Hinduism summer camps for Indian children in America

via Indo-Asian News Service - New York published on July 25, 2007


Parents send children to know their identity and learn ancient traditions

 

Their eyes on the acharya, or teacher, the Indian origin children chant prayers in Sanskrit. Many can recite passage from the Hindu scripture Bhagavad Gita. For, these US-born children of Indian American parents have been sent to summer camps and weekend schools to learn about ancient Indian religious traditions and maintain their identity.

 

Take, for instance, the Chinmaya Mission in Virginia . They focus their attention on Swami Dheerananda, the mission’s Hindu teacher, or acharya as they call him. Together they chant prayers in Sanskrit.

 

Afternoons in the mission are devoted mostly to traditional songs and dances that mix Bollywood with religious tales. Hundreds more attend Sunday school classes during the school year, the New York Times reported.

 

“In California alone, over 10,000 children attend some sort of Hindu or Indian instruction on the weekend, especially during summers,” Shana Sippy, an Indian American doctoral student in religion from Columbia University , said.

 

Explaining Hinduism to Americans is a challenge, one that is leading to the homogenization of a faith that in India is characterized by a variety of local beliefs and worship practices, some scholars and Hindus believe.

 

“It has to be homogenized at some level because if I ask my daughter, she does not know the difference between the practice of Hinduism among south Indians and Bengalis,” said Sanjeev Chatterjee, whose eight year-old daughter, Maya attends the Chinmaya camp. “There has to be dilution at some level because there hasn’t been a critical mass of us, though that may be starting to change”.

 

According to Harvard’s Pluralism Project on religious diversity, there are two million Hindus currently living in the US , a tiny fraction of the approximately one billion Hindus worldwide.

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