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Samskrita Bharati USA students learn Samskrita in 2-week-long Medha camp in Bengaluru

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By Nithin Sridhar

Bengaluru: Nineteen children, eleven boys and eight girls from the USA, are currently in India learning Samskritam in a two week camp that is being held in Bengaluru from 19 July to 2 August.

While large number of Indians, especially youth, are either averse to or simply ignorant about Samskritam and the Indian way of life, these young children of Indian expatriates in US (who study in 8th – 12th grade), have come to learn and connect with Indian roots through Samskrit, thanks to the persistent efforts of Samskrita Bharati USA.

The two-week residential camp called “Medha,” which means wisdom, is being conducted by Samskrita Bharati USA as part of their three year Sanskrit as a Foreign Language (SAFL) program.

The program, which started in 2009, aims to teach Samskritam in the medium of Samskritam to children in grades 8-12. The program consists of online classes held once a week and 6-day residential camps held once a year. Apart from this, it holds a 15-day honors level Medha camp in India for third year students, which is optional and aims to teach higher grammar and poetry like Kumara-Sambhava.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WXLeaG5QdS0&feature=youtu.be

When NewsGram visited the camp, the students were learning Kumara-Sambhavam written by Kalidasa. They were very enthusiastic to speak about their experiences in learning Samskritam. One student informed that apart from the daily classes, they also visited the Kaveri River and a Samskrita Gurukulam, where students studied Vedas.

When asked about why they chose to study Samskritam, most students said that they did not know anything about Samskritam at the beginning but only joined the classes on their parent’s insistence. One student Sri Vishnu shared that as he kept learning Samskritam, he discovered that Samskritam is not just a spoken language but also the Vedic knowledge.

The same experience was shared by Prachi, who said, “At first I thought learning Samskrit would be just like learning a language as in school, i.e., learning grammar, vocabulary, etc. but, what I learnt after coming to Medha and other camps is that Samskrit is not just a language, but it is like an entire lifestyle, it has an entire culture behind it. (…) the music, dance, the language is so prevalent and has such rich history behind it, that it merges with religion and culture and depicts who we are as people.

Another student Havisha, who practices Carnatic Classical music, said that learning Samskritam has helped her to understand the meaning of the songs that she sings. Saket revealed that before he started learning Samskritam he was not able to appreciate the value of Vedic traditions that his parents taught, but now he is able to understand some aspects of Vedas, the philosophy, etc. behind various practices.2

He said that Samskritam has helped him to understand that the lifestyle propagated by the ancestors so long ago has ideas which hold true even today. Vasu highlighted how Samskritam helps in connecting with the culture and practices like meditation.

Explaining how Samskritam has helped her to discover her roots and identity, Akshata said: “One of the ways that Samskrit has influenced my life is that it has made be more aware of who am I and who we are as a culture, as people whose ancestry lies in the land of Bharat.”

She also revealed that a lot of history taught in US textbooks were very pro-western and highlighted western scientific achievements, but the fact that much scientific knowledge was already present in India long before the west discovered them is not mentioned.

She cited examples like the knowledge of surgery in Ayurveda, the contributions of mathematicians like Aryabhata and Bhaskaracharya, the mathematical discoveries like the Pythagorean Theorem, and the value of pi.

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When asked about their experiences in visiting a traditional Gurukulam, Raghava Prasnna said that by seeing students learning various Vedas year after year in the Gurukulam, he realized how less he knows and how much more knowledge there is to be gained and Samskritam serves as a gateway to all that knowledge.

Another student Surya Teja shared his experiences that when his parents taught him various Samskritam slokas and songs, he recognized that they were important to the religion, there was always a disconnect as he did not knew what exactly he is doing and why. But, after learning Samskritam, he was able to understand the slokas, and what were complex slokas earlier now became easy elemental ideas that could be inculcated in daily life.

Mrs. Pratibha who taught Kumara-Sambhava to the students told that the students had been learning various slokas for the last two years and last year they were taught Ramayana and now this year, the students were being taught Kalidasa’s Kumara-Sambhava.

