At ISKCON Kirtan Ministry we feel a deep sense of accomplishment and gratitude. A sense of accomplishment because so many new and special souls come in contact with us through our Ekadasi Sravan Kirtan Festival, the highlights we present here as well as keeping you in touch with major upcoming events. Our aim is to touch the hearts of people from all walks of life. Then there is a deep sense of gratitude because so many compassionate devotees—volunteers and donors— come forward to not only maintain this Ministry but to expand it as well, for the benefit of thousands of people all over the world.
It is such a wonder to me how quickly the year rolls by and the time is nearly upon us to once again deepen our love for the holy name in this year’s World Holy Name Festival. This festival celebrates its 25th Anniversary this year which also coincides with our founder acarya’s 125th Birth Anniversary. Start saving the date as this year this Festival just got bigger and better. To commemorate this important milestone, we have extended it to TWO WHOLE WEEKS from 10 to 23 September.
Yogini Ekadasi’s Sravana-Kirtana Festival was truly bitter sweet. Amidst our exceptional festival, we remembered and honoured HH Bhakti Caru Swami, in his vani form. This being the month of Maharaja’s Tirobhav tithi his memories were over flowing in the hearts of devotees. Devshayani Ekadasi, also known as Hari Sayani Ekadasi, occurs during the waxing phase of the moon of Ashada month. It is also the day when the Supreme Lord begins His four months sleep. His holy names however continue to flow to cleanse the dust from our hearts.
This will be our second feature showcasing “Srila Prabhupada on Padayatra” in our Padayatra column which is extracted from the book by HH Lokanath Swami - Padayatra Worldwide - On the Road with Lord Caitanya.
Do not miss our regular inspiring features - upcoming events, inspirational moments, japa affirmation, and interesting facts. We invite and encourage you to participate in the different ongoing activities co-ordinated by the ISKCON Kirtan Ministry team.
Let’s continue to endeavour to feel the presence of Radha Krishna when we chant. We now move to the explanation of the next four words of the Hare Krishna maha-mantra by Gopal Guru Goswami:
Hare! O Hari, Radha! Talk to me about Your own favourite pastimes with Your beloved Lord Rama! O Rama! Talk to me about Your own favourite pastimes with Your beloved Radha. Hare! O Hari, Radha! Show me Your intimate pastimes with Your beloved Lord. Rama! O Rama! Show me Your intimate pastimes with Your beloved Radha.
~ Srila Prabhupada
The day when the eternal, omnipresent Lord of the universe goes for His Divine Yoga Nidra. This is the day when He begins his sleep for four months. This is an auspicious day for His devotees, in the knowledge that although He sleeps externally he is always present in His holy names. With this thought in mind, and to beseech the Lord, we organized a super spectacular Sravana Festival on 20 July.
It was inaugurated by Nityananda Prabhu who sang Jagannathastakam. His rendition was sweet and melodious. Even more enchanting was when he was accompanied by his adorable family with delightful children singing along. This was followed by Gour Gopal Adhikari who took all the viewers in an ever joyful ride of holy names through his sweet singing.
Mahadevi Dasi lecture on the glories of Asadi Ekadasi took on new dimensions of the story underpinning this auspicious day.
Bhakti Jivana Vrajananda Swami took us through engaging pastimes of Sri Jagannatha katha. His message on Ratha-yatra emphasized how devotees should invoke the Lord during Ratha-yatra by drawing Him closer into our hearts, to love and serving Him graciously.
The evening session was again filled with Krishna Katha and Kirtan starting with Prana Govinda Prabhu speaking about Harinama Tattva. He provided yet another opportunity to dive deep into the holy names. Nitai Sevini Devi Dasi later continued with the importance of Asadi Ekadasi and Sri Pandharpur Dhama recounted the sweet glories of Sri Vitthala and Sri Rukmini Devi. Lastly, we had Prema Sutapa Prabhu who led a vibrant, enthusiastic and energy-filled kirtan leaving the many viewers gleaming with love of the Lord.
Truly, it was a wonderfully satisfying day replete with Hari Katha and Kirtan. As the Lord started His transcendental sleep, the devotees submitted deeper into the their spiritual consciousness. Undoubtedly, a soulful Krishna Conscious day for all.
~ Aditya Chari (Mumbai)
Yogini Ekadasi’s Sravana-Kirtana Festival was special. The highlight of the event was undoubtedly the sacred presence of HH Bhakti Caru Swami, in his vani form. In fact, memories of Maharaja have been over flooding the hearts of devotees all through the month, it being the month of his first Tirobhav tithi.
