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This year’s National Shishu Mandal Shibir for three- to eight-year-olds focused on the Hindu traditions of India. Held at BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, London on Saturday 17 April 2010, over 200 young boys and girls as well as 160 parents attended the one-day shibir.

The message of various Hindu traditions as they are practiced in parts of India was delivered in a colourful, playful manner using interactive games themed around a plane journey.

Setting the scene, a large ‘Shishu Airways’ plane adorned the stage surrounded by colourful balloons. The young children were even welcomed by an ‘aeroplane dance’ performed by shishus dressed as mini-planes.

Yogvivek Swami inaugurated the shibir with the traditional deep pragatya, effectively waving off the children on their journey.

After rajbhog arti, the first session began inside the assembly hall which had been divided into six states – Gujarat, Punjab, Rajasthan, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh. While rotating between the six areas, the shishus learned about the states and the diverse Hindu traditions of each.

It was then time for lunch in which the shishus could relax and enjoy some warm party food. They were greeted by suspended foil trees, streamers and animal-themed balloon clusters. As part of the ‘jungle safari’ theme, shishus also donned masks of different animals.

Following lunch, the shishus continued their journey in a more interactive way. They were also taken on a boat ride in Tamil Nadu, participated in a camel race in Rajasthan, and even performed yoga as mastered by the rishis in Uttar Pradesh.

In the last themed session of the day, shishus were told the stories of three children from the Hindu scriptures – Prahlad, Shravan and Nachiketa. The assembly hall was divided into three story corners with each narrating these stories through short interactive skits. The shishus learned the moral of each story, i.e. serving one’s parents like Shravan, keeping faith like Prahlad, and being kind to everyone and having a firm purpose in life like Nachiketa.

Throughout the day, parents were given the opportunity to attend parenting sessions which allowed them to learn about and address issues faced while bringing up children in today’s day and age. Towards the end of the shibir, parents joined their children to participate in the closing ceremony where they received a gift in memory of their fun-filled day. 

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