Another teacher Mrs. Parvatavardhini, who is teaching for last 15 years said that students were very enthusiastic and dedicated in learning and speaking Samskritam and she was very happy with the response from the children towards Samskritam.

Mr. Padmakumar who is working in Samskrita Bharati for last 25 years and oversees the Medha camp in Bengaluru, said that Samskrita Bharati USA conducted 2 residential camps for children and 5 residential camps for adults in US every year.

Mr Padmakumar
Mr Padmakumar

The two residential camps for children are Shraddha — held in Pennsylvania (east coast of US) and Prajna — held in California (west coast of US). The five adult camps are held in California, Houston, Michigan, New York, and Chicago. He further told us that there were 14 teachers in the SAFL program and around 250 volunteer teachers in total.

Regarding the activities that were being conducted in the Medha camp, Mr. Padmakumar said that their main trust was in teaching grammar, kavya (poetry), and conversation. Apart from that they have cultural activities like dramas, etc. during evenings. The students were also taken to various Samskritam speaking houses and Gurukulams so that children were exposed to Samskritam environment. In one of the Gurukulams, the students witnessed how the fire-rituals are practiced. By these activities, Samskrita Bharati hopes to help children connect with their culture and religious practices along with learning Samskritam.

Samskrita Bharati USA was established in 1995 in the USA and this year they are celebrating their 20th anniversary.

In an exclusive interview with NewsGram, Mr. Govinda Yelagalawadi, National Coordinator of Samskrita Bharati USA, spoke about how Samskrita Bharati started in US:

The organization (Samskrita Bharati USA) was founded in 1995 when a group of Samskritam enthusiasts arranged for “Spoken Samskritam Classes and Workshops” in various cities across the US and invited Shri Krishna Shastry, one of the founding members of Samskrita Bharati in India. Some of the volunteers who were part of the organizing group in 1995 had attended Spoken Samskritam classes while they were in India and were inspired by the teaching method of Samskrita Bharati and wanted to spread the same in the US.

These volunteers also thought that for people of Indian origin living in the US, learning the language of Samskritam would bring them closer to and under their roots.  Additionally, the original texts of the many contributions of India – Yoga, Ayurveda, Spirituality, Philosophy, literature and the ancient contributions in the fields of science and technology – are all in Samskritam.  To understand these, one need to know Samskritam.

Samskrita Bharati USA is striving hard in the USA to spread Samskritam among the Indian diaspora and has become immensely successful.

Around 800-1000 people attend their various residential camps and another 2000 people attend their various courses. Around 150 students are expected to enroll in the SAFL program in the coming academic year (2015-16).

They follow the natural methodology of learning language. Just as young children first learn to speak a language and only then are they exposed to reading and writing, similarly Samskrita Bharati USA’s program aims to make a person proficient in speaking, and then teach them reading, writing, and grammar. By employing simple techniques of teaching language, Samskrita Bharati USA is working towards preservation and propagation of Samskritam and Samskriti (culture).

  • Vishvaksenah

    Excellent work.
    Thanks to Newsgram for publishing this event.

  • Murali, Trichy, TamilNadu

    Great attempt to revive the language and popularise it among the NRI youths in USA. Hats off….

  • Narasimhan New Delhi

    How I wish I am also part of this training camp.. Making the children aware of the culture is the primary duty. SB USA is to be congratulated for providing this excellent opportunity to children

  • Chandra Shaker

    Many Thanks. Great Work by Aksharam, Samskrita Bharati. USA-Parents love & strive to have samskritam conversation in our daily lives. Because the understanding of bhaarat’s greatness is by speaking samskritam, and unity in bhaarat is also foreseen by speaking samskritam. Going to foreign countries we know it is all empty even though riches and wealth is abundant. ‘saare jahaan se acchaa bhaarat’, is all because of our samskruti. Let us revitalize our samskruti, let us unite, let us speak samskritam. let us bring bhaarat’s past glory. If we get attracted to other cultures forgetting revitalizing bhaarat’s greatness, we might fail together. Please keep up good work by all who are uplifting samskritam. Thanks & Regards, Chandra Shaker, Columbus, Ohio, USA

  • Gauri Manglik

    awesome work, samskrita bharti!

