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On Saturday 5 July 2008, the National Shishu Shibir entitled ‘Utsav no Rang’ was celebrated at BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, London. 240 shishus (aged 3-8) and approximately 150 parents attended the Shibir which was full of fun and enjoyment with lots to learn.

The hall was beautifully decorated with items from our festivals such as kites, Hindolo, Annakut, Rath Yatra, etc. Yogvivek Swami began the Shibir with the deep pragatya ceremony after which Anandpriya Swami explained the importance of our festivals and why we should have pride in following our traditions.

After the opening session, karyakars explained the history and message of Jaljhilani festival through an interactive session. The children were split into groups where each group was given a small puzzle to complete. Once completed, each group brought their piece to the front where it formed part of a bigger puzzle. The children were also taught how to make paper boats. They then had the opportunity to sail the boats in the mandir moat.

Following this session, the 3-5 year olds enjoyed an entertaining puppet show highlighting Swaminarayan Jayanti and the 6-8 year olds had a dramatised story presented to them.

While the kids enjoyed themselves in the festival sessions, the parents had separate seminars where they were educated on several topics. A presentation on ‘Your Children’s Health’ was delivered by Dr. J. Bhatt, a paediatrician with twenty years of experience. Everyone found the information and question-answer session valuable. Thereafter, Manoharmurti Swami educated the parents on ‘How children learn’ and ‘The Importance of the Role of Parents’. Handouts were also given on the seven different types of intelligences and how to recognise them to nurture the children.

One parent commented, “I’ve been to several parenting seminars before coming to this and some of those cost me hundreds of pounds. I’m so impressed with this seminar that it had almost the same if not better information – FOR FREE!”

The dining hall for lunch was specially decorated to celebrate an important occasion. The Swaminarayan Jayanti lunch had tasty cakes, cool drinks and delicious food to celebrate the birth of Ghanshyam Maharaj.

After lunch, the 3-5 year olds had a puzzling treasure hunt around the mandir, whilst the 6-8 year olds had a session entitled ‘Pirate Games’. Through these sessions, the morals of the Rath Yatra were explained to the children. They all then took Thakorji around the mandir in a rath, whilst they sang the dhun and joyfully danced to live kirtans.

All the children received a memorable and usable gift which would last the whole year for them to remember the event rather than simply sit on the shelf. It was a creative ‘Activity Pack’ full of monthly activities for kids to learn about our festivals.

The Balika National Events team had put in a lot of effort in preparing the entire Shibir and the activity pack. All the families left in high spirits with ‘Utsav no Rang’.

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