This was an opportunity to honour Maharaja and relish his uniquely sweet and heart melting way of presenting Krishna Conscious philosophy and performing kirtan. Maharaja further provided us with cues how to tap further on the divine names of Hari. Bhakti Caru Swami’s evergreen vani (instructions), made it clear that inattentive chanting is the worst offense. Hearing is most important while chanting and for that, the MIND has to be HERE. Maharaja continued to emphasise the importance of coming together for Sankirtan Yajna saying, “the more, the merrier”, thus ensuring a more powerful experience of the congregational chanting of the holy names. He advised that as many people as possible should come together to chant as loudly as possible, and “melodiously”"- Maharaja said humorously. Ultimately, as we develop more and more attachment for Krishna, the more detached we will become from the material world.
The event began with Vrindavan Das decoding and simplifying the proper mood of Sravanam and Kirtanam. Referring to Verse 2 of Sri Siksastakam, he discussed how we should recognise our inability to relish the Holy name. This inability features in spite of the Lord investing all His energy and mercy into it, making it easily accessible to anyone. He explained the need to identify our anarthas. It is because of our anarthas that we have no attraction for the all attractive names of the Lord. The moment we acknowledge these weaknesses, our humility will increase and we will be able to develop the proper mood for chanting, taking us to Siksastakam's 3rd verse - trinidad api sunicena. Prabhu ended his slot with a beautiful kirtan session.
Mayuri Gandharvika Devi Dasi took over for a nice session of mellow kirtan, enthusing us to immerse ourselves further in the nectar of the holy names.
Mahadevi Dasi then took us into a whole another era, narrating the glories of Yogini Ekadasi and how Hema Mali, a yaksha servant of Lord Kubera, got delivered by a curse from the latter upon observing Yogini Ekadasi fast. Mataji then changed the backdrop and against that of Braja, she beautifully described the pastime of Lord Balarama visiting Vrindavan.
Prana Govinda Prabhu followed sharing a critical point that although other incarnations can give liberation, only Caitanya Mahaprabhu gives Krishna Prem, being the most munificent of all. The maha-mantra is more powerful than the very names Radha and Krishna. Immediately thereafter, Sriharikanta Dasa joined in for a soulful rendition of the maha-mantra to reinforce this thought.
HH Bhakti Sundar Goswami closed the festival with an enthralling presentation on our Sampradaya and Srila Prabhupada's key position in it. In Maharaja’s presentation we learnt that ISKCON devotees follow a disciplic line of Brahma Madhva Gaudiya Sampradaya and can be considered the largest branch of Gaudiya Vaishnavism.
There could have been no better way to end this month's festival, leaving us more enthused to step into August, Srila Prabhupada's 125th Anniversary month.
~ Akincana Damodara Dasa - Mauritius
prthivite ache yata nagaradi-grama - sarvatra pracara haibe mora nama
About five hundred years ago, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu predicted that His name would be chanted in every town and village of the world. Traveling on foot for almost six years, He inundated the Indian subcontinent with the maha-mantra and established the superiority of krishna-bhakti. Gauranga traveled only in India, and to accomplish the phenomenal task of spreading the “great mantra for deliverance” to every nook and cranny of the planet, He sent His empowered senapati-bhakta – commander-in-chief and pure devotee – Srila Prabhupada. Our movement’s founder acarya had a complete strategy how to distribute krishna-bhakti and krishna-prema to various people. Padayatra was an essential part of that strategy.
In the autumn of 1976, in Vrndavana, on the day the first ISKCON bullock cart padayatra was inaugurated, Srila Prabhupada blessed the padayatris and gave his order: “The basic principle is this: induce them to chant and take prasada. You’ll be successful. … Yes, go village to village. It is a very noble attempt. And if you sincerely preach, Krishna will give you intelligence. There is no doubt.”
We know Srila Prabhupada had a broad, bold vision. On March 16, 1977, as our padayatra p arty walked towards Puri, Srila Prabhupada wrote to Nityananda Dasa, then head of the New Talavan farm community in the US. In his letter he mentioned how self-sufficiency is linked to using oxen. While expressing his great pleasure with how our bullock cart sankirtana party was successfully preaching from village to village, he wrote a most amazing, and, we hope, prophetic sentence: “We can introduce many millions of such carts all over the world.”
