NRI Sanskriti Prachar Shibir

The first Shibir, under the headship of the late Gajanan Heranjal maam, was organised in 1999 in Goa and was called the “Sanskriti Parichay Shibir." Our Parama Pujya Swamiji’s vision to introduce the youngsters of our community to our culture and rich heritage was thus realised.

ll Shri Gurubhyo Namah ll


By - By Kartik Kadle
(UK Sabha)

‘O vidwaan, come back to this steep, uphill path
[of success, growth, progress]
This is symbolic of the journey of every living being.’

This logo of our Shibirs, invokes the seeker, in each one of us.

The first Shibir, under the headship of the late Gajanan Heranjal maam, was organised in 1999 in Goa and was called the “Sanskriti Parichay Shibir." Our Parama Pujya Swamiji’s vision to introduce the youngsters of our community to our culture and rich heritage was thus realised.

Since then, there have been numerous Shibirs held throughout the year in various places and for various groups like the local youth, NRI children, Sanchalaks and senior citizens. However, a Shibir exclusively for the “non-resident Amchi” and one for all age groups was yet to be held.

The idea to have such a Shibir was conceived in December 2008 during the “Chitrapur Rangaranjani” held in Shirali.

A group of NRI’s who had come to participate in this event expressed a wish for an NRI Shibir in order to help the Bhanaps living outside India, keep in touch with their roots and know about their origin. Their wish became a reality when Parama Pujya Swamiji gave His blessings, which led to the realisation of the first ever NRI Shibir for both the youngsters and the elders.

The “NRI Sanskriti Prachar Shibir” was held from the 23rd-28th December, 2009 at Shirali and participants came flocking from all over the globe – USA, UK, Middle East and Australia & New Zealand. The Chief Co-ordinator of the Shibir, or Mukhya Sanchalak, Shri Krishnanand Heblekar maam and his group of Sanchalaks had planned an assortment of activities over the 5 day Shibir which gave the Shibirarthis the opportunity to both learn and enjoy at the same time. Over 40 participants took part in this Shibir and the event was a grand resounding success.

As emphasised by our Swamiji, a Shibir is much more than a camp and is aimed at attaining total fitness of the body, mind and spirit. The various activities organised for this Shibir could be grouped into the following categories: Religious/Spiritual and Socio-Cultural. Following is a summary of the Shibir based on the above categories.

Religious/Spiritual Activities:

Guided Tour of the Shri Chitrapur Math (23rd Dec. 2009):
n the first day of the Shibir, 23rd December, all the Shibirarthis were given a detailed, guided tour of Shri Chitrapur Math by the Sanchalaks. The significance of Dhoolbhet, Guruparamapara, Samadhis was beautifully explained in an articulate fashion by Pradhan Archak Nagesh Haldipur Bhat maam, Udaya Mavinkurve pacchi and Alka Lajmi pacchi; which was beneficial not only for the youngsters but also for the elders. The tour also included a visit to the Bhojanshala and the Goshala. The Shibirarthis were amazed to find that the food was cooked by only two cooks, Ramdas and Devdas under the guidance of Sorab Rajaram maam using natural gas and LPG.

• Contemporary Hinduism (24th Dec. 2009):
Balaji Srinivasan maam gave a talk on “Contemporary Hinduism” and this was aimed at removing any confusion between the teachings of our Math and what we learn in our everyday life. This talk covered pertinent questions such as; what is Hinduism, what is the Hindu way, the actual meaning of secularism, portrayal of Hinduism by the media, etc. This was a particularly important session for the Shibirarthis as in today’s world it is extremely important to know what you stand for, and accordingly be ready for the questions asked by the world about you and your religion; or as Pujya Swamiji rightly puts it: “to know yourself.”

• Swadhyay (25th Dec. 2009):
Swadhyay is defined as an activity which includes an understanding of the religious scriptures and shashtras. Pujya Swamiji conducted a Swadhyay on “Shri Parijnanashram Trayodashi” which is regularly recited by us, the Chitrapur Saraswats. Pujya Swamiji patiently explained each of the 13 verses in great detail and answered all questions innocently asked by the Shibirarthis. The Shibirarthis found the sessions held by Pujya Swamiji to be extremely helpful and relevant; as many a time we just blindly read or recite the words without actually understanding the meaning or significance.
Pujya Swamiji also addressed a list of questions which were compiled specifically by the Yuvas of the Shibir. This was again a tremendous learning experience for everyone present.

• Ashtamurti Upasana with Pujya Swamiji (26th Dec. 2009):
All the Shibirarthis were taken to Panchavati, where under the guidance of Pujya Swamiji, they practised the Ashtamurti Upasana. Swamiji first introduced the basic concepts of this Upasana, the eight elements (ashta-murti) and then touched upon the technique to be used.