  • arun@houston

    Uttamam……great initiative…..what could be a better way than to inculcate samskars of Samskriti through Samskritam……abhinandan…..Arun Kankani, Houston, TX, USA.

  • Andrea Marcialis

    Very good job!
    Andrea, Venice, Italy

  • Mahadevan

    “Just as young children first learn to speak a language and only then are they exposed to reading and writing, similarly Samskrita Bharati USA’s program aims to make a person proficient in speaking, and then teach them reading, writing, and grammar”
    How true! Kudos to Samskrita Bharati USA.for its Medha!! Mahadevan, Chennai

  • sunil

    inspiring. Thank you for a well written article.

  • Vishvaksenah

    Excellent work.
    Thanks to Newsgram for publishing this event.

  • Murali, Trichy, TamilNadu

    Great attempt to revive the language and popularise it among the NRI youths in USA. Hats off….

  • Narasimhan New Delhi

    How I wish I am also part of this training camp.. Making the children aware of the culture is the primary duty. SB USA is to be congratulated for providing this excellent opportunity to children

  • Chandra Shaker

    Many Thanks. Great Work by Aksharam, Samskrita Bharati. USA-Parents love & strive to have samskritam conversation in our daily lives. Because the understanding of bhaarat’s greatness is by speaking samskritam, and unity in bhaarat is also foreseen by speaking samskritam. Going to foreign countries we know it is all empty even though riches and wealth is abundant. ‘saare jahaan se acchaa bhaarat’, is all because of our samskruti. Let us revitalize our samskruti, let us unite, let us speak samskritam. let us bring bhaarat’s past glory. If we get attracted to other cultures forgetting revitalizing bhaarat’s greatness, we might fail together. Please keep up good work by all who are uplifting samskritam. Thanks & Regards, Chandra Shaker, Columbus, Ohio, USA

  • Gauri Manglik

    awesome work, samskrita bharti!

  • arun@houston

    Uttamam……great initiative…..what could be a better way than to inculcate samskars of Samskriti through Samskritam……abhinandan…..Arun Kankani, Houston, TX, USA.

  • Andrea Marcialis

    Very good job!
    Andrea, Venice, Italy

  • Mahadevan

    “Just as young children first learn to speak a language and only then are they exposed to reading and writing, similarly Samskrita Bharati USA’s program aims to make a person proficient in speaking, and then teach them reading, writing, and grammar”
    How true! Kudos to Samskrita Bharati USA.for its Medha!! Mahadevan, Chennai

  • sunil

    inspiring. Thank you for a well written article.

Next Story

Are We Hindus If We Live in India? The Answer to Contentious Question is Here

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Hinduism. Pixabay

Oct 06, 2017: Have you ever wondered what being a Hindu means? Or who is actually fit to be called a Hindu? Over centuries, Hindus and Indians alike have asked this question to themselves or their elders at least once in their lifetime.

In the 1995 ruling of the case, “Bramchari Sidheswar Shai and others Versus State of West Bengal” the court identified seven defining characteristics of Hinduism but people are still confused to what exactly defines being a Hindu in the 21st century. It’s staggering how uninformed individuals can be about their own religion; according to a speech by Sri Dharma Pravartaka Acharya there are various common notions we carry about who a Hindu is:

  • Anyone born in India is automatically a Hindu
  • If your parents are Hindu, you’re are also inevitably a Hindu
  • If you believe in reincarnation, you’re a Hindu
  • If you follow any religion practiced in India, you’re a Hindu
  • And lastly, if you are born in a certain caste, you’re a Hindu

After answering these statements some fail to remove their doubts on who a Hindu is. The question arises when someone is unsure on how to portray themselves in the society, many people follow a set of notions which might/might not be the essence of Hinduism and upon asked why they perform a particular ritual they are clueless. The problem is that the teachings are passed on for generations and the source has been long forgotten, for the source is exactly where the answer lies.

