Jaahnavi Sanskrit camp set to begin in Jersey; 250 to attend

NEW YORK(TIP): Registration for the Jaahnavi Residential Camp ended earlier this week and the three-day event is ready to take off, according one of the organizers.

“We have 250 registrants this year,” said Suresh Shanmughom, the New York coordinator for the Samskrita Bharati USA-organized event in New Jersey. “They can start arriving at the venue from around 4pm on Friday (August 31).”

The camp will be formally inaugurated on Saturday morning.

The number of participants is limited to around that figure so that the organizers can focus more effectively on the quality of Sanskrit education to be imparted at the camp, pointed out Deepa Nair, a longtime volunteer for the sponsoring organization.

Other segments at the camp include skits, lectures and games – all in Sanskrit.

The camp, which will be held at the Radisson Hotel, Piscataway, N.J., is scheduled to end shortly before noon on Monday, September 3.

Shanmughom, on the eve of the Labor Day weekend event, expressed optimism about its success. It is a Sanskrit-immersion camp. Though there is no bar on using other languages by individual participants, spoken Sanskrit is encouraged by one and all.

“All arrangements such as transportation of participants from across the East Coast to the event and food—breakfast, lunch and dinner, aside from beverages like coffee and tea—have been made,” he said. “A book fair, comprising Samskrita Bharati publications, with a souvenir shop will also be available.”

Such camps have been held for nearly 20 years in the US with a view to promoting the Sanskrit language and culture. The New York coordinator estimated there are nearly 15,000 US speakers of the language, who use it as their primary tongue.

The first such camp – named Alakananda — was held in California in July 2000.

“For the last five years, Jaahnavi has taken place at the Radisson,” she noted. “For years we have closed earlier-than-the-publicized time as participants use early-bird discounts.”

Experienced teachers from India and the US will teach the language to all participants at levels such as beginners, intermediates and advanced. One such expert is attending Jaahnavi from the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay, to deliver a lecture on mathematics.

Though many participants have South Asian origins, others have also taken part in such camps in smaller numbers.

Shanmughom and other organizers have made it clear that there is no need to have prior knowledge of Sanskrit to attend the camp. Separate classes are held for young children.

Based in India, Samskrita Bharati is a nonprofit body dedicated to propagating the language, particularly the spoken variety. The US branch, established in 1998, has spread to more than 20 centers in the country, according to its website.

The organization conducts an online education program, known as SAFL (Sanskrit As a Foreign Language), for grades from eighth through 12th. Some states and counties in America have recognized the program. “It started in 2009 with just 17 students and has now expanded to more than 300 students this year in about half the US states,” said SAFL coordinator Giri Bharatan.

 All ancient Indian texts in subjects such as medicine, mathematics, science and arts, as well as holy books the Ramayana and the Mahabharata are widely respected in the world. “The key to unlocking the knowledge of those works in its original form lies with Sanskrit,” she said.

For further information, please log on to samskrutabharatiusa.org

(Press release issued by Brahm Kanchibhotla)

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