Srila Prabhupada’s vision and the Lord’s prediction is slowly being realised. From 1984 to this day our padayatris have walked 150, 000 kilometers in India alone – a distance equal to about three and a half times the globe’s circumference – and have distributed the holy names and spiritual knowledge to hundreds of thousands of conditioned souls. Lord Caitanya still seeks our help to accomplish His glorious mission – the same mission the GBC ratified for ISKCON in 1991: “to bring the congregational chanting of the holy name to every town and village of the world through organized padayatra festivals.”
The same wonderful opportunity to assist and please Srila Prabhupada is still here today! I never knew him to be more satisfied than the day I gave him my padayatra report in his tent at the 1977 Kumbha-mela in Allahabad. Through the years, the memory of his beaming smile has provided me with the determination to take padayatra around the world.
~ Lokanath Swami (Adapted from Introduction of Padayatra Worldwide- On The Road with Lord Caitanya)
O Saragrahi Vaishnava soul, Thou art an angel fair; Lead, lead me on to Vrindavan And spirit's power declare.
(His Divine Grace Srila Saccidananda Bhaktivinoda Thakura)
As days drew closer to 24 July, we experienced a tumultuous rush of both elation and melancholy.
A year since Maharaja had reunited with Srila Prabhupada! A year since Maharaja had physically left us!
Most of us from Malaysia were fortunate to receive the association of His Holiness Bhakti Charu Swami Maharaja at some point in our lives. Even a second spent with Maharaja was sure to brighten ones day, as Maharaja’s melodious and soothing tone relayed a singular message - “You are cared for.”
To glorify this great Vaishnava, Kirtan Johor, the ISKCON youth group from Malaysia, organised a 14-hour Penta-Country Kirtan Fest from 9 a.m. -11 p.m. (GMT+8). Around 40 devotees participated in this live streaming event, with a total of 27 devotees leading the kirtans. We had devotees from Malaysia, India, Croatia, United States and Thailand joining the jubilant Kirtan Fest, honouring the 1st anniversary of Maharaja’s return to Srila Prabhupada.
When we were not jumping up-and-down in sheer joy, we were gently swaying to the melody of the kirtans. Our youngest kirtaniya was 14 years old, and we were joined by a few senior devotees over the age of 50 as well. We were blessed to receive the virtual association of Sri Krishna Chaitanya Swami Maharaja during the final hours of this Kirtan Fest whose amazing rendition brought this event to a close. We were also humbled to receive the association of prominent members of the ISKCON community which included, Hari Kirtan Dasa, Ojasvi Dasa, Sudevi Vilasini Devi Dasi, Rasananda Dasa, Simheswara Dasa, Siva Caitanya Dasa, and Parabrahma Dasa.
To suggest that the hours of kirtans were absolutely mesmerising would be an understatement. An extraordinary spiritual vibration emanated from the virtul screens, and the animated faces of the devotees displayed sheer love for Sri Hari Nama. Such was the feeling that none of us wanted the day to end. The spiritual energy albeit virtually was undeniable and felt just out of this world!
The sheer global reach of the Kirtans was testimony to the success of this event. A suvey revealed that the number of viewers averaged 3000 daily. Over the three days, a total of 10,000 participated in this event.
This Tirobhava Mahotsava of Maharaja would not have been complete without a Guru puja. Kirtan Johor collaborated with Maharaja’s disciples from Malaysia for a live streaming of a most awe-inspiring Guru puja in honour of Maharaja. The Guru puja stream went on for an hour and a half, from 12 p.m. - 1:30 p.m. (GMT+8). The stunning décor included outstanding bouquets of yellow roses everywhere, and beautiful lotuses strung together in pastel-like garlands. A total of 118 prasada items were offered to Maharaja. Devotees waved oil lamps after Pushpanjali was performed. Simultaneously, Guru puja was also performed in ISKCON TODU, Penang, and by the Batam disciples of Maharaja.
We hope that this Kirtan Fest would contribute to a small part of gratitude towards H.H. Bhakti Charu Swami Maharaja’s dedication to ISKCON. We humbly seek the blessings of Maharaja to continue sharing the joys of Sankirtana throughout the world.
All glories to H.H. Bhakti Charu Swami Maharaja! All glories to Srila Prabhupada!
Your servants in the service of Srila Prabhupada,
The Kirtan Johor Committee
~ Phuspitaa, Devapriya, Tejaashvini, Vignishvar, Tulasi, Nivashnie, and Roshini
Pavitra Ekadasi Sravana-Kirtana Festival Click Here
Sri Krishna Janmastami, Global Kirtan Mela 2021 24HRS
World Holy Name Festival
~ HH Sacinandana Swami Maharaja