Book on Hindu Religion, Culture and Traditions for Children
by Dr. Kumud Singhal
The book also gives prayers to various Gods and Goddesses, the guru (teacher), and hymns for Universal welfare. Oral recitals of the prayers are provided at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DOESWbiOmso. The prayers are chanted slowly to help the children easily learn them.
Language, dress, food, customs, manners, literature, paintings, music, dance, and architecture are some of the elements that constitute the culture of any group of people. Cultural values serve as the fundamental principles of life and shape our thinking, behavior, and personality. Hindu or Vedic culture is distinct from others in that religion is a way of life and all human pursuits are connected to it. This is so because the entire universe is non-separate from God in the Vedic vision. Knowledge of the key tenants of Hindu religion and culture is essential for children to understand their roots. It helps them in having a sense of identity and in their development into happy adults leading meaningful and productive lives.
Character-building begins in childhood. Children growing up in India often absorb the traditions, culture, values, and religious beliefs through osmosis from their environment. However, it is not as easy for parents of Hindu heritage living outside India to expose their children to the beauty and greatness of our religion, culture, and philosophy.
This book is in the form of a dialogue between a grandmother and her granddaughters. It is based on my experience with conducting classes for children for over fifteen years in the USA. It is appropriate for children between the ages of four to twelve though they may find some of the material to be useful even when they are teenagers or young adults. The teaching style, the language, and the concepts increase in complexity as the book proceeds. The early chapters are suitable for younger children while the later ones are appropriate for older ones.
This book attempts to help them understand our cultural heritage through stories of various Gods and Goddesses from religious texts like the Puranas, Ramayana, and Mahabharata. The morals that these stories teach are still relevant today. It describes some traditional Hindu practices like putting a Bindi on the forehead, or doing Namaste. Festivals are a large part of the Hindu way of life and the significance of our major festivals is explained.
The book explains that though the Hindu religion may appear to have many Gods, a deeper analysis of the scriptures shows that these are only God appearing in many forms, as all things, as all beings, and as the entire universe. The concept of unity in diversity and of Vasudeva Kutumbakam (one world one family) thus follow.
The ability to deal with difficult situations is influenced by many factors, including an understanding of habits, values, emotions, and the attitude we have towards them. This book will help children understand values like non-injury, speaking the truth, compassion, sharing, humility, the absence of deception, jealousy, hatred, anger, etc.
In the last two Chapters, I give some of the teachings of the Bhagavad Gita and Vedanta that are pertinent to older children and young adults. The interactions between the sense organs, the mind, and the intellect are covered simply. The law of Karma, including the different forms of results of actions, is explained. I then present the relationship between the individual, the universe, and God. Children may need help from their parents to understand and appreciate some of the material in these chapters.
Simple and practical examples are given throughout to illustrate the various concepts.
The book gives prayers to various Gods and Goddesses, the guru (teacher), and hymns for Universal welfare. I first give the prayers in Sanskrit in the Devanagari script. The prayer is then repeated in transliterated form to aid readers who may not be familiar with Devanagari. Transliteration is an extension of the Roman or English script with additional symbols above and below the characters to capture the rich set of sounds that are part of Sanskrit but that cannot be represented in English. The meaning of the verse is then given in English. Oral recitals of the prayers are provided at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DOESWbiOmso. The prayers are chanted slowly to help the children easily learn them.
Kumud Singhal did her Ph.D. in Statistics from the University of Waterloo, Canada. She then worked at Bell Labs as a Distinguished Member of Technical Staff for nearly twenty years. She has been a student of Vedanta for the last thirty years and has been teaching Hindu Religion and Culture to children and Sanskrit to adults for many years.
Classes for Children
Kumud Singhal, has been conducting classes for children for the last several years at her residence. There is no tuition fees except a registration fee of $51
Children classes provide spiritual and cultural orientation to children of the modern age. The classes help children understand the rich cultural heritage of India in keeping with the Vedic vision. These classes enable parents to raise children with a reverence for Indian culture, to create self-confidence and inspire children to serve and act cheerfully. The classes provide children an atmosphere to grow with noble ideals and fulfill their potential.
Character-building begins in childhood, but given the fast pace of life, the absence of the ancient gurukula system and the decline of joint family-living, children of Indian heritage are rarely exposed to the beauty and greatness of Indian culture. These classes offers a modern day alternative in which a loving teacher teach children what they ought to know in a fun way with the love of a parent, the doting of a grandparent and the discipline of a teacher.
One’s emotional maturity is influenced by many factors, including an understanding of values, of attitudes and of society in which one live. These classes help children understand the value of values like non injury, speaking the truth, compassion, sharing, humility, the absence of deception, the absence of jealousy, hatred and so on.
Children are introduced to the teachings of Vedanta and Bhagavad Gita. In teaching the universal philosophy of Oneness (Advaita Vedanta), children are led to understand that while Hindu culture may appear to have many Gods, the Truth (God) is the one ultimate Reality, and thus it is one God appearing as many forms, as all things, as beings, and as the entire universe.
One’s wisdom and appreciation of beauty manifests through various forms of one’s culture. And the study of one’s cultural heritage leads to the appreciation of beauty and wisdom in life.
