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Vakratunda Mahaakaaya Sooryakoti Samaprabha |

Nirvighnam kuru me deva sarva kaaryeshu sarvadaa ||

"Ganesha, O god of all virtues, you are as bright as ten milliion Suns; please remove all obstacles from my path"

This is what about 160 children prayed to Shri Ganesha when they participated in the "Ganesh puja by Children" event organized by The Hindu temple of Canton and Balagokulam on September 16, 2005. One day before the auspicious "Ananta Chaturdashi", last day of the 10-day Ganesh festival celebrations, these kids performed mass ganesh puja in the temple.

The group comprised of about 120 pre-registered children participants, 40 walk-ins, approximately 250 parents and 30-40 visitors (totally about 450 people) attended the program. 12 years old Ishita Bhama came all the way from Canada to Detroit to participate in this event. On-line registrations, great support from Michigan websites, community organizations and personal contacts proved instrumental in getting this number. About 12 volunteers actively participated in planning the event and various arrangements. Nearly 25 volunteers helped in preparing, packing and distributing the prasadam.

The program started exactly at 6:30pm as planned, with bhajans sung by Smt.Venktalakshmi-ji of Natyakala academy, USA. After this, Vikas Ponnuru (senior @ University of California, Riverside, Balagokulam participant since childhood and now a Balagokulam TEACHER) gave a wonderful presentation on Lord Ganesha, The presentation included slides on Ganeshji's family, his vehicle, one of the stories of his birth, symbolic representations of different parts of Ganesha's body and the nature of world-wide Ganesh-festival celebrations. The presentation and the unique presentation style of the presenter filled the children with devotion and more enthusiasm to perform puja.

The puja included praying to Ganeshji, making sankalpa(resolve) to perform puja, meditating upon Ganeshji, inviting the lord to receive worship, offering him turmeric, kunkum, beetle nuts & leaves, fruits, flowers etc. A story on Ganesh-vrata was narrated at the end of the puja and after the vote of thanks and a brief on Balagokulam and Sewa contribution to Katrina relief efforts, the program concluded with maha-aarti. Prasadam was distributed to all participants and visitors after the aarti.

The temple pujari Shri Shastri-ji conducted the whole puja session superbly, demonstrating each step in the puja and explaining it's significance in simple words. He did an excellent job not only in explaining the meaning of puja, why it should be performed, how to do sankalpa(resolve) and what sankalpa should we make etc. but also in keeping the participants quiet, disciplined and yet involved. A laminated Ganesha photo was given to each participant during the puja ceremony.

"It is for the first time that temple has hosted such an event and I think we did great" said the satisfied temple president, Shri Sureshji who extended great support for this event. "The program was well-organized and we should have such programs more often" wondered Shastri-ji.

"It was a great event and we all enjoyed it" expressed one of the participants. "We should have such events in all major Hindu temples, like Bharatiya temple, in Detroit" suggested Surendra-ji, senior VHP karyakarta, Michigan

Special thanks to Gautamji Desai and Digantji for all their support and valuable inputs right from the initial planning phase.