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Symbolism and Importance of Hindu Vrat Stories – Fasting Stories in Hinduism

Nothing could be perfect educationally than the Vratas (sacred observances) which Hindu society has preserved and hands to its children in each generation, as first lessons in worship, … in the practice of social relationships, or in manners,’ wrote Sister Nivedita, a hundred years ago.

Some of these vratas — like that which teaches the service of the cow, or the sowing of seeds, or some which seem to set out on the elements of geography and astronomy —have an air of desiring to impart what we now distinguish as secular knowledge. … But for the most part, they constitute a training in religious ideas and religious feelings.

As such, their perfection is startling. They combine practice, story, game, and object, with a precision that no Indian can appreciate and enjoy as can the European familiar with modern educational speculation. India has, in these, done on the religious and social plane, what Europe is trying, in the Kindergarten, to do on the scientific.

Sister Nivedita adds:

The Kindergarten lessons of Europe, then, might be described as a series of vratas, designed to launch the child’s mind on a knowledge of science. Like the religious vratas of India, they deal, in the first place, directly with concrete objects These objects are introduced by means of stories.

In the course of the lesson, or ‘play’ — or brata as it might be called—some definite act is performed repeatedly. And finally, in the highly-perfected lesson, the result is a game, consisting of a song set to music, to be sung by the children, henceforth, in action. These four parts, then, story, object, action, and the resultant game, make up the typical child-garden exercise. By their means, the mind of the learner is made to go through a definite sequence of experiences, on which a higher sequence may be constructed later. … And the problem of child-education is so to use the typical vrata as to initiate by its means in the learner, an ordered consciousness of place, time, quantity, form, causation, and the rest.

Sister Nivedita was associated with Swami Vivekananda