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Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh USA - An introduction Print
The uniqueness of Hindu Dharma and the culture as practiced by the Hindu community has a significant contribution to make for the benefit of humanity. It is therefore essential for Hindus living in America to develop unity and harmony in their community to effectively promote these salient features. There are around two million Hindus in the US. Their contributions to the economic, social and cultural life is widely acclaimed.

Introduction
Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS) USA is a voluntary, non-profit, social and cultural organization(1). Sangh, as the organization is popularly known, aims to organize the Hindu community in order to preserve, practice and promote Hindu ideals and values. HSS conducts structured programs of regular athletic and academic activities to develop strong character and leadership skills in its members (known as swayamsevaks for men and sevikas for women), emphasizing values such as self-discipline, self-confidence and a spirit of selfless service (seva) for humanity. We encourage maintaining Hindu cultural identity in harmony with the larger community.

Sangh is inspired by the idea that the whole world is one family and conducts activities across the United States in order to spread this message widely. Sangh in the United States started in 1989 and today has over 140 weekly meeting centers (shakhas) across the country.


Shakha Activities
Each chapter of HSS is known as Shakha - a weekly program for the entire family. While the kids enjoy learning in the balagokulam, youth and adults also participate in activities such as games, songs, discussions, and lectures on Hindu culture. We strongly emphasize the physical, intellectual and spiritual growth of each individual and also promote a sense of discipline.

Yoga
In order to promote spiritual growth, a sense of unity with the environment and general well being, yoga is an important part of the shakha program.

Games
There are a variety of games, including kabaddi and kho-kho, that are played in shakha. The games enhance our ability to work as a team, our stamina, our physical strength or even our strategic skills. These games bring about a spirit of
cooperation and create a light, free atmosphere in  shakha.

Balagokulam
Children's program in the shakha is called Balagokulam. In the Balagokulams, children learn about their Hindu heritage. They have fun playing games with the other kids. A strong emphasis is also laid on developing leadership qualities and becoming confident representatives of Hindu Dharma.

A well-structured syllabus for different age groups is used at the Balagokulams. In addition, a detailed teacher's training guide has been prepared which can be used by adults that are interested in conducting Balagokulams in their local community.

Balagokulam Magazine
As part of the Balagokulam activities, HSS publishes a quarterly magazine where children contribute much of the content. The magazine includes articles, poems, paintings, crossword puzzles, stories, and plenty more! Each age group has a contest for each section, and a team of volunteers picks the best items to publish. The magazine does an extraordinary job of informing children about our Hindu heritage in a language that they can understand.
If you have children or know of any kids who are interested in getting their work published in the Balagokulam magazine, have them visit the Balagokulam website and register for the contest!

Within two years of its launch, the magazine has more than 2500 subscribers which speak of its popularity among the kids. International subscriptions are available in the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia.

The Balagokulam (http://www.balagokulam.org/) website was also rated as the "Best Hindu Children's Website in America" by HinduNet.

Intellectual Activities
Bouddhik includes lectures, interactive workshops, discussions, songs(geet) and seminars which enhance intellectual development while helping to increase cultural awareness and improve communication skills.

Some Special Events

Yuva Sangam
Throughout the ages, it has become evident that it is in our young age that our potential is at its peak. Yuva Sangams are youth gatherings across the US aimed at directing this potential towards growing as well-rounded members of society, by harnessing the inspiring lessons our ancient scriptures and role models have to offer. Participants engage in lively games, Yoga, discussions on growing up Hindu in America and more. Special guest speakers are invited to share their wisdom on the role of our Hindu culture in our lives as well.

