Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Shloka for Kids series - Shuklaam Bharadaram

Holiday season is upon us and for those of us in the northern hemisphere, its time to bring the winter clothes out of the closet. Time to stay warm and keep sickness at bay. Time to spend with family and friends and be thankful as ever for all that life has to offer us.
The shloka that I have chosen for today is another two liner. Its a verse praising Lord Vishnu, one of the Holy Trinity of Hinduism, the Life Giver or the Preserver.


शुक्लाम् भरदरम विष्णुम् शशि वर्णम् चतुर्भुजम्  ।
प्रसन्न वदनम् ध्यायेत् सर्व विघ्नोप शान्तये   ॥

ಶುಕ್ಲಾಮ್ ಭರದರಮ್ ವಿಷ್ಣುಂ ಶಶಿ ವರ್ಣಮ್ ಚತುರ್ಭುಜಮ್ ।
ಪ್ರಸನ್ನ ವದನಮ್ ಧ್ಯಾಯೇತ್ ಸರ್ವ ವಿಘ್ನೋಪ ಶಾಂತಯೇ ।।

shuklaam bharadaram vishNum shashi varNam chaturbhujam |
prasanna vadanam dhyayet sarva vighnopa shaantaye ||

(Let us meditate upon) Lord Ganesha, who is wearing white clothing, who is lustrous in appearance like the moon and one who has fours arms.(Let us meditate upon) him who has a compassionate and gracious face, to ward off all obstacles.

The Sanskrit word, dhyayet, signifies the action of meditation (dhyaana) to be performed by the worshippers. Its an invitation that translates as 'let us all do dhyaana' upon Lord Vishnu who has all the characteristics that are then described in the shloka. The placement of the verb works very well in Sanskrit, but not so much in translation! This should be pretty easy as far as pronunciation goes, because there arent any multi-syllabic words.

Wishing you all a very happy and healthy holiday season!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Shlokas for Kids series: Shubham karoti

Wishing you and your families a very joyful and prosperous Deepawali! As the festival of lights draws to a close this year, I thought a shloka on light would be appropriate! Light has always been a metaphor for more positive aspects such as knowledge and hope and as a result anything that provides us with that life giving, affirming light is also to be revered and cultivated. (Conversely, darkness has been a metaphor for ignorance, for destructive and harmful intent.)
The following shloka is again a simple one and can be easily taught to kids. Traditionally, this shloka was recited in the evenings when lamps were lit against the encroaching darkness.


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शुभम् करोति कल्याणाम् आरोग्यम् धन सम्पदम्  ।
शत्रु बुद्धि विनाशाय दीपज्योतिर्नमोस्तुते ॥

ಶುಭಂ ಕರೋತಿ ಕಲ್ಯಾಣಂ ಆರೋಗ್ಯಂ ಧನ ಸಂಪದಂ ।
ಶತ್ರು ಬುದ್ಧಿ ವಿನಾಶಾಯ ದೀಪಜೋತಿರ್ನಮೊಸ್ತುತೆ ।।

Shubham karoti kalyaaNam aarogyam dhana sampadam |
shatru buddhi vinaashaaya deepajyotirnamostute ||

(I pay obeisance to the light of the lamp) that brings auspiciousness, well being (or health) and wealth
and destroys harmful and damaging feelings.

Notes: The only phrase that might present a stumbling block for kids is the last one which can be broken down as - deepaha ( दीपः )  jyotihi ( ज्योतिः ) namostute ( नमोस्तुते ).

There is plenty in the world and all around us to instill fear, pessimism or despair in us. But conversely, there is even more to inspire hope, joy and eternal optimism, one of which is your family and loved ones. So gather them around you and celebrate all that is well in your life!
Happy Diwali!! 

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Shlokas for Kids series - Sarva Mangala Maangalye

Wishing all readers a very happy Navaratri! I thought I would share a devi shloka with you.
In the contrasting land that is India, Goddesses are equally revered as are Gods. Divine femininity is honored and worshiped and has been for ages in all parts of the country. If only people would see the same divinity in their fellow females as well. However, I digress.
The shloka is a beautiful one and is also a short one.


