India has a rich and
glorious culture, with a legacy of intellectual and spiritual advancement
dating back millennia. Yet, when most westerners think of India, among
the first things that come to mind are poverty, filth, overpopulation,
the caste system, etc. On Bal/Balika Din in Edison, N.J.,children wanted
to show that they are indeed aware of, and proud of, their Indian heritage,
and they think beyond the typical stereotypes of India.
Furthermore, the children wanted to show everyone, and most importantly
Swamishri, that they are proud to be Indian and Swamishri's children.
From the minute Swamishri
stepped out of his room, balaks wanted to show Swamishri that this day
was unique and special. Six balaks from Group 1, who were waiting outside
Swamishri's door, bid him Jai Swaminarayan, and led him to his morning
walk chanting, "Bharat ki hum shaan he, Swami ki santaan he."
As Swamishri made his way to the walk, he saw that the walls were covered
with posters made by balaks about different topics, including "Child
heroes of India", "I love Bapa", and "Bal Mandal:
50 years in the making."
As Swamishri entered the hall, he made his way through an arch of orange,
white, and green balloons, and there were similar balloons taped on
the floor all along his red carpet. Balaks were lined up around the
carpet performing tap ni mala while "Vande Mataram" was being
sung. For the remainder of the walk, balaks took the devotees on a journey
through Rajasthan, Punjab, and Gujarat. As they went through each state,
they described a little about each state and sang a traditional song
from that state while other balaks danced in the style of that particular
All those who were present
for the two and a half hour long morning sabha experienced true bliss
because of Swamishri's divine presence. At the start of the sabha, balaks
and balikas watched a video highlighting the places, things, and people
that have contributed to India's greatness. After this, Pujya Doctor
Swami explained to the balaks and balikas some of the fundamental Indian
values, such as those expressed in the goshna. He stressed the importance
of panchang pranam, as well as studying hard.
After this, Krishnapriya Swami entertained the balaks and balikas with
various jokes. As Swamishri entered the sabha, Ghanshyamcharan Swami
(Ghanshyam Bapa) started singing "Ghanshyam Ghanshyam, mari sathe
ramva." Several balaks came on stage to dance as Ghanshyam Bapa
Following this, a few balaks along with Ghanshyam Bapa competed in a
"Rotli Contest," to see who could make the most rotlis and
who could make them most perfectly. Swamishri judged all the rotlis,
saying, "Your effort is good. If you keep practicing, then the
rotlis will be first class. All children should learn how to cook."
After this game, Swamishri played antakshari, where he and the balaks
were on one team against Ghanshyam Bapa and other sadhus. Swamishri
started off the antakshari by singing "Ha ji bhala sadhu,"
and over the course of the game, Swamishri also sang "Tari ek ek
pal jay lakh ni," and "Aushadh amrut paya." Throughout
the game, Swamishri gave a lot of joy to the balaks, by singing along,
clapping his hands, making divine hand gestures, laughing, etc. Ghanshyam
Bapa and Krishnapriya Swami got up towards the end of the game and started
dancing to "Sarangpurma vahalo." Ghanshyam Bapa then gave
his kartals to Swamishri, who played them for the duration of the kirtan.
Right before Swamishri's blessings, balaks sang the theme song of the
day, "Bharat ki hum shaan he." As they sang, other balaks
marched across stage proudly waving the Indian and BAPS flags. One balak
gave an Indian flag to Swamishri, and he waved it in the air as well.
Everyone's excitement levels were raised even higher by this kirtan.
The only thing that could follow all of this and provide an appropriate
ending to the divine sabha was Swamishri's blessings. He praised the
balaks' effort, and emphasized the importance of leading a good, God-centered,
moral life right from childhood.
During Swamishri's lunch,
all balaks from kindergarten upto fourth grade had the opportunity of
Swamishri's darshan. First, balaks presented Swamishri with a menu of
the items he would be eating. They then narrated a prasang of Yogiji
Maharaj in which, due to Yogiji Maharaj's prayer, Thakorji actually
ate the food.
The balaks had all memorized "Jamo thal" by heart, and they
sang it as Swamishri ate. Followed by this, balaks talked about the
fact that if thal is sung with true devotion, God really eats the food,
so even in mansi, we should all offer food we like. Saying this, balaks
asked Swamishri what he offered to Maharaj. Swamishri replied by listing
off the various items in his plate, showing that he is constantly engrossed
in mansi at all times. Therefore, as he eats, he is feeding Maharaj
at the same time.
Balaks started off the
programme with an energetic dance to the bhajan, "Avya Swami avya
re avya." The theme of the evening programme was "Ame karishu
je tamane game," and to link this theme to the overall theme of
the day, one balak introduced the rest of the programme by explaining
that because we are children of Bapa, we have to be like lions, and
to be like lions, we have to do what Swamishri likes.
The rest of the programme was centered around a theme song, "Swamibapa,
we will love you forever; ame tamara, tame aaara, ame karishu je tamane
game." There were different verses of the song which explained
five different things balaks can do to please Swamishri. Small balaks
with big red hearts in their hands danced around singing one verse of
the song, following which a skit was enacted explaining what exactly
balaks should do to please Swamishri.
The first aspect discussed was respecting elders and serving one's parents
and grandparents. There was a skit about a balak who felt guilty about
putting his grandfather in a nursing home, and to contrast this, another
balak narrated the prasang of Shravan, who cared for his blind parents
until the day he died.
The next aspect explained was staying away from bad company. A few balaks
presented a skit about how the internet can be a waste of time and lead
to other bad things if not used properly. Balaks then explained the
third thing we should do to please Swamishri: bhakti-devotion. There
was yet another skit of a balak who insisted on doing puja before eating,
even though his friends had slept over and insisted on eating right
away. When his friends questioned the need for prayer, another balak
delivered a speech on the power of prayer.
After this, there was a skit about the importance of studying hard and
becoming number one in class. Finally, the last aspect explained was
attending bal sabha weekly to please Swamishri. This skit was the culmination
of all other skits, in which all the balaks who were in previous skits
came together to the bal sabha and discussed how to please Swamishri.
The same balak that introduced the programme came back on to conclude
that bal sabha teaches many good things. At the end, he requested Swamishri
to teach them something new. Swamishri then blessed the assembly, praising
the balaks and stating that all of this was due to the wish and blessings
of Yogiji Maharaj. He then explained to all parents the importance of
instilling sanskars in their children.