As a second generation of Indian Americans is being brought up in America it is becoming harder and harder to instill the Indian culture and Hindu religion in youth being faced with pop culture and modern trends of another country. Today's youth wants to assimilate to the ways of America, and their parents are being faced with the formidable challenge of teaching Hindu traditions to their children.
By combining recreation and education, Hindu camps are intended to help parents impart their religious and cultural heritage to children and create among them an interest and understanding of the ideals and values of Hinduism. Hindu camps are located throughout the country and are sponsored by various Hindu associations such as the Hindu Student Council or local temple groups. Some camps are specifically targeted towards children while others are designed for the whole family.
Specific temples sponsor camps as well as community based Hindu associations. Certain camps focus on teaching Hinduism as a culture while others emphasize teaching Hinduism as a religion. Culture oriented camps will have more activities that involve learning about traditional dancing, language and food of India, while more religious camps will have activities that promote learning concepts such as the meaning of religious scriptures and the symbolism of Gods. Most importantly, the camps serve to bring together Indian Americans for a common purpose of preserving Hinduism. They foster a sense of unity by inculcating shared values.
Hindu Students Council North American Camp
Spiritual talks by renowned speakers such as a spiritual leader or guru who is respected in the community Outdoor activities and games such as cricket which is a popular sport in India Cross-fire debates on issues ranging from controversial issues about inter-racial marriages to traditional topics on the beliefs of Hinduism Cultural programs featuring Garba/Raas (traditional Hindu dance) Team building activities Yoga, meditation, nature walks
Through these activities, the camp hopes to teach youth about dharma (the Hindu way of life), while helping them build bonds with fellow campers.
While growing up, I attended the Sadhna Camp located in New Jersey. This camp is organized by a religious organization that believes in Sadhu Vaswani. Dada Vaswami, who was a disciple of Sadhu Vaswami, is recognized as a saint to his followers and he is the one who conducts these camps. Dada Vaswami brings together the spiritual and religious aspects of Hinduism by teaching his followers to find peace through prayers and devotion to God.
There are Sadhna Camps conducted in India as well as America. American camps are very useful to the Hindus living in America because they give devotees a chance to enjoy something that they would normally have to sacrifice by living in America. A three-day retreat that is defined as a "spiritual fitness program" is meant for parents and children alike. Through meditation and engaging in bhajans (religious songs), attendees of the camp strive to reach a spiritual level that brings a sense of peace to their lives.
The Sadhna Camp also does something else that is more spiritual than social. It fosters bonds with American Hindus who share similar beliefs. This camp gives everyone a chance to bond over yoga sessions and walks with Dada Vaswami around the park. At night, kids are invited to attend a campfire where they sing songs and meet new friends. At the end of the camp, attendees exchange phone numbers and e-mail addresses and establish connections that last a lifetime. Even elderly people who are now living in America take pride in attending the Sadhna Camp because it reminds them of the culture they had to leave behind.
To read an interview with a Sadhna Camp member, click here.
To learn more about the Sadhna Camp visit its web site here.
Please direct comments or questions to Puja Pahlajani