A Memorable Gita Chanting Competition in Chinmaya Prabha Houston

Pujya Gaurang Uncle awarded the Shlokathon trophies.

By Oindrila Rimi Bhawal and Shalini Rao

Photos by Bharath Rao and Ashutosh Kak

HOUSTON: Children and adults of Chinmaya Mission Houston (CMH) came together on the weekend of May 6-7th, 2023, offering the children’s Gita Chanting Competition (GCC) as birthday gift to beloved Gurudev Swami Chinmayananda on His 107th birth anniversary on May 8th and celebrating his life-long dedication and profound passion in sharing the deeper meaning of the Bhagavad Gita. This year, the annual competition was centered on Karma Yoga – Chapter 3 of the Bhagavad Gita.

Before the competition commenced on May 6th, Sreedevi Gundamaraju, the GCC Coordinator, explained the rules and guidelines. The Acarya of CMH, Pujya Gaurang Nanavaty, in his opening remarks, reminded us that while we call this a competition, all participating children and their parents really competed with themselves by committing to learn, appreciate, and embrace Gita as a way of life.

As the chants flowed from about 75 Bala Vihar students in age range from kindergarten to high school, the delighted audience was in awe of the clarity of enunciation and pronunciation of the Sanskrit verses and the ability of the older children to explain the meaning of the verses with relatable examples and experiences from their own life. One of the biggest delights of this event was to see the 4–5-year-old Anagha group of children who barely knew how to read, also chant the Gita verses with deep sincerity. One may argue that these children do not even understand what they are chanting, but the early bonds they are forming with the Bhagavad Gita are now engrained in their foundational value system. Another noteworthy fact of this competition was the Medhavi group where children from all age groups were welcome to participate and chant the entire chapter 3 and demonstrate their relentless commitment to learn Bhagavad Gita.

Some of the parents shared their stories of how and more importantly why they invested themselves into their children taking on this journey. While it would be easy to put the Gita chanting endeavor on the backburner with kids navigating through school, sports and other activities, those families’ commitment and belief in the value of this effort was evident in the children’s soulful rendering of the Gita verses.

Preparation for this annual competition begins early in February each year and a team of dedicated teachers help students with diction, chanting style, pronunciation, and melody. The children spend over three months each year preparing for the big day. All children who participate in the competition are recognized as champions in gold, silver, and bronze levels.

On May 7th, Chinmaya Mission families assembled in Smriti Hall during two sessions to commemorate the winners from the competition, while rightfully celebrating all participants and their families as the results were announced by GCC Coordinator Shravan Arra. Listed below are the categories and the gold champions:

Anagha (KG): Prakrthi Bhat, Atharv Dixit, Apoorva Muchintaya, Advika Vemuru

Arjuna (1st,2nd grades): Reeshma Verma, Samhita Penmatsa, Jiya Simha, Aanika Rana, Sachit Venkataraman, Pranav Manthena, Arjun Surati, Medhya Khanduri, Camila Jaisingh

Bharata (3rd, 4th grades): Ananya Rao, Sri Shivamsha Veruva, Rishab Verma, Samarth Gupta, Anagha Vemuru, Snigdha Mishra

Partha (5th,6th): Vashi Banavalikar, Pranati Shenoy

Gudakesa (7th, 8th); Pranav Sriram, Shree Shodashi Veruva, Eakanshi Tripathy

Dhananjaya (9th to 12th grades): Prakrati Shenoy

Kounteya (9th to 12th grades, no memorization): Mauli Chawla, Diya Parikh

Medhavi (1st to 12th grades): Pravar Bhat, Pranav Sriram, Samarth Srivatsan, Ahana Rao, Shree

Shodashi Veruva, Prakrati Shenoy, Vashi Banavalikar, Pranati Shenoy, Khushi Buxani, Arya Panchakshari

To add to the celebration, Shlokathon trophies were awarded by Pujya Gaurang Uncle to a select group of children who undertook the mammoth effort of memorizing a total of 241 verses from a selection of Stotra and chapters from the Gita. Shlokathon is a special feature of CMH, envisioned by CMH Acarya, Pujya Darshana Nanavaty, and guided by Smt. Rucha Sheth who has taught Shlokathon classes for over 30 years at CMH. This year’s winners are Ahana Rao, Inaya Tripathy, Eakanshi Tripathy, Keshav Narkar, Hariharan Jayant and Shyam Jayant.

Pujya Acharya commended all volunteers who facilitated the celebrations – the GCC coordinators, GCC teachers, the Shlokathon effort, and a host of volunteers from Facilities, Sound/recording, Bhajan/Orchestra, Kitchen, Welcome Desk and more.

Finally, in a moving tribute to Pujya Gurudev, Dr. Sameer Murali touched our hearts in a very relatable way as he described his 30+ year journey with Chinmaya Mission highlighting

Gurudev’s impact on his evolution from a youngster struggling to find his cultural identity to becoming a champion of the Vedanta way of life.

The entire celebration at CMH was a humble offering of appreciation for Pujya Gurudev’s legacy with the hope that this year’s GCC would pave the path for more families toward the Gita way of life.

For more information about Chinmaya Mission Houston, Sri Saumyakasi Sivalaya and its activities please visit www.chinmayahouston.org, www.saumyakasi.org or call temple 281 568 1690 or Jay Deshmukh 832 541 0059 or Bharati Sutaria 281-933-0233