More than 350 children aged between 0 and 8 from across the UK came together for the National Shishu Mandal Shibir, themed ‘Destination Akshardham’, at BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, London, on Saturday 23 June 2018.
After an enlightening opening ceremony which introduced the concept and identity of Akshar, the children participated in various interactive games that explained topics including samp, upasana, rajipo, and the concept of ‘my mandir, my home’.
After lunch, four themed areas were organised to develop the delegates’ knowledge of Akshar and strengthen their connection with Mahant Swami Maharaj.
The first theme covered the importance of knowing, understanding and connecting with Akshar through a ‘circuit board’ demonstration where children answered questions about Mahant Swami Maharaj. In the second theme, ‘Akshar is My Friend’, children completed a large jigsaw puzzle which demonstrated how the Gurus have portrayed the qualities of a true friend. The third theme, ‘Akshar Mirrors Purushottam’, included a game of charades that reaffirmed the understanding that Purushottam forever resides in Mahant Swami Maharaj. The last theme, ‘Akshar Protects Me’, revealed how the true Guru protects aspirants from anything that hinders their path to liberation.
The day’s concluding session conveyed the importance of Purushottam through two interesting ‘story corners’, which included live performances to explain that Purushottam has a divine form and is the all-doer.
Also in attendance were more than 440 parents who participated in various sessions during the day. This included a special parenting seminar where swamis provided informative guidance to develop the spiritual progress and holistic talents of their children, and emphasised the benefits of discipline, good behaviour and building their self-reliance. Parents especially benefited from participating in small group discussions where they shared their experiences with fellow parents.
A special video recorded message from Mahant Swami Maharaj was also shared in which he congratulated all the children for attending the shibir and reminded them that even though they are ‘small in body, they are indeed great souls!’ He advised them to remain steadfast in attending spiritual assemblies, to respect their parents, and to live by the principles established by Bhagwan Swaminarayan.
One of the mothers, Sarika Chauhan from Birmingham, shared, “The children thoroughly enjoyed themselves and were reflecting on their positive experiences after the event. The dedicated effort and commitment from volunteers to make the sessions interactive and an enjoyable learning experience was particularly encouraging. The parenting seminar was also an eye-opener and there are many ideas that we can imbibe on a regular basis.”
The children departed with a special memento to remind them that they should keep God, Pramukh Swami Maharaj and Mahant Swami Maharaj at the forefront of their daily activities.