Sure the winter break is the time to get away from school, but children can forget a lot of what they learned in one week. At Shri Surya Narayan Mandir, we keep the learning going! Academics are essential, but religion is just as important. SSNM focuses on teaching children, teens, and adults alike the fundamentals of Hinduism. Youths need to know who they are, where they came from, and to be proud of themselves and their culture.
If you did not attend Shri Surya Narayan Mandir’s Winter Spiritual Retreat, then you missed out a weekend of fun and learning! It was the place to be! I found this year’s winter camp to be the most fun and educational so far! Here’s a synopsis of what we did.
The morning starts off with prayers, Surya Namaskar, and havan. Children are encouraged to participate in the havan. This is very exciting if you’ve never actually done havan before. Afterwards we have breakfast which is then followed by presentations from senior campers. Our theme this year was “Are all religions the same?” Each presentation focused on a different religion and discussed the founder, tenets, and basic rules among other things.
Hinduism is similar to many other religions but it has many unique qualities. Hinduism allows you to get very close to and experience god. Washing the feet of Bhagwan for example is only something that you can do in Hinduism and this helps develop Bhakti or devotion to Bhagwan. Everyone wants to get to God, but the ways we may get to God differ. Some groups refrain from eating certain foods such as meat, pork, and food that has not been blessed or prepared properly. Others hold special ceremonies during new stages in life (birth, marriage, getting children). Hindus celebrate these milestones or Sanskaras as well.
Next we exercise our mind and body with yoga. Most campers enjoy Shauasana. In this position, all you do is lie down on your back with your palms facing up. Doing shauasan even for five minutes revives the entire body and mind. It’s as if you’ve taken a power nap. This refreshes all the campers and gets them ready for lunch! Lunch is followed by an array of activities including learning Hindi, chowtaal singing, and break time.
I do believe, though, that the highlight of Winter Camp was the prominent Winter Olympics. All the campers are split up into two teams and compete for points. Every camper enjoys this because the Olympic categories are on a variety of topics. There is something for everyone. Campers go head-to-head on subjects they excel in. The categories are on a wide range of subjects such as fast math problems, geography, American and Indian entertainment, Hindi, housework, and many more
Of course there is always the final event: khabidhi! The two teams send out seven athletic competitors to play this exciting, challenging, and breath taking game-literally! Players must cross into opponent territory while holding their breath, tag someone, and run back as fast as possible while repeating the word “Khabidi” without getting tag by the opponent! It’s not as easy as it sounds! Join us next year to play. Can’t wait? Join our Summer Camp where you will be able to learn more about Sanatan Dharma and your culture while having fun as well. Sita Ram.