After spending 5 days in London Mandir, 34 balaks and 32 balikas (including 4 karyakars) from America and Canada visited India from July 10th to August 10th. The India tour has become a summer tradition for the American and Canadian bal and balika mandals. The selection of balaks and balikas included representatives from New York, Toronto, Edison, Clifton, Jersey City, Philadelphia, Washington, Chicago, Minneapolis, Portland, San Jose, Los Angeles, Dallas, Houston, Atlanta, Charlotte, Birmingham, and Kansas City Satsang centers. The trip was arranged in three phases.
The first phase was a tour of mandirs and places of historical and religious significance. The tour covered BAPS mandirs in Mumbai, Tithal, Navsari, Sankari, Surat, Bharuch, Atladara, Bochasan, Mahelav, Anand, Vidyanagar, Sarangpur, Gadhada, Gondal, Rajkot, Bhadra, Junagadh, Mahesana, Gandhinagar, and finally Amdavad. At each mandir, the balaks sat with the local sadhus and learnt the history behind the building of each mandir. They were graced by enlightening discourses from Mahant Swami, Kothari Swami (Mumbai), Balmukund Swami, Tyagvallabh Swami, Ishwarcharan Swami and many other sadhus.
The tour also included visits to mandirs of the old sampraday in Vadtal, Gadhada, Rajkot Junagadh, Sarangpur, Kariyani, Loj, Panchala, Mangrol, and Amdavad. The children also visited Chansad, the birthplace of Pramukh Swami Maharaj and Amli Vali Pol, where our guru was appointed as the president of the Sanstha. The balaks and balikas also enjoyed 3 days of sightseeing in Mt. Abu.
The second phase, and highlight of the trip, was the shibir phase. From July 15th to19th, they were graced with the presence of H.D.H. Pramukh Swami Maharaj in Bochasan. The balaks enjoyed individual time with Swamishri during his meals and presented kirtans and mukhpath during his morning walks and puja. For weeks, the balaks had been preparing to present speeches, mukhpath, and kirtans in Gujarati in front of Swamishri. Some balaks even prepared discourses on Vachanamrut, Swamini Vato and Harililamrut, while others gave speeches in Spanish and French. Swamishri also graced the shibir regularly with his presence and participation. The balaks participated in games, festival celebrations, and a question and answer session with Swamishri. The shibir was continued in Sarangpur until July 23rd. As the shibir ended all of the balaks and balikas undertook new niyams and personal goals for the future.
The theme of the shibir was 'Satsang Our Pride & Glory.' The goal of the shibir was to help the balaks and balikas develop pride in being part of this famous Sanstha, pride for our rich Indian culture, and pride in having attained the Supreme God and such a unique Guru. Along with a deeper understanding of the glorious history behind our mandirs and traditions, each balak and balika left with a feeling of pride and an understanding that they possess something rare and special. They each left with a determination to rise above everyday peer pressures and please their Guru at all costs by following his agna.
The third and final phase of the trip was a one week visit to their friends, family, and acquaintances in their respective home cities throughout Gujarat.
"This was a great trip and a great experience. We visited so many important places and learned so many things. What a way to spend the summer! It was much more than we had ever have expected." - Hari Ray, Jersey City, Bal Sanchalak.