• Talk on Guruparamapara (27th Dec. 2009):
The Shibirarthis were given a talk on our illustrious Guru Paramapara in two separate sessions – one for the youth by Kalpana Chandavarkar pacchi and one for the elders by Udaya Mavinkurve pacchi. The talk started with our origin-from the River Saraswati and then moved on to our Guru Paramapara where the Shibirarthis found out more about each of our Gurus and the various events that occurred during their reign as “Mathadhipati.” One of the interesting facts that impressed the NRI’s during this session was that Parama Pujya Parijnanashram Swamji had visited NASA and that the scientists present there were astounded at the level of knowledge of Pujya Swamiji.

• Gayatri Anushthan , Devi Anushthan (27th Dec. 2009):
It is not often that one gets the chance to perform the Gayatri Anushthan or the Devi Anushthan due to our daily routine in the cities or towns. However, the Shibirarthis were lucky to have sessions organised by the Sanchalaks where one could perform these Anushthans. The men-folk recited the Gayatri Mantra continuously for an hour led by Dr. Chaitanya Gulvady maam whose resonating voice kept the participants motivated. Similarly, girls performed Devi Anushthan for an hour under Vijaya Nayampalli pacchi whose gentle instructions helped them to participate, with perfection.
The Shibhirarthis also eagerly took part in the regular Math activities such as Suprabhatam, Paduka Puja, Deepanamaskar and the Devi Puja performed by Parama Pujya Swamiji.

Social/Cultural Activities:

• Museum Trip (24th Dec. 2009):
Parama Pujya Parijnanashram Swamiji had a dream of opening a museum in Shirali showcasing the various antiquities and artifacts collected by Himself and the ones present in Shri Chitrapur Math. This dream was realised with the opening of “Shri Parijnanashram Vastu Sangrahalaya” on the 29th of December 2008.

To mark the first anniversary of the museum, all the Shibirarthis were invited to take part in the celebrations held on the 24th December 2009. Lt. Gen. (Retd) Prakash Gokarn maam addressed the audience present and highlighted the arduous but fruitful journey taken by everyone involved in creating this museum. Suma Kaushik pacchi, Manager of the Museum or “CEO” as Prakash maam playfully puts it, also spoke a few words thanking all those who have been involved in the culmination of Parama Pujya Parijnanashram Swamiji’s dream. Pujya Sadyojat Shankashram Swamiji also addressed all the Shibirarthis present.

• Konkani Culture (24th Dec. 2009):
Sudhir Balwally maam and Meera Balsawar Pacchi conducted an enjoyable session in which the Shibirarthis were taken on a journey, revisiting some of the intricacies of our mother tongue, the “Amchi” language which many of us may not be very fluent in. The Shibirarthis were first introduced to the “Amchi Surname Pictionary Game” where volunteers from amongst the Shibirarthis were given a Konkani surname and would have to describe it by drawing a picture which would represent a word either in Konkani or English. This game was thoroughly enjoyed by all present. They then regaled the audience present with some traditional Amchi phrases or “Mhanyo”.

• Games (24th, 26th Dec .2009):
To provide some much-needed rest to our over-worked brain cells, Ashwin Hoskote maam had organised two extremely insightful games which had both the young and the old actively participating.
1. The Bedsheet game – In this game, all the shibirarthis were split into their 4 Toli’s or Groups – Audumber, Kadamb, Palash and Bilwa. Each Toli was given a ball and a bedsheet with 5 holes alongside which was a coloured patch. The objective of the game was to navigate the ball and make contact with all the coloured patches next to the holes on the bedsheet while only holding the edge of the bedsheet. To increase the difficulty level, the game was replayed with two balls keeping the same objective in mind.
2. Teamworking Game – Each Toli was responsible for one letter of the word “AMCHI” and the objective of this game was to draw this letter in each of the 5 paper sheets (stuck to the ground) holding only the edge of the ribbons. This was to be achieved using a box holding a sketch pen at the bottom, attached to which were the 6 ribbons.
Processing sessions were conducted by Ashwin Hoskote maam at the end of each game to understand how we could relate the game to our real life. Both Yuva-s and the elders were eager and participated very enthusiastically. The energy displayed by the elders was a joy to behold! The level of competitiveness reached, was extraordinary and at times, the Shibirarthis needed to be reminded that this was "only a game".

• Sanskrit Session (25th, 27th Dec. 09):
Sujata Haldipur pacchi, Durga Kumta pacchi and Chaitanya Gulvady maam held Sanskrit sessions for all the Shibirarthis. Using a mixture of props and games, the sessions were entirely communicated in Sanskrit which though challenged our understanding at times; was well received by the Shibirarthis. Some Shibirarthis also showed interest in learning Sanskrit via the notes on our Shri Chitrapur Math website.

• Karaseva (25th, 26th Dec. 09):
“Karaseva” which literally means “Service by hand” was spread over two mornings. All the Shibirarthis were taken to Kembre farms where they had the opportunity to perform some unusual seva. The Shibirarthis were split into two groups - the first group worked in an Acacia Plantation where the Shibirarthis had to rake in the fallen dried leaves. These leaves prevent the rain water to seep through the ground into the roots. The second group had the task of separating the rice grain from the shoots. This was carried out by smashing the shoots against the farmer beds which forced the rice grains to loosen and fall out.
Spread over two morning sessions, the Karaseva, although tiring, was quite a humbling experience for many and made the Shibirarthis appreciate some of the simple things in everyday life. Refreshed by Priti Panemangalor pacchi's invigorating stretching exercises, the Shibirarthis set out to perform their Seva with absolute sincerity and boundless enthusiam.

