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ISKCON Devotees Present Vaishnava Culture at Italian Schools

By: for ISKCON News on July 3, 2014

Parents of school children in Italy's Lodi province dress up in saris and salwar kameez with dupattas to create a more spiritual atmosphere for Intercultural Day

From an original report by Raghunath Das and Pritha Dasi

There is a growing interest today in learning about different cultures and ways of life. In schools, in the workplace and in society in general, more and more people are sharing their traditions and different aspects of spirituality with each other.

This year, two primary schools in Tavazzano and Sordio, in the province of Lodi, Italy, presented the culture of India. As part of the curriculum – sponsored by the educational department of Italy -- ISKCON devotees Raghunath Das and his wife Pritha Dasi were invited to explain Gaudiya Vaishnavism as taught by the International Society for Krishna Consciousness.

On April 1st 2014, they taught in the morning and afternoon at both primary schools, meeting a total of about three hundred children.  

“The program was designed with a PowerPoint presentation on who we are, where our centers are located and the historical origins of the Vaishnava culture,” says Raghunath.

Simple concepts were presented in a joyful, interactive way, such as the difference between the body and the soul; vegetarianism and respect for the life of all living beings; reincarnation and the eternity of the soul; and the significance of the Supreme Soul as our best friend and witness to our actions. The concept of God as a person was also introduced with a screening of the film “Little Krishna.”

Raghunath Das and his wife Pritha Dasi (center) amongst teachers and parents

The presentation ended with a chanting workshop on the Hare Krishna mantra.

“During the presentation, we gave the students time for questions and reflections,” Raghunath says. “Due to children’s simple nature and great desire to learn new things, they participated with genuine curiosity and enthusiasm.”

After this event on May 29th, towards the end of the school year, Raghunath and Pritha also partipated in Intercultural Day.

Present at that program were a humanitarian association that operates in India, two Italian nuns from the National Hindu Association, a yoga teacher, the town’s mayor and of course the teachers, children and parents, some of whom wore saris and kurtas for the event.

The book “India Wonderland,” made by school teachers in collaboration with the students and based on research and meetings during the year of study, was presented.  

“The book contains a bit of everything, including three pages devoted to the teachings of the Hare Krishna movement with three beautiful photos of Prabhupada, Krishna and the Maha-Mantra,” says Raghunath.

Students received small bags of prasadam cookies, and in between the day’s various programs, Pritha presented a video cooking course of vegetarian Vaishnava cuisine.

Concluding the program in the evening, the children organized songs and dances, while the devotees took turns to perform bajans, devotional songs and chants.

“We are very grateful to the teachers, especially Marinella and Sandra, for their efforts in organizing this intercultural project -- a wonderful way to help everybody appreciate different traditions,” Raghunath says.

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