Friday, August 31, 2018

Hanuman Chalisa summer camp - Part 1

A student's perspective:

By the time I was 4, I could recite the Hanuman Chalisa from memory. I had been listening to it since I was born. I am almost 13 now. Given that, I thought that I knew the Hanuman Chalisa. It’s a poem/prayer about Hanuman, a character in the Ramayana, which is my favorite Indian epic. So I came to the camp feeling pretty confident. After all, the theme of iReikiNow's summer camp this year was Hanuman Chalisa.

That's me - with Nidhi aunty

iReikiNow's flyer 

Then I saw the handout. It looked like just a simple stack of papers, but I was very surprised! Every “doha” and “chaupai”was accompanied by at least one long paragraph of tiny words. Some even had three paragraphs! I started reading it, and even before we started learning, I quickly figured out there was a lot to digest. Incidentally, I learned that a “doha” is a couplet, a verse with two long rhythmic segments and a “chaupai” is a quatrain, a verse with four short rhythmic segments. The Hanuman Chalisa has three “dohas” and forty “chaupais”.

We started off the camp with an introduction. Each child introduced themselves. We even had one student who joined us through Skype, as she lives in Detroit. 

Boys with Nidhi aunty

Girls in the camp with Nidhi aunty

Our class mate who joined through Skype

Then we began discussing the Hanuman Chalisa and our objective of learning it. We were also explained the daily schedule. We then began reading off the handout. After reading it, Nidhi Aunty explained to us the relevance and the contextual significance of the verse. In addition, Nidhi aunty told us stories about Hanuman, such as why do we often find him colored in deep orange or how and when he became "Panchmukhi". These background stories helped us appreciate the Chalisa better. She also went to each student, heard them recite it, and helped correct their pronunciation. We spent at least 15 minutes on each verse, which goes to show you there is so much to this poem that it would take forever to decipher the full meaning. Then we took a break for snacks and Ping-Pong, which was fun, especially because we had been working the entire morning. After the break, we did breathing exercises or “pranayama”, which was really soothing and calming. Then we got back to learning.

That's me - leading the breathing exercises. Notice Nidhi aunty in the background helping a student.

The next 3 days were all similar to each other. We started the day off with a quiz where we earned points. Then we kept learning the Chalisa. Next, we took a break where we had delicious food, did breathing exercises and then kept going. By the end of Thursday, we had finished the prayer.

            I learned so much at this camp that it’s hard to believe it was only a week long! One of the biggest things I gained from this camp is a deep understanding of praying. While praying, you need to have lots of faith and pure intentions, two things that are extremely important. That is how I prayed and chanted the Hanuman Chalisa before this camp. But a deeper understanding of the prayer makes it so much more meaningful. 
When you chant the Hanuman Chalisa with faith, pure intentions, AND an understanding of the words, your prayer becomes more significant. I got an opportunity to learn so much in this camp, but this was the most beneficial and invaluable lesson. After attending this camp, the experience of praying became more meaningful.
Friday was the last day of camp. We started with a quiz, as usual, but after the quiz, we collected the candy we had earned with our points. We recited the whole Hanuman Chalisa multiple times, going over the diction and pronunciation again. Then we took a snack break. After that we held a Hanuman pooja. We started by venerating Ganesha, applying vermilion, and tying “mauli”, or sacred thread, around our wrists. By this time all the students’ family and friends arrived. Together, we chanted the Hanuman Chalisa 108 times. After the chanting, we all ate prasad and enjoyed hanging out together until our parents took us home.

I am really thankful to Nidhi Aunty for holding this camp. It was a lot of fun and I made many pleasant memories. I think what I learned in this camp is going to really help me and I appreciate Nidhi Aunty working so hard to make this possible.

Written by: Anvita Gurumurthy
Student of iReikiNow 

P.S: Watch out this space for my YouTube video about this camp.