by Disha Udtha
On May 5th, 2019, Chinmaya Mission Houston held their annual Gita Chanting Competition to commemorate the birthday of Pujya Gurudev Swami Chinmayananda. It was well-known that Gurudev loved two things the most – children and the Bhagavad Gita. He also felt that children would be more inclined to do their best if it was posed as a competitive event. And hence, the annual event.
This year, over 83 children from ages 4 to 18 participated in the event. The competition began promptly at 9 am on that Saturday with bhajans and an aarti to the Guru. All participants, parents, judges, and volunteers were welcomed to the competition with a beautiful and encouraging address by Brahmacharini Shweta Chaitanya. She said that the knowledge of the Bhagavad Gita taught Arjuna, the great warrior and hero of the epic Mahabharata, how to be free from stress, anxiety and uncertainty – not just in his current situation but in all situations. Learning this sacred teaching is a rare and valuable opportunity for us, regardless of the depth of our understanding at this time. We are planting the seeds for the sweet fruits of practical wisdom later. She mentioned that it doesn’t matter who won in the competition. All participants had already won, because they won the heart of Bhagavan Sri Krishna and Pujya Gurudev by learning these shlokas.
This year, the Houston Bala Vihar children were to memorize and recite verses from the 17th chapter of the Gita. Grouped according to their ages, they needed to also give age-appropriate explanations. Older children were expected to conduct a deep study of the teachings to present application of this Vedantic philosophy to real-life situations. The judges were given the daunting task of evaluating the scholarly performances, scoring the well-prepared children based on pronunciation, diction, tune, posture, and understanding of the verses.
The children who were most distinguished in each age group were awarded 1st through 3rd place. Contestants who clinched the first place with their near perfect renditions were Vashi Banavalikar and Shyam Jayant (KG – 2nd grades); Ahana Rao and Pranav Sriram (3rd – 5th grades); Meghana Prabhakaran (6th – 8th grades), and Bhavya Kethireddipalli (9th – 12th grades). The 2nd place winners were Cira Parikh (KG – 2nd grades), Diya Parikh (3rd – 5th grades), Aditi Chaubal (6th – 8th grades), and Disha Udtha (9th – 12th grades). They were followed by the 3rd place winners: Hariharan Jayant (KG-2nd grades), Sree Shodasi Veruva (3rd – 5th grades), Veda Suresh (6th – 8th grades), and Varun Wunnava (9th – 12th grades).
In the chapter 17 chosen this year, the central idea was about Lord Krishna’s guidance to Arjuna about the process to identify the texture of one’s own faith. The Lord says that faith can be classified into three separate groups. Sattvic faith is filled with pure goodness. Rajasic faith is that which is filled with passion, and Tamasic faith is born from ignorance. This was in response to the question posed by Arjuna – when one does not have access to scriptural guidance, would it be okay to use one’s own faith to guide them in making decisions?
Gurudev spent a lifetime spreading this beautiful knowledge to seekers all over the world. Inspired by their Guru’s tireless spirit, a special event team of over 50 Gita volunteers came together this year to make this event a memorable success.
For more information about Chinmaya Mission Houston, Sri Saumyakasi Sivalaya and its activities 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