27 Mar Dramatic activity with children for Gaura Purnima festival
Children like to celebrate birthdays. We can celebrate the birthday of a little Nimai as a part of our Gaura Purnima festival at home (explaining on the way that this is not a “birthday” but an appearance day of the Lord, elaborating it according to age and understanding of a child). It is an engaging activity, or set of activities, for children of ages 2-12, in which drama, art, and craft fit perfectly. Most importantly, this is an activity that includes pretend-play, which most naturally stimulates young children. I did it with my kids for the last Gaura Purnima festival, and they liked it a lot. You can play it simply as a half an hour pretend-play with your little one, or you can organize it as a few days’ programs with different activities for each day.
The play is about how ladies of Navadvip tried everything to stop little Nimai from crying, but nothing helped until they started to clap their hands while singing the Holy Name of Krishna. You can play the role of mother Saci and/or narrator of the story, children can play the role of ladies and people from Nimai’s neighborhood, and the youngest child can play the role of baby Nimai (or you can use a doll of Nimai instead). The last time we used a doll as a Nimai – let’s see how this time we’ll decide.
First step – preparation
You can prepare the costumes, the scene, and a baby doll if you use it for the play. I do not border much with costumes, but if you and your children are inspired, it is very nice to prepare special clothes for everyone. Also, if you use a doll for Nimai (even a paper doll would work fine), you can dress it and decorate it with the children. You can make a soft cradle out of a cardboard box or a basket and cover it with silk clothes and pillows. It is up to you how much in detail you want to do all the preparation. Because you will decorate the house for the festival anyway, you can make it as a preparation step for the stage of your drama-play with children.
Second step – preparing the gifts
Mother Saci gave birth to little Nimai and we are going to visit them and bring some gifts for the baby! What gifts are we going to give?
Now is the time to make some gift for Nimai using our creativity: to draw a picture, to sew, knit, or crochet something, to make some sweets out of clay or play dough, to make an origami flower or any other design out of paper, to string some beads for bracelets or necklace. Whatever skills you want your children to practice, you can engage them in that. Or, let the kids make what are they inspired to do. The easiest option is to choose something from your toy collection as a gift for Nimai (my kids last year chose that, lol!), and wrap it nicely with decorative paper and ribbons.
There is one more way of making a gift – do it as a pantomime game. Tell the children to imagine what gift they want to give and to pretend that gift is in their hand. Children can try to make the form of a gift by hand gestures for others to guess what it is. Or, they can explain how the gift looks like, what are its texture, sounds, colors, how to use it, etc. Alternatively, children can give the gift to baby Nimai and just announce what it is, without guessing (you can ask older children to be more descriptive in their presentation of a gift). This kind of game greatly enhances the power of imagination and oral literacy skills in children. And it makes a lot of fun, too.
Third step – a dramatization of the story
After we have prepared the scene and the gifts for Nimai (however simple or elaborate we choose it to be), now we are ready to act out the story! You can shortly narrate the story of how Nimai took birth, and then invite the children to come to give their gifts to the baby Nimai. Each child comes and hands out a gift to you, as you play the role of mother Saci, or place it in the Nimai`s cradle. But, each time after receiving the gift Nimai starts crying (you can imitate the crying voice of a baby or the child who plays the role of Nimai does it). Mother Saci invites another child, with the hope Nimai will stop crying, but no, He cries again! After Nimai gets all the gifts but doesn’t stop crying, mother Saci asks the children: What shall we do to make Nimai stop crying?
Most probably some of the children will guess it, but it could be really fun if they do not guess at first and you try different things to stop Nimai crying, like patting Him, massaging Him, giving Him a spoon of honey, and things like that. In the end, when all your endeavors fail, you should suggest chanting the holy name of Krishna (if the children do not guess it before). When you all start clapping your hands and chanting Hare Krishna maha-mantra, then baby Nimai stops crying and starts to smile and laugh. Haribol!
Fourth step – kirtan or bhajan
Now when you have found out what makes Nimai happy, you can give Him the same gifts again, but this time along with the chanting. It will make an impression that the effort of making gifts was useful, but only when we add a spiritual value to it. Playing in such a way, children will remember that chanting the holy name is the most important way to satisfy the Lord.
Now we can make a kirtan or bhajan with all the children participating and celebrate the appearance of Nimai joyfully!
I hope you and your children would enjoy this transcendental pretend-play as much as we do. Feel free to write in the comment below any other fun play activity that you do with your kids for the Gaura Purnima celebration.
Have fun and spiritual bliss!