• Yuvadhara Presentations (25th, 27th Dec. 09):
Madhura Haldipur, Kiran Gokarn and Esha Hoskote from the Yuvadhara came during the Shibir to make presentations on Srivali Trust, including Srivali School, Clinic and Samvit Sudha and Girvana Pratishtha which informed the Shibirarthis of a few of the various activities carried out by the Math.

Madhura Haldipur spoke about the Srivali High School which caters to the students from the 8th to 10th standards.
Kiran Gokarn then gave us an insight into how Sanskrit is slowly regaining its lost glory and how we as Chitrapur Saraswats can avail of the teaching resources via Girvana Pratishtha– the Sanskrit learning arm of our Math.

Esha Hoskote then spoke about the praiseworthy work carried out by the Srivali Trust in helping the community in and around Shirali. Esha also highlighted the importance of the Srivali Clinic and the exemplary work carried out by Samvit Sudha towards the upliftment and increased independence of the women around Shirali.

Rahil Mundkur and Kartik Kadle gave a brief talk on the concept of the Yuvadhara which was instituted on the 20th August 2008. The Yuvadhara has been a huge success story and has now over 600 members all over India. The aim of this talk was to initiate a similar Yuvadhara in the overseas Sabhas as well which reintroduces us to our rich heritage and culture and also paves the way for the youngsters to contribute to our community. In the assigned window of two days, Rahil Mundkur and Kartik Kadle agreed to make the presentation, even though none of them were familiar with the entire content. It was truly a task, marvellously taken up and accomplished.

• Volunteering:
The Shibirarthis also volunteered daily in various Math activities such as Bhojan Seva (helping serve food) and Bhajan Seva (singing Bhajans) during Teerth Vitarana and before Ratri Puja.

• Quiz
Having spent the last 4 days learning about our rich heritage, customs and illustrious Guruparampara, it was time to test our newly acquired knowledge. Rupali Heblekar pacchi and Smita Nagarkatte pacchi conducted a thoroughly informative and enjoyable quiz on our Saraswat history, Konkani culture and our sacred rituals. Each of the four Tolis represented one team and as usual, the competition was fierce!

The quiz started off with the Round Robin where each Toli was asked one question. The next round was Audio/Visual Round where the Tolis were shown pictures of Chitrapur Saraswat places of importance and asked to correctly guess the names. In the final round, named the Rapid Fire Round, each Toli was asked a set of 10 questions which were to be answered in a certain time limit with only one answer/guess allowed per question.

The Quiz was well received by the Shibirarthis and served as the perfect way to recollect the various gems of information received during the Shibir.

• Cultural Programme (27th Dec. 09) and Jali Beach Outing (28th Dec. 09):
On the final night of the Shibir, the Shibirarthis put up a wonderful Cultural Programme, which included group performances by each of the overseas Sabhas present as well as some outstanding individual performances. The next morning, the Shibir finally concluded after five wonderful days of learning, work and fun with an informal outing at the Jali Beach. The Shibirarthis were blessed with the opportunity to interact with Pujya Swamiji in an informal setting…
And finally, with a sense of fulfilment and a promise to return for the next NRI Shibir, the Shibirarthis bade their goodbyes.

The Shibirarthis are indeed very fortunate that Parama Pujya Swamiji was willing to spend time with them during this Shibir and each one of the Shibirarthis would like to thank Him for His abundant patience. They were blessed with the presence of Pujya Swamiji during numerous activities and sessions of the Shibir such as the Swadhyay, Ashtamurti Upasana, interactions and also during the Karaseva. During the interactions, (formal/informal) Pujya Swamiji patiently answered all the questions asked by the Shibirarthis. No matter how frivolous or complex the question seemed, Pujya Swamiji always had a satisfactory and appropriate answer.

The Mukhya Sanchalak, Shri Krishnanand Heblekar maam and his team should be applauded for their supreme efforts in making this Shibir a huge success. The Sanchalak team included: Sujata Haldipur pacchi, Sudhir Balwally maam, Archana Savnal pacchi, Sharayu Haldipur pacchi, Durga Kumta pacchi, Ashwin Hoskote maam, Chaitanya Gulvady maam, Smita Nagarkatte pacchi, Shamala Mavinkurve pacchi, Udaya Mavinkurve pacchi, Kalpana Chandavarkar pacchi, Priti Panemangalor pacchi, Rupali Heblekar pacchi, Vinati Udiyavar pacchi, Meera Balsavar pacchi, Vijaya Nayampalli pacchi, Sabita Harite pacchi and Alka Lajmi pacchi.