सर्वे मंगल मांगल्ये शिवे सर्वार्थ साधिके ।
शरण्ये त्र्यम्बके गौरी नारायणी नमोस्तुते ॥

ಸರ್ವೆ ಮಂಗಲ ಮಾಂಗಲ್ಯೇ ಶಿವೆ ಸರ್ವಾರ್ಥ ಸಾಧಿಕೆ ।
ಶರಣ್ಯೇ ತ್ರ್ಯಮ್ಬಕೆ ಗೌರಿ ನಾರಾಯಣಿ ನಮೋಸ್ತುತೆ ।।

sarva mangala maangalye shive sarvaartha saadhike |
sharanye tryambake gouri naaraayani namostute ||

O Naaraayani, one who is auspiciousness herself, who fulfills all the wishes and objectives of her devotees, who gives refuge, has three eyes and a glowing face, I offer salutations to you.

Notes: I am increasingly aware of the difficulties faced by children born  outside of India while pronouncing some of the consonants in the Indian languages, especially Na and La (ण and ळ ). However, like learning any new language, practice is key and will definitely help.
The word that can be split is tryambake or triambake : tri - denoting 3 and ambake meaning eyes.

Hope you find this useful. Wishing you a festival season filled with grace and joy!

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!.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Reading for Fun and Learning (Sept 2012 : Part 1)

Consult any children's' expert about enhancing early child development and the one advice that they all agree on is to cultivate the habit of reading. Be it child rearing books or online articles or even your child's pediatrician, they all agree that reading books to young children and then having them read books to you once they are old enough is a habit that will help them tremendously.
Read this post to find out about all the benefits of reading to and with your children.
I agree that the reading habit does not come easily to everybody. I mean, curling up on the sofa with a good, gripping book is not everybody's idea of bliss ! As much as experts say that the more children see their parents read, the more likely it is that they will enjoy reading as well..I think its not necessary to have 300 page books in your could read magazines, read newspapers, read brochures !! Let the kids make the connection that the written word imparts information that is considered important by their parents.


Getting the books themselves is another important part. That is one thing that I absolutely adore in the US...each city has at least one public library and more often that not ,its very well stocked. Thank you Benjamin Franklin ! Membership is free and in addition to books, you can check out audio books as well. So start there and you are sure to find books to everybody's liking.

Other places to get books would be your child's school library.
The public libraries often have book sales where withdrawn books are extremely affordable, very often priced at $1 each. These is a wonderful opportunity to start building your home library.
Check out half price book stores, garage sales and other book store sales to get inexpensive books.
While choosing books for your child, get those which are age as well as reading level appropriate. If the book is about a topic that is interesting and readable, then your child will show more interest.

My son is currently in the first grade. He has been reading for quite a while now and has progressed to chapter books. As per the suggestion of his school teachers, we make it a point to read daily for at least 20 minutes, either together or individually.As part of an afterschooling program that I am going to start with him, we are going to read as many books as possible, this school year, with a higher emphasis on reading comprehension and spelling.I got a wonderful website from my son's school teacher which has recommended grade wise reading lists. There are also lists available from the library for reference.

We decided to start with a book called 'The Boy Who Loved Words' It is about a boy who collects all sorts of words and sometimes feels alienated from his peers who make fun of him. My son, who has already read this book once gives this one 4 out of 5 stars ! We will make it a point to read the book several times over a period of two weeks. We will do writing assignments based on the book, write the new words that we learn and try and understand the message conveyed in the book.

I hope to make this a regular feature, writing about all the books that we read and learn from and have fun with ! Please join along if you are interested or comment about the books that you have read and enjoyed. Give reading a chance, after all , books are loads of fun, undemanding, always available and informative and educational to boot..what better friends can you ask for ??

