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Bala Gokulam School Of The Hindu Temple Of NH Celebrates Second Annual Day

K. Arvind

The Hindu Temple of New Hampshire celebrated the second anniversary of Bala Gokulam, the Temple’s cultural school, on Saturday, June 15th 2013, in the Broad Street Elementary School Auditorium in Nashua, NH. The occasion was also used to observe a volunteers appreciation day to recognize the valuable contributions made by the Temple’s corps of dedicated volunteers.

The mission of Bala Gokulam, whose name evokes images of children growing in the company of the playful young  Lord Krishna, is to connect the children and youth in the Greater Nashua Hindu community with their Indian roots and heritage. The school draws from the “Purna Vidya” curriculum for value based cultural education for children. The “Purna Vidya” curriculum was developed under the guidance of Poojya Swami Dayananda Saraswathi. The children are organized into three groups based on their grade level. Children attending kindergarten through second grade are placed in the “Dhruva” group. This year the “Dhruva” children learned about “Sri Krishna Leela”, a series of stories describing the playful and divine pranks of Lord Krishna. The “Prahlada” group which consists of children in third through fifth grades learned the Ramayana. Older children, sixth grade and above, are placed in the “Shankara-Sharada” group and were taught the Mahabharatha. Children in all the groups are taught introductory Sanskrit in collaboration with Samskrita Bharathi.

The annual day celebrations started with a recitation of Vidyarambha Stotram, Gayatri Mantras and  Lingashtakam by all the students. This was followed by a song and dance performance by the “Dhruva” children of “Chinna Chinna Padam Vaithu” (a Tamil composition by Ambujam Krishna) and Krishnashtakam, both in praise of Lord Krishna.  Sivaharan Thurairasa provided percussion support on the tabla. The hard work put in by the children and the teachers Chitra Krishnaswamy, Chitra Balaji, Shanthi Sathish, and Praveena Suresh was evident from the children’s excellent performance.  

The next item was a choral rendering of Sri Vishnu Sahasranamam by the “Shankara-Sharada” group of students. This was followed by an interesting debate titled “Dhritarashtra – The Leader’s Dilemma” with a theme drawn from the Mahabharatha, and moderated by Raidu Rayasam. The two debating teams were drawn from the “Shankara-Sharada” group and were led by Krithika Suresh and Nishanth Ganeshbabu respectively. The teams debated questions such as “Did Dhritarashtra deserve to be king?”, “Was he a good father”, “Was he a good King”, and “Did Dhritarashtra do enough to prevent war?” The participants demonstrated an impressive knowledge of the Mahabharatha as well as good debating skills. However, thanks to the more forceful arguments presented by Krithika’s team, Dhritarashtra most unexpectedly emerged as a virtuous king and father, surprising everyone. Raidu Rayasam quoted an interesting metaphorical explanation for Dhritarashtra’s blindness during the debate. He suggested that Dhritarashtra was not really physically blind. He was merely blind to the evil tendencies exhibited by his sons, and Dhritarashtra’s wife Gandhari did not really wear a blindfold, she just blindly supported Dhritarshtra. Lakshmi Munugoor, who leads the Bala Gokulam effort, noted that  the bad company of Shakuni was the source of strife in the Mahabharatha, and humorously concluded that the epic would have turned out very differently had Duryodhana only attended the satsangh (good company) provided by Bala Gokulam!

The debate was followed by a recitation of various Sanskrit Shlokas by the “Dhruva” group of kids.  Srijit Rangan, who won the first prize in the “Sri Patanjali Vibhuti Pada Shloka Sparsha”, a Sanskrit recitation competition held recently by Samskrita Bharathi, was recognized. Srijit who is not even old enough to read apparently memorized the winning lines of verse just by listening to an audio recording. The little children then presented a Sanskrit skit called “Kakasya Katha” based on the  “Crow and the Pitcher” fable.  

The Sanskrit skit was followed by a recitation of Hanuman Chalisa  by the “Prahlada” group. Latha Dasari next conducted a trivia competition based on the Ramayana. The competition consisted of 3 teams drawn from the “Prahlada” group, called “Rama”, “Lakshmana” and “Bharata”. The audience was the “Shatrugna” team and was designated to answer questions that the other three teams failed to answer correctly. However, the “Prahlada” group was so well prepared and had such good knowledge of the Ramayana that all three teams answered all questions posed to them correctly, never giving the “Shatrugna” team a chance, and making the job of scorekeeper Sathappan very easy. Clearly the teachers had done an excellent job teaching the Ramayana to the children.

Other highlights of the celebration included a talk by Veeramani Ranganathan, a brief interlude by Srinivasan Krishnamoorthy explaining how simply chanting the Rama Nama (the sweet and sacred name of Lord Rama) could confer the same benefits as chanting more difficult Mantras, an excellent audio visual presentation on the history of the Temple and Bala Gokulam by the children, and a vote of thanks proposed by Lakshmi Munugoor.  The meticulous efforts of Chandru Subramaniam, the program manager and coordinator, shone through well.  The MCs Prem Rao and Sathish Narayanan did a fine job of compering the program.  Samskrita Bharathi was represented at the event by Karthi Chandra and Sam Mohan.

The event clearly demonstrated that Bala Gokulam has been effective in connecting the children to their cultural roots in spite of the vast geographical separation from India and their immersion in a more global culture. The annual day concluded with a song in Sanskrit that seemed to capture the ethos of the school and the Temple community:

मनसा सततम् स्मरणीयम्          Let us constantly remember           
वचसा सततम् वदनीयम्             Let us constantly repeat
लोकहितम् मम करणीयम्          Our duty is to do good to the world

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