Germany Hosts the World’s First Four-Day Kirtana Mela
Today, possibly more than ever before in ISKCON’s history, kirtana—the ancient call and response chanting of God’s names—has become a major focus. Huge twelve- and twenty-four-hour kirtanas have become a regular attraction at temples and venues all over the world, as hundreds of devotees gather to absorb themselves in the Holy Names and hear their favorite kirtana singers.
But from August 29th to September 4th this year, devotees in Germany headed by Sachinandana Swami and local GBC Dina Sharana Dasi hope to take this focus to a new level: they have invited 1,000 devotees from all over the world for four days of uninterrupted kirtana.
“When our team got together to discuss what could inspire our movement to take full shelter in Krishna’s most merciful manifestation—the Holy Name—this is what we decided on,” says Sachinandana Swami. “In this age of Kali the most effective yajna [sacrifice] is the nama yajna, which will spread auspiciousness all over the planet. Our ‘Kirtana Mela’ is informed with the desire to not only bless ISKCON Germany but to benefit many devotees all over the world and ultimately the planet Earth.”
The festival, which has taken a full year of planning by managers, web teams, kitchen teams and sound technicians, will be held at the beautiful holiday village Hoher Hain, which lies in central Germany and is surrounded by forests.
“Our inspiration for this Kirtana Mela was the meeting of 80,000 sages in the forest of Naimisaranya 5,000 years ago, when they performed a great yajna and discussed the Srimad-Bhagavatam to counteract the evils of the age of Kali,” Sachinandana Swami says. “Initially we hoped to find a suitable venue amongst our ISKCON communities in Europe, but none are currently equipped to host so many devotees. So we settled on Hoher Hain, which is a perfect venue.”
The holiday village is easily accessible from Berlin or Leipzig; what’s more the air there is clean, the scenery is beautiful, and facilities include comfortable bungalows that can accommodate eight persons each. And since the festival was organized with families in mind, children will be engaged by a supervised childcare program led by trained Vaishnava teachers, and will have access to playgrounds, a swimming pool, a soccer field, and nature paths.
Meanwhile, the adults will be absorbed in a very deep state of mantra meditation, as only the Hare Krishna Maha-mantra will be sung at the Kirtana Mela.
The festival will begin on August 29th with a traditional fire yajna in the kirtana village, after which all the participants will proceed towards the kirtana hall, which will be professionally decorated in an elaborate surprise theme.
“Each morning, we will have a traditional ISKCON morning program, and a lecturer will choose a relevant Srimad-Bhagavatam verse to speak from on the topic of kirtana,” says Sachinandana Swami. “Next, the nama yajna itself will run from 10am to 10pm. Each of the prominent kirtana leaders singing will first address the audience briefly, teaching them a few tips on how to devotionally concentrate during the kirtana. In this way, the audience will be able to profit from our kirtaniyas’ years of experience.”
The seasoned chanters attending Kirtana Mela include B.B. Govinda Swami, who will be appearing along with a Kazakhstani musician, and Indradyumna Swami, who is renowned for his well-organized and melodious harinamas all over the world. There’s also Madhava Dasa, known for the meditative and ecstatic kirtanas he holds in twenty countries every year, and Kadamba Kanana Swami, whose fired-up kirtanas see participants dancing for many hours. Joining them will be Sachinandana Swami, Lokanath Swami, Bada Haridas, Niranjana Swami, and many many more.
The kirtana will be held in a spacious hall, with plenty of room for chanters to both sit and dance. Kirtana leaders, and their accompanying musicians—who will play mridangas, kartalas, harmoniums, violins, flutes, and other instruments—will sit on the floor amongst the other devotees, facing the custom-built altar for ISKCON Berlin’s Srila Prabhupada, Jagannatha, Baladeva and Subhadra Deities.
“In this way, the idea of kirtana—that is to glorify the Lord, not the kirtaniyas—can be best realized,” comments Sachinandana Swami.
While there will be twelve hours of organized kirtanas, the kirtana hall will keep its gates open twenty-four hours a day, giving unscheduled kirtaniyas the chance to sing too. This will result in four blissful days of completely uninterrupted kirtana.
“Of course, from past experience we want to encourage the participants to take sufficient rest and time for themselves,” Sachinandana Swami says. “To chant the Holy Name twenty-four hours a day is certainly a goal, but since not everyone is on the level of Haridasa Thakura, we encourage our guests to wisely divide their time and take sufficient care of their other needs.”
To this end, nourishing and healthy prasadam will be served throughout the Mela, with a prasadam snack bar also available. Devotees will be able to rest in a variety of accommodation options provided according to their needs and financial situations: most of the attendees will stay in the ‘Kirtana Village’ bungalows, others with special needs will be accommodated in nearby hotels, and those on a tighter budget will sleep in tents.
While Sachinandana Swami does recommend attending six to eight hours of kirtana per day, devotees will be able to plan their own day however they wish using
the kirtaniya singing schedule which will be published and widely distributed throughout the Village.
The Kirtana Mela will culminate with a grand finale on Saturday September 3rd, when the devotees will bring the chanting out onto the streets of the ancient town of nearby Leipzig, in a colorful Ratha Yatra procession.
“Afterwards, we will have a public festival dedicated to chanting, which we’re calling ‘The Marketplace of the Holy Name,’” says Sachinandana Swami. “In the tradition of Indradyumna Swami’s Polish festival tours, we will put on a Bharata-Natyam dance performance which is expected to attract a large group of onlookers.”
For those who aren’t able to make it, the entire Kirtana Mela will be streamed live on mayapur.tv. But Sachinandana Swami is quick to point out that this can’t replace the transcendental experience of attending in person.
“The whole purpose of the Mela will be to give one a deep experience of chanting the Holy Names along with many other devotees,” he says. “Jiva Goswami explains that sankirtana (chanting with many) is the topmost spiritual practice, excelling even kirtana (chanting alone) because it produces such extraordinary devotional feelings. When devotees chant according to the method and style of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, they can actually meet Krishna in sound.”
Sachinandana Swami and the other organizers of the Kirtana Mela say that last-minute registrations for the event are welcome. There are still spaces left, and they will go out of their way to create more accommodation if necessary—they simply want as many people as possible to be able to benefit from what they say will be a historic event.
“The Kirtana Mela is sure to permanently change the life of the participants, and to improve the general condition on Planet Earth,” Sachinandana Swami says. “After they attend, we sincerely hope that devotees will take an increased sense of the importance of kirtana home with them, and then organize their own fruitful kirtana sangas, harinams and japa sessions. We hope that the Kirtana Mela will generate a strong awareness of the importance of the Holy Name as the most effective means for God realization in this age.”
To register, and for more information, please visit http://www.kirtana-mela.com.