and were engaged in various events testing their knowledge in Hindi, the Bhagvad Gita, Science, Mental Math, our Mandir, and other aspects of Indian culture. There was also a Kabbadi match, in which senior camper Sanjeeva Harinarain was declared the MVP. The day concluded with Lord Shiva Abhishekam, in which all of the campers were allowed a chance to participate. All of the campers enjoyed the camp and look forward to next year!