– Pujya Swami Dayananda Saraswati
The weekly classes are open to children 4 years and above. The topics covered are given in the t
Leaning and Chanting of slokas/mantras
Value of Values (non-injury, truthfullness, … )
Stories from Panctantra, Ramayana, Mahabharata & Puranas
Introduction to Vedanta and Bhagavad Gita
Celebration of Indian Festivals (Shivaratri, Diwali, Holi, …)
About India (National Anthem, Gandhiji, …)
Devanagari Alphabets and basic Sanskrit
Contact Information: firstname.lastname@example.org; 408-934-9747
Why I started Children classes?
I saw the benefits of the early exposure to the Vedantic/Gita teachings in my two daughters lives who are now married and have children of their own. I felt that a child’s mind is very impressionable. Teaching them importance of following basic moral values and the rich Hindu traditions and culture is a worthwhile undertaking. Also I love children, have lot of patience with them and also have the right skills.
- We start the class with simple yoga exercises and meditation and japa. This teaches children to relax and to focus their minds. by doing a mental japa of ओम् नमश्शिवाय. They are being taught to bring the mind back to japa if it wanders off.
- The children then chant slokas/mantras which they have learnt. New slokas are taught every month. I also explain pujavidhanam (how to do puja), purpose of puja and prayers etc.
- Every month a new topic from Vedanta or Bhagavad Gita is chosen for discussion like (1) Action and Reation (2) Unity in Diversity and (3) Value of Values. After the discussions, children write essays and present them to the whole class.
- Time permitting we also read Stories from Panctantra, Ramayana, Mahabharata and the Puranas.
- Considerable time is spent in learning the Devanagari alphabets so that they can read the slokas .
- The class ends with a little puja followed by prasadam.
At the end of the year children put up a stage performance for their family and friends. The guests of honor are Sri Vijay Kapoor and his wife Pammi Kapoor. The stage performance is followed by a lunch.
Brief overview of the program
Work books and some light homework are given to the children.
A set of Purna Vidya books on conducting children classes written by by Sri Dhira Chaitanya and Swamini Pramanandaji is a very good reference. The syllabus consists of 3 volumes in 12 parts. Volume 1, for children of ages 6 to 10, includes plays, games, and illustrations from the Ramayana, Bhagavata Purana and Mahabharata. Vol. 2, for ages 11 to 14, has two types of books, text books for students and Guidelines for Teaching. It also has puja that covers values, Ishvara, religious disciplines, religious culture and Vedic knowledge. Vol. 3, addressing teenagers between the ages of 15 and 17, covers topics on the fourteen-fold Vedic knowledge, including Bhagavad Gita and contemporary teen issues. The program is accompanied by instructional chanting tapes. Please visit purnavidya.org for details.
What is पूजा
पूजा is one of the most beautiful ways to bring out the devotee within oneself and establish a relationship with the Lord. पूजा is called कायिकम् कर्म, an action involving one’s limbs. It also includes speech and mental action in the form of chanting and thinking of the Lord.
In a physical form of worship, such as a पूजा, there is a greater field of expression of one’s devotion than it is possible in purely oral or mental forms of worship. The body, mind, and speech are all involved in a पूजा. The forms, colors, fragrances and sounds of the various items in worship arrest one’s mind and aid in invoking devotion in oneself.
A पूजा is performed in order to express one’s gratitude for all one has been given in one’s life. The very creation in which one is born is considered to be a gift of the Lord. The body-mind-sense complex is made of five basic elements: space, air, fire, water and earth which also constitute the creation. Through the sense perceptions backed by the mind one perceives the Lord’s vast creation and appreciates his glories.
Traditionally, a form of worship known as पञ्चोपाचा-पूजा, worship with five fold offering, is performed. This worship acknowledges the presence of the Lord and makes a simple offering of the five elements through a symbolic offering of puñpa, flowers; dhupa, incense; dipa, light; naivedya, food and gandha, sandalwood paste. (पुष्प धूप दीप नैवेद्य गन्ध). These objects represent the elements space, air, fire, water and earth, respectively.
Everything is God
There is only God but there are different manifestations.
Everything is a form, your language is a form, namaste is a form, your dress is a form. We give names to the different form
As you have to take specific medicines for specific ailments. Like that, you have specific prayers for specific occasions. If you have an eye problem, I can invoke God as a Devata presiding over eyes. When we need money we invoke God as a devi presiding over money (Laksmiji). For knowledge we worship God in the form of devi Sarasvati. Similarly when we start something new we want to be successful so we invoke God in form of Lord Ganesha to remove all the obstacles.
God is all knowledge. In a tiny tomato seed all knowledge is there that it will grow as a tomato plant not an apple tree. Where is this knowledge coming from? God manifests as
Explanation of Prayers
कराग्रे (कर-अग्रे) वसते लक्ष्मीः कर-मध्ये सरस्वती । कर-मूले स्थिता गौरी प्रभाते कर-दर्शनम् ॥
On the forepart of your palm is Goddess Lakshmi in the middle of your palm is Goddess Sarasvati; on the base of your palm is Goddess Parvati. In this manner , look at your palm in the morning.
