The UK National Bal-Balika Mandal Shibir was held in the presence of Sadguru Pujya Mahant Swami (Keshavjivan Swami) on Saturday 26 September at BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, London.
Entitled ‘My Mandir, My Home’, the shibir enlightened more than 400 children from across the UK and parts of Europe about the importance of a mandir in one’s life.
The children were welcomed by sadhus and volunteers in traditional Hindu manner with the tying of a nada-chhadi.
After the traditional lighting of the divas, the children learnt about the rich history of London Mandir. Anandpriya Swami elaborated on the vision of Yogiji Maharaj and the tireless efforts of Pramukh Swami Maharaj to build a shikharbaddha mandir in London.
Manoharmurti Swami and Yagnatilak Swami then shared memories of previous such shibirs for children held in the presence of Swamishri in the UK. They elaborated upon on the key teachings of Swamishri and narrated memorable incidents of Swamishri interacting with children.
Mahant Swami explained the importance of the sacred murtis in a mandir, drawing upon the connection that they provide with God. He also described how one can offer devotion to God through various rituals.
After lunch, the children engaged in various classroom sessions and group discussions, hearing inspiring stories of dedicated volunteers who helped in the planning and construction of London Mandir. They also learned about how a mandir helps individuals excel in life and strengthen their relationship with God and the Guru.
A mesmerising magic show was organised during the concluding session of the day. The performance linked into the concept of a mandir’s ability to transform an individual’s inner self. The audience heard first-hand experiences of how mandirs have transformed the lives of many youngsters over the years.
Mahant Swami consolidated the day's teachings by explaining pictorially the purpose and role that the mandir plays in the life of children, and how they can strengthen their spirituality and affinity for the mandir through service and devotion. He encouraged all to remain connected with Swamishri for success in all walks of life.
The programme concluded with the arti and prayers sung in unison by all the children.
The attendees departed with mementoes of the shibir and a deeper appreciation of their local mandir and how to make the most of it for their personal development.
Prior to the shibir, many of the children had written short essays on their relationship with the mandir. These were later presented to Swamishri in Sarangpur, from which a few excerpts are given below:
“I started going to the mandir when I was 7…. My whole life changed for the better. It made me a better person – someone who became capable of doing things which I couldn’t do before. It made me who I am today, someone who will always be improving. I shall always be indebted to the mandir. My gratitude is beyond this world for the Mandir.”
“After a tough period in my family life, the Mandir has given me the faith to survive and overcome these difficulties.”
“Mandir is like a second home to me and so going every week and doing darshan just makes me so happy. It has touched my life immensely by developing my morals, habits, personality, confidence and understanding the pragat Satpurush.”
“I came into Satsang at the age of 8…. When I stepped into this divine and spiritual atmosphere of the mandir I felt as if I had found a missing part of me.”