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Samskrita Bharati's Fifth Annual Shloka Competition

P. Vani and R. Vidya

“Namo NamaH | Mama naama ...” With these words of introductions in Sanskrit the children of the Greater Boston area, one after another, marked their participation in Samskrita Bharati’s Annual Shlokasparddhaa – Shloka Recitation Competition. This annual event has been bringing families to Sadhu Vaswani Center in Dracut, MA for the last five years. Sri. Giri Bharathan, east coast coordinator for Samskrita Bharati, in his welcome address said - “The purpose of the competition is to introduce the children to the rich world of Shlokas, and to expose them to the wonderful heritage of Samskritam. Learning the Shlokas and understanding their meaning will evoke children’s curiosity and interest to know more about the Indian culture and heritage”.

About 50 children, ranging from pre-KG to Ninth grade, spread across four different groups, recited shlokas from Valmiki Ramayana. As with the previous years, the younger groups had the strongest participation. There were several children for whom this was the fifth year of participation! It was a gathering of enthusiastic, brave, young children from all around the Greater Boston area – as far west as Worcester, MA and as far north as Manchester, NH, who came up to the podium and boldly recited the shlokas. It was not uncommon for the younger participants to have memorized more than expected.  In the interest of time, and to be fair to all the children, the organizers had to request that the children not recite any additional shlokas. Such was the enthusiasm of the children at the Shloka competition.

The children were judged not just for their memorization and pronunciation skills but also for their overall presentation and effect on the audience. One of the judges noted that some of the children’s recitation skills – emotions, delivery style, diction, non-accented pronunciation - were exceptional and expressed the wish that more children would speak more of their mother-tongue at home to maintain fluency.

Smt. Ranjani Saigal,  Bharatanatyam dancer and teacher, was the chief guest for the evening. The teacher in her transformed the gathering into a fun and interactive classroom session – quizzing the children on their knowledge of Ramayana, and inspiring them to learn and use Samskritam.

This account would not be complete without mentioning the efforts of the parents who motivated their children to participate in the competition and also worked diligently to help them practice reciting the Shlokas, and understand their meaning. It was very clear that they had put in as much effort as the children themselves in making the event a success.

Samskrita Bharati is a non-profit organization dedicated to bringing Samskritam back into daily life as a spoken language. Samskritam classes are conducted by Samskrita Bharati volunteers in many U.S. cities including several locations in the greater Boston area. Also, family and youth residential Samskritam camps are organized every year. Shraddhaa, the third annual east coast youth Samskritam camp, is scheduled for July 5 -11 this year and Jaahnavii, the annual east coast residential family Samskritam camp is scheduled for the labor day long weekend. For more information about Samskrita Bharati’s classes and camps, please visit : www.samskritabharati.org

(P. Vani and R. Vidya are software engineers in the Greater Boston Area. They also volunteer for Samskrita Bharati. )

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