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Introducing Solids to your baby - Part II

Once you have started down the road of feeding solids to your little one and you are comfortable with the routine, there are a whole lot of things that you can experiment with. Many parents, myself included, start with the grain cereals available on the market. After a month or so after this stage, the pediatrician might recommend that you start feeding your child pureed vegetables and fruits. Apparently there are different views on whether its better to start first with vegetables and then fruits. The reasoning is that if you feed fruits first, then the baby might not accept the obviously different taste of pureed vegetables..Whatever you decide, do discuss it with your baby's pediatrician. I started with pureed apples and then generally alternated with veggies and fruits.

Picture Source -

Good choices for first fruits for babies include apples ,pears ,cantaloupes, peaches and apricots , blueberries
Choices for veggies include green beans , spinach, carrots , butternut squash , green peas.

For any fruit or vegetable that you choose, wash it well and peel it and remove the seeds.
Chop it into medium sized pieces and steam well until it is very tender.
I would recommend that you steam rather than boil so that you retain as many nutrients as possible.
Once the steamed produce cools down, you can mash it with a fork or even run through a blender for a finer puree.

Who wouldn't want to prepare fresh food for their child daily ? But with the hectic lives that we lead nowadays, it is sometimes just not possible. The alternative is to prepare a batch of fruit / veggie puree and then pour it into ice cube trays and stick the trays into the freezer. After a few hours , pop the frozen cubes and store in a zip lock bag. When you want to feed your baby, take out the number of cubes that you need and thaw them out.
Make sure that the food is at a proper temperature, neither too hot nor too cold. Preferably, it should be slightly warm. It will be more palatable to your baby and its also good for digestion.

Once you have tried individual fruits and vegetables, you can make fruit / veggie combinations for a different variety. Remember that you can try a variety of permutations and combinations. If on the first try, your baby doesn't seem to like your preparation, don't despair !! Experts suggest that it takes a minimum of 7 tries for your baby to accept any new taste or texture.

You can even combine vegetables and fruits to get the taste as well as the nutritional punch. For inspiration, you can check out the flavors available in the markets and then prepare the same at home !

I have often seen parents plop their kids in front of the television in the hope that they would get distracted by the programs which would allow the parents to feed them quickly. Although this might work in the beginning, I can only think that this habit will be harmful in the long run. It is entirely possible that even when the child gets older, he / she will not be willing to eat unless they are watching the idiot box.
Instead, have them sit comfortably in a bouncer or a high chair , keep their food in front of them and involve them in the process. Tell them stories, talk to them about your day, sing songs. They will be much more entertained by your face and will also eat if they are hungry.

Please don't force feed your child. If a spoon full or two is all your precious darling manages to eat in the first few sittings, then so be it. Slowly increase the amount of fruit or vegetable puree that you offer your baby.
As the baby grows, so will its appetite and your baby will start enjoying all of nature's bounty :)

Once you have started feeding solids, you might notice some changes in the baby's bowel movements. If it looks like your baby is constipated, don't worry...Increase the amount of liquid that your baby consumes, be it breast milk, formula or even plain water. It will take a little while for the tiny digestive systems to get accustomed to different textures of food.
My children's pediatrician that in order to keep their digestive systems working in order, we should ensure that we include the following food in their diets :
* Cantaloupe - Puree the fruit and feed at lunch or snack time
* Papaya - Make a smoothie with other fruits and offer it to your baby
* Prunes - Prunes are an excellent fruit to keep your baby regular. You can rehydrate prunes in warm water and then blend it in a blender for homemade prune puree ...or you could also chop it into small pieces and mix it while making oatmeal for your baby
* Raisins - Include these dried fruits in oatmeal, or other fruit purees for added sweetness

Stay tuned for a final post on this topic ! I will be including some recipes for home made food that you can try with your little ones !

Please note that I am not a healthcare professional. It is always advisable to consult your child's pediatrician and your own common sense while trying new things with your baby.