Religion corresponds to scriptural texts

The world is home to many religions and each religion has its own uniqueness portrayed out of the scriptures and teachings which are universally accepted. So to simplify the dilemma one can say that determining whether someone belongs to a particular religion is directly related to whether he/she follows the religious scriptures of the particular religion, and also whether they abide to live by the authority of the scriptural texts.

Christianity emerges from the guidance of the Gospels and Islam from the Quran where Christians believe Jesus died for their sins and Muslims believe there is no God but Allah and Mohammad is his prophet. Similarly, Hinduism emerges from a set of scriptures known as the Vedas and a Hindu is one who lives according to Dharma which is implicated in the divine laws in the Vedic scriptures.By default, the person who follows these set of religious texts is a Hindu.

Also Read: Christianity and Islam don’t have room for a discourse. Hindus must Stop Pleasing their former Christian or Muslim masters, says Maria Wirth 

Vedas distinguishes Hindu from a Non-Hindu

Keeping this definition in mind, all the Hindu thinkers of the traditional schools of Hindu philosophy accept and also insist on accepting the Vedas as a scriptural authority for distinguishing Hindus from Non-Hindus. Further implying the acceptance of the following of Bhagwat Gita, Ramayana, Puranas etc as a determining factor by extension principle as well.

Bottom Line

So, concluding the debate on who is a Hindu we can say that a person who believes in the authority of the Vedas and lives by the Dharmic principles of the Vedas is a Hindu. Also implying that anyone regardless of their nationality i.e. American, French or even Indian can be called a Hindu if they accept the Vedas.

– Prepared by Tanya Kathuria of Newsgram                                                                

(the article was originally written by Shubhamoy Das and published by thoughtco)

One response to “Are We Hindus If We Live in India? The Answer to Contentious Question is Here”

  1. Hindu is a historical name for people living “behind the river Indus”. So, everyone living in India is a Hindu, eventhough he might have a different faith.

Next Story

Atal Bihari Vajpayee Hindi University likely to teach Science through Hindu Text Vedas

In U.S. News and World Report, Physicist Roger Penrose theorised that the Big Bang might be one in a cycle of such events, suggesting that the universe has had multiple existences

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Representational Image. Image source: Wikimedia Commons

Bhopal, September 1, 2016: Do science and spirituality intersect? Studies show that Science and Spirituality, Hinduism in particular, are linked.

The administrative wing of Atal Bihari Vajpayee Hindi University said that the University has decided to teach Science through Hindu Text, Vedas, mentioned a recent report by examswatch.com. According to Indian texts, many of the advanced discoveries we know about today already existed in the past. Therefore we can say that Hinduism is not only the world’s third largest religion but also the most modern of all. Needless to say that all Indians feel proud about the fact, that their ancestors were genius, in true sense of the term.

Attempts are being made at Atal Bihari Vajpayee Hindi University, Bhopal to teach Science through Hindu religious texts, which contains the writings of bygone-era mathematician Bhaskaracharya and sage scientist Acharya Kanad.

https://twitter.com/NewsGram1/status/770994956894932992

The purpose of this entire project is to imbibe Indian values in youths and make them learn in a better way about the concepts and ideas related to Engineering. The students at the university will be taught about Indian veterans, who were equally important as the scientists – JJ Thomson, John Dalton, Lord Kelvin and others. This programme will be covered under the subject, ‘Bhartiya Gyan aur Parampara‘.

In U.S. News and World Report, Physicist Roger Penrose theorised that the Big Bang might be one in a cycle of such events, suggesting that the universe has had multiple existences. This is common knowledge to one familiar with Vedic philosophy and cosmology.

https://twitter.com/NewsGram1/status/771423280272117760

In Hinduism, the complementary relationship between science and religion is quite close. As we can infer knowledge of an object from its shadow, so by ‘Apara-Vidya’, or material knowledge or science, we can understand something about the existence of ‘Para-Vidya’, or spiritual knowledge. The bottom line is one does not negate the other.

Thus, it is conceivable that many unsolved issues in biology, physics, cosmology, etc., can be resolved by the synthesis of science and religion in Hinduism.

