Hindu children are the inheritors of one of the world’s greatest cultural, religious, and spiritual traditions. However, Hindu children growing up in Western societies are often not aware of this great inheritance. The purpose of Hindu Heritage Summer Camp, Inc., is to provide an opportunity for Hindu youth, ages 8 to 16, to explore and understand the diverse traditions and philosophies of Hinduism in an intellectual, nurturing, and fun-filled environment. HHSC is dedicated to helping Hindu youth discover and reconcile what it means to be Hindu American.
Tue Jul 23, 2019
"Hara bham, hara bham, bham bham bolo" sang the campers loudly and proudly. During Bhajan Fest, different teams must chant bhajans, but there is a challenge. For example, one challenge involved singing a bhajan to the tune of a One Direction song and another involved making a skit to go along with the bhajan. STAKS (the staff acronym) was judging each team and providing feedback on their performances. Bhajans are meant to be fun and Bhajan Fest really helps campers celebrate that. It also helped campers get ready for the evening trip to the Sri Vidya Temple, where the Sri Rajarajeshwari murti from the original HHSC camp in the Poconos resides. This year, campers moved around to different stations learning about Sri Rajarajeswhari and Shiva Lingams. At one statione, they participated in an Abhishekam, where they got to pour milk on a Lingam. Abhishekam is a form of puja meant to represent total surrender to and love of the deity. After the stations, we ate delicious dinner and sang bhajans with the temple, who play various Indian instruments and sing beautifully. The bhajans at the temple are always full of energy with everyone singing, clapping, and dancing along.
Sun Jul 21, 2019
Wow, what a weekend! Sunday came with even more fun. It started out with a rangoli competition where the cabins were given chalk and colored rice to create something that represents their cabin names. During the rangoli competition, it was nice to see the cabins bond even more and the campers had to work as a team. Afterwards the campers changed in traditional Indian garments for the vedic procession, where they learn about the Vedas and then go on a procession around the camp grounds with camp director carrying the Vedas on his head. "What are the 4 vedas?" "Do people know what the vedas mean?" "Are they all chanted in the same way?" were some of the questions campers got to discuss and learn about. During the procession, campers chanted one of vedic slokas taught in our beginner chanting class - Trymbakam. This procession is followed by vedic lunch, where campers must each in complete silence with no utensils on the floor while the volunteers in the kitchen serve them delicious Indian food - mutter paneer, aloo subji, daal, raaitha, chapati, and kheer. During the meal, the advanced chanting class chants various pujas, slokas and bhajans. This meal is meant to represent how meals are often consumed in some of the Indian ashrams where young students typically stand up and chant various prayers while others are eating in complete silence on a banana leaf. I think vedic lunch is some of the best food we have at camp, even though we eat in complete silence. At night, was the dance party planned by KYS. This year the theme for the dance party was Into the Jungle! Campers dressed up in camouflage. There were green and brown streamers and balloons. The dance party is just a time when campers can really let loose and have fun! They dance and sing to the songs and have fun with their friends and counselors. It’s a really nice way to finish off the weekend.
Sat Jul 20, 2019
The campers were ready for a jam-packed weekend with all sorts of activities and learning opportunities! Saturday started off with vak siddhi, one of my favorite parts of camp. During vak siddhi, campers pull a topic out of a bag, which can be anything from “What’s your favorite book?” to “Who would you add to Mount Rushmore?”, and give one minute extemporaneous speech on the topic. During the speech they must focus on speaking clearly, avoiding the use of 'uhh' or 'ummm', making eye contact, avoiding long pauses, etc. It is a fun way to learn good public speaking skills. Afterwards they get feedback from their fellow campers to help them improve and learn from each other. Vak siddhi has helped me do much better in school presentations and speeches. In the afternoon, campers engaged in what was called the 'Bhumi Games' or Earth Olympics! Counselors organized a tug-of-war competition between cabins and an obstacle course for the campers. At the end, it became a big mud fight with no one safe from a mud bath! After rigorously washing out the mud, campers got cleaned up and ready for the evening puja. This puja is hands-on and is always based on the camp theme, which is Durga this year. During the puja each camper was given a small picture of Durga to whom they applied kumkum, offered flowers and akshatas, and chanted the puja . This helps campers understand what the different offerings mean and how, in Hinduism, we treat our goddesses like we treat a guest. After a long day the campers were definitely tired, but are ready to do even more the next day!
Fri Jul 19, 2019
Almost half of camp is done, but it feels like it’s only been a day! The start of the weekend, and the best part of camp, began with Devi Puja! We do two Devi Pujas each year because Sri Rajarajeshwari was the main idol at the original camp in Stroudsburg. Today, we prayed to Sri Rajarajeshwari and all forms of the Mother Goddess. It is a learning experience for the campers, because, after each verse, the staff reads the English translations. Hidden within the first 15 verses there is a powerful goddess mantra - the campers can try to uncover the mantra before the next Devi Puja. We give many offerings to the Sri Rajarajeshwari, including jewelry and music/dance. I always loved getting my necklace, and sometimes my water bottle, blessed by the Devi. It is a great way to teach campers the difference between a physical offering and an akshata. For the music/dance offering, we sing bhajans and allow campers to perform other music and dance. It is like a mini talent show and is always so much fun. Campers that go up are always met with a lot of cheering and support by their fellow campers, counselors, and staff, which helps build confidence, especially for younger campers. My first year at camp I really enjoyed Devi Puja because the challenging verses allowed me to see the growth of my chanting skills. I also loved seeing the campers perform, (and performing myself) hearing the meaning of what it was we were chanting, and, of course, wearing traditional Indian clothing. However, as I have grown older, I have also grown an appreciation for the emphasis Hinduism has on the mother goddess and how she represents Shakti (strength). I really value how, in Hinduism, women embody this type of inner shakti and I am excited to see everyone, especially the younger girls, learn these positive values as well.
Thu Jul 18, 2019
Throughout the day the campers were full of anticipation because at night they would be participating in holi! The campers went through their daily routine thinking about who they were going to pour color on, and which of their friends they knew would color them. Holi is one of the campers favorite activity. It’s all about friendly competition and it’s just a lot of fun! But before the campers could get to holi they had something else, zodiac dinner! Zodiac dinner is all about getting campers to talk to people they would have never had before. The campers sat with their zodiac sign and got to know campers from different age groups. I’m a Capricorn, and I sat with them and was able to get to know some of the campers better. I even got wowed by some magic by one of the younger boy campers! But finally, after dinner, it was time for holi. The campers were separated by their cabins and got excited by creating some cabin cheers! Staff explained the rules, to make sure no one got hurt, and then 3... 2... 1... everyone was throwing color left, right, and center! I was able to capture some of the moments and even got hit by some color myself. Holi has always been a favorite activity by everyone at camp because of the cabin competition and the fun!