Friday, September 25, 2015

Shlokas for kids - Gurur Brahma Gurur Vishnu

In continuing with the shlokas for kids series, the one that I am focusing on today is also an easy one. With just two lines, it praises and reveres the one that is instrumental in imparting knowledge and wisdom - a teacher. In ancient India, young boys were sent off to live with their peers and their teachers or gurus, away from their families so that they could learn everything that they would need to carry out their duties and responsibilities later in life. In this regard, the Guru took on not only the role of the teacher, but also that of a parent, a friend, a  guide and much more.
Even though the tradition of sending one's children away to an ashrama is no longer observed, teachers are still highly respected and admired for their role in the lives of people.

गुरुर्ब्रह्मा गुरुर्विष्णु गुरुर्देवो महेश्वरः
गुरुर्साक्षात परब्रह्मा तस्मै श्री गुरुवे नमः

ಗುರುರ್ಬ್ರಹ್ಮ ಗುರುರ್ವಿಷ್ಣು ಗುರುರ್ದೇವೋ ಮಹೇಶ್ವರಃ
ಗುರುರ್ಸಾಕ್ಷಾತ್ ಪರಬ್ರಹ್ಮ ತಸ್ಮೈ ಶ್ರೀ ಗುರುವೇ ನಮಃ

Gurur brahma gurur vishnu gurur devo maheshwaraha
gurur saakshaat parabrahma tasmai shree guruve namaha

The teacher is Brahma (the creator), he is Vishnu (the preserver), he is also Maheshwara or Eeshwara (the destroyer). He is the absolute( divine) and (I) pay my obeisance (homage / respect / salutations / veneration) to that teacher. 

Whether you believe in the divinity of a teacher or a spiritual leader, that depends on your world view and your faith and beliefs. But any person who is capable of guiding others, of teaching them to distinguish between right and wrong and of leading them towards knowledge is worthy of respect, in my humble opinion.

Sanskrit has a lot of sandhis (संधी ), a way of joining two words together to shorten the pronunciation.
For e.g. Guruhu (गुरुः ) Brahma (ब्रह्मा ) becomes Gururbrahma (गुरुर्ब्रह्मा )
              Tatha (तथा ) Eva (एव )  becomes tathaiva    (तथैव)

Most of the shlokas, if not all, make use of this word combining rule in Sanskrit. For a beginner,  especially for children,  Sanskrit words can seem intimidating. They are much more pronounceable if they are broken down into the component words and nothing is lost in the essence of the shloka.
So definitely try that before you give up on a particular shloka as too difficult!

Wishing you a happy and a peaceful day!

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Shlokas for Children - Series

On this auspicious day of Ganesh Chaturthi, I decided to start a series of shlokas, mainly targeted for kids. These will be short, consisting of 2 to 4 lines. Children generally have a good memory and daily recitation of the shlokas enables them to memorize these shlokas easily. I am not a deeply religious person. I consider myself a staunch Hindu, because I identify deeply with the principles and ideologies put forth in Hinduism. I am more interested in the spiritual aspect of Hinduism. That said, I like reciting shlokas and listening to them. I have experienced that calming effect of the recitations.
I have also heard my elders suggest that reciting shlokas helps children to speak clearly. I also think that reciting the shlokas help the children to develop mindfulness, concentration and it is definitely a form of meditation.
My kids have been reciting shlokas since the past few years. I am trying to put together a few of them online so that it can serve as a handy reference.
As every Hindu knows, every auspicious ceremony begins with prayers offered to Lord Ganesha. He is the remover of obstacles,  the harbinger of success. He is also worshipped as the God of education, knowledge, wisdom and wealth. The following shloka is a very popular shloka that is recited at the beginning of many religious ceremonies :

वक्रतुण्ड महाकाय सूर्यकोटि समप्रभा
निर्विघ्नं कुरुमे देव सर्व कार्येषु सर्वदा

ವಕ್ರತುಂಡ ಮಹಾಕಾಯ ಸೂರ್ಯಕೋಟಿ ಸಮಪ್ರಭಾ
ನಿರ್ವಿಘ್ನಂ ಕುರುಮೆ ದೇವ ಸರ್ವ ಕಾರ್ಯೇಶು ಸರ್ವದ


Vakratunda mahaakaayaa suryakoti samaprabha
nirvighnam kuru me deva sarva kaaryeshu sarvadaa

Meaning -
This shloka roughly translates as:
(Oh Lord Ganesha), one with a broken tooth and a large body, one with the brilliance of ten million suns, please ensure that all my endeavors are without any obstacles.

When you teach this shloka to a child, please try to help them say it clearly and slowly so that all the syllables are pronounced clearly. You can have them repeat it a few times just so that they can understand the pronunciation.
I found this symbolical representation of Lord Ganesha very interesting. Please take a look along with your child. Telling stories of how Lord Ganesha got the head of an elephant might also help. These stories abound everywhere. An internet search will yield scores of hits. Calling your mother or grandmother will probably get you an interesting version as well!

Please note that translating into another language is always a work in progress, the essence and the beauty of the original is never quite there. If you find any errors, please let me know and I will try to correct it as soon as possible!.