Sangh Shiksha Varg (Training Camp)
Each year in different parts of the US, we have week long training camps for swayamsevaks and sevikas. These camps help to give the attendees confidence and skills required to conduct shakha programs and provide leadership to the Hindu community.
"The one word that comes to mind when I think about SS is invigorating. Whatever it is you're looking for physical, mental, spiritual - SSV has it all." --- Swati Rathore, 17 years, Boston MA

Hindu Heritage Camp
Vacation time can be magical. That's the time to explore, enjoy and make more friends. Hindu Heritage Camp of HSS has been a favorite event for children in America. Through yoga, games, arts and crafts, stories and skits, HHC brings out hidden talents among the kids and also helps children to understand their cultural roots in a fun-filled atmosphere. In 2005, over 2000 children benefited from these camps.

Festival Celebrations
 
Holi celebration in a New York Shakha
 In addition to popular festivals like Diwali and Holi, shakhas celebrate six other festivals (utsavs) including Makar Sankranti, Varsha Pratipada (Hindu New Year), Hindu Sangathan Diwas (coronation of Shivaji Maharaj), Guru Pooja, Raksha Bandhan and Vijaya Dashmi (Dussera).

These festivals provide an opportunity to learn about our history, heritage and culture. The festivals also help to bring the community together.


These festivals provide an opportunity to learn about our history, heritage and culture. The festivals also help to bring the community together.

Festivals also serve as an outreach to the community as well as provide opportunities to conduct service programs.

Sewa(Service)
HSS shakhas in Texas mobilized hundreds of volunteers to assist and provide shelters across Texas during the Katrina disaster. HSS provides medical aid, in-kind donations of food and blankets and even engaged evacuees in yoga and games to relieve the stress of their situation. In addition to this, on an ongoing basis, shakhas visits old-age homes, hospitals and soup kitchens to impart a sense of service.

Major Projects & Past Events

Hindu Sangam - Milpitas CA
This was one of the biggest Hindu gatherings organized by HSS in the summer of 2001. This event brought together over 30 organizations and attracted more than 10,000 people. Highlights of the event were seminars on Yoga and Ayurveda, meeting of spiritual leaders, bhajans by Shri Anup Jalota and a grand Ramayan play performed by 300 children.

Hindu Women's Conferences
Day-long conferences for women were organized in many cities across the US in 2005 on the themes of Maatritva (motherhood), Kartritva (competence) and Netritva (leadership) on the part of Hindu women and how they handle them with grace and humility. These conferences were held on the occasion of the birth centenary of Vandaneeya Mousiji, founder of Rashtra Sevika Samiti and attracted many from all walks of life.

Kaun Banega Ramayan Expert
Over 3000 children took part in an exciting contest, Kaun Banega Ramayan Expert (KBRE), aimed at increasing the awareness about Ramayan among the children in USA. The contest included an online exam followed by in-person exams at more than 100 centers across the country. This innovative contest to take the values of Ramayan to the kids was greeted with overwhelming enthusiasm by children and parents alike.

Hindu Education Foundation (HEF)
Hindu Education Foundation, an educational project of HSS, collaborates with school teachers and students in projecting right understanding about Hinduism and helps to remove misconceptions that prevail in the academic settings about Hindu culture.

Some HEF activities include:
  • Teachers seminars on Hindu Dharma.
  • Class room presentations about Hindu Dharma.
  • Working with the Education Committees that define school curriculum.
  • Provide multi-media resources to teachers, students and parents.
  • Guru Vandana (Teachers Appreciation): Invite school teachers to the Shakha and honor them.

Exhibition on Hindu Culture and Dharmic Traditions of India

HSS is organizing a traveling exhibition to spread awareness about Hindu Dharma and traditions from Bharat. Hindu civilization is one of the most ancient civilizations of the world. Over the millennia the Hindus have developed sophisticated philosophies, religions, sciences, arts and architecture etc., contributing to almost every imaginable field of human endeavor. This exhibition is a bird's eye view of the vast cultural heritage of Hindus.





(1) Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh is a tax-exempt, 501(c)(3) non profit organization registered in New Jersey. Balagokulam and Hindu Education Foundation are programs of Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh USA Inc.
 
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