Balavihar Reopens with Ganesha Puja

 Amid loud chants of “Ganapati Bapa Morya, Puduchya Varshi lavkarya,” parents and children watched the beautiful big Ganesha idol submerge in the pool below the Sivalaya.Photo: Jayesh Mistry

Amid loud chants of “Ganapati Bapa Morya, Puduchya Varshi lavkarya,” parents and children watched the beautiful big Ganesha idol submerge in the pool below the Sivalaya.
Photo: Jayesh Mistry

By Padmashree Rao

HOUSTON: Auspiciousness marked the start of another Bala Vihar year in Chinmaya Prabha Houston when over 800 children, from toddlers to teenagers, performed a Ganesha puja with signature Chinmaya spirit on September 8, Sunday. The celebrations of Ganesha Chathurti continued through the week and culminated with a joyous Ganesha Visarjan on Sep.15, again with delightful Bala Vihar flair.

 It was a festive Sunday morning as happy parents brought their children into the Saraswati Nilayam where a colorful puja environment greeted them. Enthusiastic Bala Vihar teachers and affectionate parent-volunteers escorted the children to their places in grade-wise rows. The children felt special as they sat eagerly in front of their own puja plate which had a beautiful glass cube inscribed with the image of Lord Ganesha, and a small cup of akshata (yellow-rice).

Shobha Ravishankar, a lead BV teacher, welcomed all the children back to another wonderful year of Bala Vihar learning. As the entire hall reverberated with the voices of the children chanting Om and singing an invocation to Pujya Gurudev Swami Chinmayananda, the sacred vibrations set the stage for a delightful and inspiring Ganesha puja.

Every Bala Vihar child performed the traditional sixteen-step (Shodasopacara) puja with caring involvement, guided by a child-friendly audio-visual presentation. As the children’s attention was drawn with the sacred bell ringing, their faces were sincere as they promised (sankalpam) to focus on the Lord. It was an exciting moment when children heard a doorbell ring, announcing the arrival of Lord Ganesha! From that first step of inviting the God into their hearts and homes, the children were absorbed in offering Him a beautiful seat, washing His Feet and Hands, and offering Him water to drink and bathe. Reciting the slokas in Sanskrit and offering the yellow-rice symbolically at each step, the children could understand the progression in worship.

When the children performed the next steps like giving God the most beautiful clothes, the sacred thread, the auspicious Kumkum, and the fragrant sandalwood, the puja became not just a ritual, but a logical, wondrous get-together with Lord Ganesha! The children chanted the eleven main names of Lord Ganesha after hearing their meaning, which added more clarity to their prayer. When they symbolically offered the incense, they understood the beauty of giving their best to God; their offering of sweet raisins as naivedyam, and a coin as dakshina, signaled gratitude of sharing. Finally after praying with the Mangala Dipam for the Divine light to shine in their hearts, the Vedic arati was sung in unison. It was profound to see how all the children, teachers and adults were immersed in the worship of Lord Ganesha that morning.

After the meaningful puja, all the children carried their own glass idol of Ganesha with loving care to the Saumyakasi Sivalaya, following a beautiful big idol of Lord Ganesha. Thereon, the priest Shri Ganeshji sanctified the idols for the whole week with special prayers until the children came the next Sunday to Bala Vihar.

When the children returned on Sep.15 to Bala Vihar, it was amazing to see how they looked forward to taking their adored Ganesha idol home! With a special connection established after a personal puja, it was time for all children to come together again in the sunbathed courtyard of Saumyakasi Sivalaya, this time for a happy and noisy Ganapati Visarjan celebration. Amid loud chants of “Ganapati Bapa Morya, Puduchya Varshi lavkarya,” parents and children watched the beautiful big Ganesha idol submerge in the pool below the Sivalaya and prayed that Lord Ganesha should return to reside in all their hearts!

The auspicious coincidence of Bala Vihar and Ganesha Chathurti celebrations in Houston truly energized the hearts of the entire Chinmaya Mission family. The dedicated efforts of many teams of volunteers under the guidance of the Acaryas Gaurangbhai and Darshanaben Nanavaty truly brought the festive spirit home. And, when the clouds opened up in showers just after the Ganesha Visarjan that morning, it was like Lord Ganesha’s Grace had blessed the sincere prayers of all the devotees.

For further information on Chinmaya Mission Houston and Sri Saumyakasi Sivalaya and,  its activities visit or Call Jay Deshmukh 832 541 0059 or Bharati Sutaria 281-933-0233