Nearly 160 children sent in submissions for the New Vrindaban Kids' Festival Competition, which focused on the three major Vaishnava festivals in August – Balarama Jayanti, Sri Krishna Janmastami, and Srila Prabhupada’s Appearance Day. The results were impressive and deeply inspiring.
Submissions were open from August 10th to 27th. Families of children aged 4 to 16 from the US, India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Canada, and England registered online at the New Vrindaban website. They then received a link to join a WhatsApp group where the kids could post their creations.
“The idea was to encourage children to take part in the festival and make an offering,” says organizer Tulsi Manjari Dasi, who is also a teacher at Gopal’s Garden Homeschool Co-op, and runs the weekend Kids Camp at New Vrindaban. “Because they're so sweet and innocent, anything they do is going to be simply wonderful. And it provides an opportunity for Krishna to reciprocate with them.”
The competition also gave children from families who were new to ISKCON the chance to learn about the three major festivals, so that they could start to recognize them in their calendars.
Children were split into four age groups: Ages four to six, seven to ten, eleven to fourteen, and fourteen to sixteen. They could submit a video, up to four minutes long, of a song, dance, sloka (verse) recitation, or dramatic piece, related to one of the three festivals. They could also submit a poem, essay, or piece of art.
“One little boy from the US did a rap for Srila Prabhupada for his 125th Appearance Day,” says Tulsi Manjari. “Some girls from South India did Bharatanatyam Dance, because a lot of Bharatanatyam depicts Krishna’s pastimes. Many kids recited a sloka they particularly liked form the Bhagavad-gita, along with the translation, and then explained what it meant to them and what their understanding of it was. We also had dances to songs about Lord Krishna.”
One girl wrote a poem describing how “Krishna Keshava, Radha’s loyal friend, in hand holds a flute.” Another wrote an essay about the different facets of Lord Krishna, how He presents himself differently in different parts of our scriptures, and how we can observe Him as He grows from childhood to youth.
“As each family posted their children’s entry in the WhatsApp group, I think it really helped the others to feel encouraged,” Tulsi Manjari says. “And they were all supporting each other with positive comments on each other's entries.”
On September 10th, award-winners will be announced in each age group, as well as in separate US and international categories. Each child will be emailed a certificate, and will be awarded a stay at a cabin or lodge room in New Vrindaban, along with gift hampers of games, books, and gift cards.
According to Tulsi Manjari, parents were extremely grateful that their kids were engaged during such a difficult time, and that they could share creations they knew would be recognized.
“This was a very excellent platform to exhibit children's talent, and we're very thankful for all your support,” wrote one mother from India.
Another mother, from the U.S., wrote, “Thank you for organizing this beautiful event. Many congratulations to all the kids who participated so enthusiastically.”
Tulsi Manjari herself is grateful for ISKCON New Vrindaban temple president Jaya Krsna Dasa’s support of the event, and graphic designer Nikunja Vilasini Dasi’s work in designing the competition graphics, doing the virtual mail out to all members, and broadcasting submissions on social media.
Tulsi Manjari feels uplifted by the whole endeavor, commenting, “Being in the children’s association has inspired me, and I was really humbled by their submissions. You can see how these souls are so naturally eager to please and serve Krishna. And seeing their creativity, you realize how important it is to nurture them, and to guide them so that they can continue their innate devotional service.”[ children ] [ competition ] [ kids ] [ new-vrindaban ]