The sun. We, as living breathing creatures, owe a lot to the sun. It is our greatest source of energy; the reason life can flourish on our planet. And so, Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh decided to pay tribute to that forgotten hero who always delights in giving light to others, while staying out of the spotlight himself. The surya namaskar is considered by many to be the ultimate form of prayer to the sun. What better way to pay tribute to the sun? And what better time to pay this tribute than during the auspicious occasion of Makar Sankranti?
The annual HSS Sankranti utsav which included a surya namaskar competition, was held in Ved Mandir, along with lunch and the extremely enjoyable bal mela afterwards.
“I think it’s extremely important that we have functions like this because it brings the community together and it’s for a good cause,” says Kalpita Abhyankar of Staten Island. It’s true, there were many new faces on site as well as many Sangh veterans. People of all ages were present, from little children whose competitive flare was contagious to middle-aged adults who were just happy to see the kids having fun while stretching themselves as well. Over a one-hour period, more than 1,000 surya namaskars were done, and just like last year, many were shocked to find that they had the perseverance to be able to challenge their bodies in such a way. “Yay, I did 78. It was awesome!” said an excited swayamsevika after it was all done.
After the yagna was completed, the group of weary swayamsevaks and sevikas entered the main hall to exercise their minds at a wonderful boudhik session delivered by Dr. Naresh Sharmaji who enlightened the crowd on the deeper philosophies and beliefs of Hinduism and Shankar Tatwawadiji who gave the crowd some extra knowledge on makar sankranti. The boudhik was excellent, and shed some new light on intricacies of sanskrit, the meaning of Sanatana Dharma, and the stories of the many aspects of the makar sankranti.
Once the boudhik session was over, the kitchen opened its doors to the crowd, with their stomachs grumbling they entered the dining area where they were served to a mouth-watering, traditional Indian lunch, with scrumptious deserts like gulab jamun and kheer. And as lunch went on and the people began social, one could already hear the children begin to claim bragging rights (“I didn’t stop once”, “I did all of them.”, “Yeah, so did I.”) and the adults reminiscing on various aspects of the program.
But the true fun was just beginning. The crowd favorite bal mela was held after lunch and the array of activities were as varied as ever. All the girls ran to be the first in line for mehndi (henna) and they all came away with intricately drawn designs on their hands while the guys ran to demonstrate their skills at the basketball booth. From rangoli to racing cars to rocking the rim, it was obvious that everyone enjoyed the mela.
And as the program dwindled down to its closing moments, many people left with multiple prizes tucked securely in their arms, waving goodbye to all of the newly made friends, and walking out the door into the wonderful, sunny afternoon.