– prepared by Manthra Koliyer of NewsGram 

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Meaning of life according to hinduism “world’s oldest religion”

Hindu text Vedas hold true to their Sanskrit translation- “knowledge” in every aspect of their being, be it knowledge of science or morality

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Hindu Text Vedas. Image source: Wikimedia Commons

August 25, 2016: Hinduism is believed to be one of the oldest religions on the earth and it has an astonishing amount of knowledge related to astronomy, medicine, mathematics, and literature and much more. Therefore, there is no doubt that Hinduism is the world’s oldest known modern religion.

Hindu text Vedas hold true to their Sanskrit translation- “knowledge” in every aspect of their being, be it knowledge of science or morality. The text does not hesitate to use the example of the smallest of insects to demonstrate the significance of life, and justice for every living creature.

Pashu, a book on compilation of animal tales by Dr Pattnaik. Image source: Flipkart
Pashu, a book on animal tales from Hindu Mythology by Dr Devdutt Pattnaik. Image source: Flipkart

The stories with a message of morality and good virtues through animal examples are abundant in all of the 300 versions of the Vedas, Ramayana, Mahabharata and Puranas. Here are some of the excerpts from “Pashu”, a book compiled by Devdutt Pattanaik, who is an Indian physician turned leadership consultant, mythologist, author and communicator whose works focus largely on the areas of myth, mythology, and also management.

Mahabharata: Mahaprasthanika Parva

After a rule of 36 years, the Pandavas along with Draupadi decided to scale the mountains and enter the Home of the Gods.

“If we have lived virtuous lives, the Gods will let us enter,” declared Yudhishthira, the Pandava king.

A dog, too, had ventured with them. Only Yudhishthira and the dog managed to reach the top of the mountain and stood before the gates.

“Only you can enter, not the dog” proclaimed the Gods.

“But as equal right, since he has come on the same ardours journey and has never faltered in his desire and diligence. The flesh may be different but the soul is the same. If he cannot come in, I will stay out as well,” argued Yudhishthira. 

The Gods were pleased and blessed Yudhishthira for his righteousness. “The dog is ‘dharma’ and you have demonstrated your innate spirituality in recognising that all creatures are the same.”

Ramayana: Little squirrel who helped Lord Rama!

A little squirrel was labouring hard to help Lord Rama’s army built the bridge to cross over to Lanka.

It was laughed at by many others, but lord Rama picked it up and gently stroked it as a gesture of appreciation, and left the marks of his hands as stripes.

Mahabharata: Gandhari’s 100 sons

According to the legends, at the end of the war Gandhari is said to have lamented to Lord Krishna, whom she blamed for the death of her sons. She is said to have asked the Lord the reason for her sufferings. Lord Krishna replied that the law of cause and effect was the reason behind all sufferings.

He explained to her that long back in an earlier life, Gandhari had poured boiling water after cooking rice on the ground outside her kitchen.

An insect had laid hundred eggs there and all of them were killed. The mother insect cursed her that she too would have to endure the deaths of her hundred children. Another legend stated that Gandhari had crushed the eggs of a mother turtle, who cursed her with a similar fate.

Mahabharata: Sumukh and Gunakeshi

Gunakeshi was the daughter of Matali, Indra’s charioteer, who was in love with Samuka, a Naga (snake). Samuka and Gunakeshi couldn’t get married as Garuda, the eagle, was promised one Naga to feed upon each day as a truce so that he does not kill everyone, and Samuka was his next victim.

Indra, after being begged upon by Matili, went to Vishnu for help to save samuka. Vishnu ordered Garuda to spare the Naga boy. Garuda refused and vowed to remain hungry unless samuka was presented to him.

Vishnu placed a hand on Garuda, and  as a result the eagle was unable to fly anymore. He begged Vishnu for mercy, at which Vishnu replied – for that you must show compassion to others—for that is how all life is sustained. The Naga was spared.

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These are small fragments from the ocean of fables and stories that the scriptures encompasses. An endless mine of treasure which rests between closed book covers!

– by Usman Zafar of NewsGram. Twitter: @HalkiSiChuban

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