According to Swami Chinmayananda “Children are not vessels to be filled, but lamps to be lit. The seed of spiritual values should be sown in young hearts, and the conditions made favorable for sprouting and steady growth through proper control and discipline. It must be cared for with the warmth of love and affection, and such a tree shall blossom forth flowers of brotherhood, universal love, peace, bliss, beauty, and perfection.”
The Satya Sanatan Dharma Cultural Sabha (SSDCS) or Devi Mandir is located in the city of Pickering-Ontario and has over the years been able to fulfill the spiritual and cultural needs of the community in a very satisfactory manner. In keeping with its mandate to ensure that our youths are well equipped to propel Hinduism in the future and face the challenges of life, the mandir has embarked on a Bal Vikaas program for the children of the mandir.
Our children today, need to be equipped with sound knowledge and understanding of our rituals as well as scriptures so that they may act as ambassadors of our Dharma.
Our Baal Vikaas curriculum covers the philosophy of Hinduism as it relates to rituals and our scriptures.
Need for Bal Vikaas :
Ø Character building of a nation starts with the children.
Ø Children set the trend for future generations.
Ø It is the children who will help to establish a world of peace and harmony.
Ø In the absence of the Gurukul system and joint families, children are exposed to a bare minimum of our valued culture.
Ø Parents and guardians in some cases do not seem to have enough time for their children’s cultural activities, especially in a fast-paced environment like Canada.
Ø Bal Vikaas is the ideal solution where children learn what they need to know in an environment that is peaceful and conducive to learning.
Ø Children have fun together in Bal Vikaas.
The goal of the Bal Vikaas class at Devi Mandir is to instil into our children cultural and spiritual awareness; moral values; emotional refinement and good conduct through structured lessons, workshops, scripture readings, music, drama, arts and craft and community service.
Ø To train children and inculcate in them a reverence for our ancient culture and inspire them to live up to the ideals of Hinduism.
Ø To build self-esteem and self confidence.
Ø To develop self-discipline and leadership qualities.
Ø To mould their capacity to express and assert their individuality.
Ø To bring out their dormant faculties inherent in children.
Ø To cultivate and improve the creative abilities of children.
Ø To help children develop a healthy resistance against temptations in the environment in which they grow.
Ø To provide an atmosphere for children to grow with noble ideals; healthy emotions and physical discipline and to appreciate other faiths and beliefs.
The general topics covered are shown below:-
Ø Sixteen Steps for Puja and basic Havan procedures.
Ø Leaning and Chanting of shlokas/mantras
Ø Values (non-injury, truthfulness, … )
Ø Stories from Panchatantra, Ramayana, Mahabharata & Puranas
Ø Introduction to Bhagavad Gita
Ø Hindu Festivals (Shivaratri, Diwali, Holi etc.)
Ø Hindi Alphabets and basic Sanskrit
Ø Stage Performance
Ø Community Service
Class size and Structure:
Children will be placed in one of the three groups based on their ages and academic standing. The ideal scenario is 10-15 students per class for effective learning to take place. Class size may vary based on the number of registered students. In the short term, students in the various classes will be identified with a unique coloured scarf as is done presently. However, the long term plan is to have all children be attired in uniform in addition to their unique coloured scarfs to identify to which class they belong.
Standard normal classroom teaching methods will be employed to deliver the materials to the students. This will involve lectures, workshops, audio visual presentations, chalk board, guest lectures and demonstrations among others. To encourage student’s participation, group discussions, assignments and presentations will be encouraged as much as possible.
Students’ progress will be monitored on a continuous basis and will include:-
Ø Class participation
Ø End of term test
Ø Recitation of mantras, shlokas; stotrams etc.
Ø Attendance and Punctuality
Teachers for the various groups will be selected from the existing pool of resource personnel presently administering the Bal Vikaas. Volunteers from the mandir or outside will be recruited as deemed necessary.
It is important that all teachers are very versed in their material well before delivering to the students. This is particularly important in the cases where they will be teaching shlokas and mantras in Hindi and Sanskrit language where intonation and pronunciation is the key. There will be continuous training sessions for all teachers in an effort to ensure accuracy and effectiveness in delivering the material to our children.
The benefits to be gained from this program can be summarized as follows: –
Working knowledge of our main scriptures.
Ability to recite with confidence simple prayers; mantras and shlokas.
Improved self-esteem and confidence this enabling them to perform better in school.
Learn about our heritage; rituals and beliefs.
Conduct basic havan yagna.
Conduct simple puja using the 16 steps.
Enhance their spirituality
Cultivate values in life.
Learn to live in harmony with their parents and siblings.
Be involved in community service
Growing up as a young Hindu in a western society, teens often turn to religion as a way of maintaining a sense of identity in a world of many faiths. When it comes to answering questions and inquiries about their religion and the beliefs they hold, this is often where we fall behind.
Being a participant of the Baal Vikaas at Devi Mandir for a number of years, I can say with confidence that for young Hindus, Baal Vikaas is a way of teaching us Hindus our traditions, beliefs and practices. It gives us a safe space to be able to find answers to our questions, and most importantly know how to answer others questions. Taking part in group discussions, open debates and a chance to share our opinions on Hinduism .
Aside from this, being part of such a tight circle creates long lasting bonds that will undoubtedly carry into our future. Taking all of this into consideration, temple no longer becomes a place of worship or place where your parents force you to come every Sunday, it becomes a second home.
Baal Vikaas becomes a reason to get up early on a Sunday morning, because of the desire to learn about your culture, participate in fun activities, and feel a part of a community.
Contributor from Devi Mandir Bal Vikaas
Devi Mandir is not only a place of worship but rather it’s a place where devotees can assemble to do a variety of activities based on their aptitude. One such activity is the keertan group which has now grown to about 20 children and adults together.
While it may be difficult to get teenagers to attend places of worship these days, the Devi Mandir has used a different strategy in empowering the children ages 5-through 16 years with responsibilities where they get involved in many activities of the mandir thus motivating them to come on a regular basis.
Presently under the guidance of very skilled teachers the Keertan Group is directly and actively in at least 70% of our Sunday Service and their involvement is likely to grow in the very near future.
The Devi Mandir keertan group is very vibrant and integral part of our operations and they support our Pundits in a very meaningful way.
We are very proud of these children and will continue to work with them to achieve greater heights and giving them the respect they deserve.