While looking at the palm, one invokes the Lord in form of various deities, thus sanctifying all the actions that will be done during the day. By acknowledging the Lord as the giver of the capacity to perform actions and as the giver of the fruits of these actions, one sanctifies action.
Different parts of the hand represent लक्ष्मी representing wealth, सरस्वती representing knowledge पार्वती representing power confidence and ability to do anything. They are not real persons sitting in heaven who will favor or punish you. Their beautiful forms are just created so it is easy for you to relate to them. In our life we need all the three of them. We need knowledge in form of good education, wealth in form of money to survive and various accomplishments to build confidence and ability to do any thing (power). So we need the blessings of all of them. Every thing in this world is first manifests, then it is sustained for some time and then it perishes. ब्रह्मा represents creation विष्णु represents sustenance and महेश represents power to do anything even destruction. For creation knowledge is needed so सरस्वती is the consort of ब्रह्मा, for sustenance wealth is needed and therefore लक्ष्मी is the consort of विष्णु, and for ability to do anything power is needed so पार्वती is the consort of महेश .
Each prayer had something to teach. For example सर्वे भवन्तु सुखिनः teaches to pray for the welfare of others rising above me and mine. भूमि नमस्कारः teaches to respect nature.
I have prepared a prayer book for the children. The pdf is at Prayer Book. The following video will help children with their chanting. </p>
Learn Hindi Books by Dr. Kumud Singhal
There are series of the five books ‘आओ हिन्दी सीखें’ – Come let us learn Hindi’ available on amazon.com
These series of five book are designed specifically for English speaking children. No prior knowledge of the Hindi language is necessary. I have included Romanized transliterations for the alphabets, words, and sentences in italics alongside the Hindi script (देवनागरी devanagri) in all the five books. Although this provides a means to get started quickly, I highly recommend children taking the time to learn to read and write the Hindi script.
Transliteration is an extension of the English character set with additional symbols above and below the characters to capture, the rich set of sounds that are part of Hindi but have no equivalent in English. The Hindi alphabet and its transliterations are given.
Book 1 gives a brief introduction to the Hindi language. It will be suitable for older children as well as adults. It has two sections (1) The alphabet and their pronunciation and (2) Grammar: nouns, pronouns, adjectives, verbs, etc. Only a subset of the grammar rules. Many examples are given to aid the understanding of these rules.
The remaining four books contain colorful illustrations and are designed for younger children with an emphasis on becoming familiar with the language and able to speak it.
Books two and three will help them learn the vowels and consonants.
Book four will help children learn colors and count from one to ten. Colorful charts showing words for animals, birds, fruits, vegetables, parts of the body and commonly used things are given to increase their vocabulary. The book concludes with simple sentences and conversations.
Book five has some nursery rhymes and short stories for children to enjoy.
Learn Sanskrit by Dr. Kumud Singhal
Please visit my website https://arshavidyacenter.org/class/sanskrit/ for links to the pronunciation of alphabets, practice work sheets on writing alphabets, grammar, tutorials, documents, books, etc. There are two books written by me available on amazon.com to learn Sanskrit.
This is Part 1 of the book Sanskrit-sahakari (helper to Sanskrit). It has eight chapters. Chapters one, two, and three give a brief overview of the Sanskrit language without going into too much grammar, chapters four to seven give the grammar details of a few basic topics like nouns, pronouns, adjectives, verbs, indeclinables, suffixes, and sandhi and chapter eight gives the grammatical analysis of a few verses from the Bhagavad Gita. A brief summary of each chapters is as follows:
Chapter one gives a brief history of the Sanskrit grammar.
Chapter two discusses the alphabets and their pronunciation.
Chapter three outlines the basic structure of the language with a brief description of the building blocks. Some of these blocks are explained in greater detail in chapters four to seven.
Chapter four describes nouns, pronouns, and adjectives and gives the declension tables for words for masculine, feminine, and neuter genders. Commonly used indeclinables are also discussed.
Chapter five describes the verb forms in present and past tense and imperative and potential moods in both active and passive voices. Conjugation tables of many common roots are given for both the tenses and moods.
Chapter six discusses the use of the कृत् (krta)suffix.
Chapter seven describes the सन्धिः (sandhi) rules for vowel, consonant, and visarga. The sandhi rules are summarized compactly in easy to read tables.The concepts in chapters four to seven are illustrated through many examples, some of them taken from the Bhagavad Gita.
Chapter 8 gives the grammatical analysis of a few verses from the Bhagavad Gita.
Part 2 of the book contains sixty simple Sanskrit short stories with English translations. The first set of thirty stories are with and without sandhi. They will help the students understand the sandhi rules and grammar. The last thirty stories are without sandhi and the students are encouraged to do the sandhi themselves. These stories are meant to be read loudly for correct pronunciation. They will also help in improving the vocabulary. A number of सुभाषित-s (subhashitas – good sayings) with English meanings are also given.
Please visit my website https://arshavidyacenter.org/class/sanskrit/ for additional links for the pronunciation of alphabets, practice work sheets on writing alphabets, grammar, tutorials, documents, books, etc