It’s coming very soon. And ISKCON devotees in 75 countries across six continents are determined to make their guru and Founder-Acharya Srila Prabhupada proud.
In the UK, an avalanche of major, inspirational events for ISKCON’s 50th anniversary are being planned throughout the year 2016, including some that will be tied into international efforts by all ISKCON temples.
ISKCON 50 reps at the 13 temples across the UK and Ireland have already held several events in 2015 in honor of the 50th anniversary of Srila Prabhupada’s arrival in the US on the steamship Jaladuta.
They included a “Departing India” festival in which a book of Srila Prabhupada’s Markine Bhagavata Dharma poem written abord the Jaladuta was released; a Bhaktivedanta Players production about Prabhupada’s journey; and a kirtan tour of London’s most famous landmarks on open air double-decker buses with hundreds of devotees.
Devotees attend a national ISKCON 50 convention in Leicester
There was also a national convention in Leicester with International Communications Minister Anuttama Das, and GBC Bhakti Charu Swami, which offered information about plans for the 50th along with media training for devotees.
The official ISKCON 50 celebrations will kick off in January 2016 with an astonishing offering.
“We’re trying to get all 602 of ISKCON’s worldwide temples to read out their book scores from the December book distribution marathon to Srila Prabhupada on the same day,” says UK national coordinator Devaki Dasi. “We don’t yet have an exact date set, but it will be in January.”
After that, on the March bank holiday weekend before Gaura Purnima, second generation devotees at Bhaktivedanta Manor will organize a 50 hour kirtan of 12 hours a day over several days.
On April 23rd, an academic conference will be held at Bath University, which has sent its Hinduism students on annual trips to Bhaktivedanta Manor for the past decade. ISKCON devotees attending will include Bhakti Charu Swami, Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies Director Shaunaka Rishi Das, ISKCON Educational Services’ Rasamandala Das, and Professor Kim Knott, author of My Sweet Lord: The Hare Krishna Movement. 300 to 400 people are expected.
Professor Catherine Robinson (in red shirt) with devotees outside Bath University, where ISKCON will attend an academic conference in 2016
On July 13th, the date of ISKCON’s incorporation in New York in 1966 – which will be celebrated simultaneously by ISKCON centers around the world – UK devotees are organizing a prestigious event at either the House of Lords or the House of Commons in Westminster. The event will showcase Prabhupada’s and ISKCON’s achievements, and the plan is to invite some extremely distinguished guests.
“We’re trying to get the Prime Minister,” says Devaki. “That’s our ultimate goal. And it’s not an impossible task here in the UK – just this month, Bhaktivedanta Manor president Srutidharma Prabhu said the prayers at the Prime Minister’s Diwali celebration at Number 10 Downing St.”
Meanwhile renowned ISKCON chef Kurma Das will appear at several events to promote ISKCON’s culinary contributions. Possibilities include an event in London’s O2 Arena for Vegetarian and Vegan Week, which will showcase the Hare Krishnas’ 50 best cuisines for the 50th anniversary. Kurma may also do live demonstrations at Bhaktivedanta Manor’s Janmastami program, which draws 60,000 people.
In October, a massive ticketed event at Wembley Stadium is planned, which is expected to draw 10,000 people. It will feature some of ISKCON’s most prominent speakers, as well as a stunning cultural show including a rasa-lila performance by legendary Bollywood actress, Indian MP and ISKCON member Hema Malini.
Wembley Stadium, where a major ISKCON 50 event will be held
Other events don’t have any date or month assigned to them yet, but are just as exciting. Srila Prabhupada’s garden at Bhaktivedanta Manor, for instance, has been renovated and will receive an official opening. It features rose beds and pathway arches, a pergola and a variety of flowering shrubbery, while stones on either side of the garden will be inscribed with the qualities of the disciple and spiritual master as taught by Srila Prabhupada.
There will also be a screening of Yadubara’s film Acharya at a London cinema hall, and a concert at George Harrison’s garden at the Manor commemorating the Beatle’s relationship with Srila Prabhupada and spiritual contribution the world.
In Scotland, a national retreat will be held for all the devotees at the temple in Lesmahagow. In Wales, devotees are planning to open a new temple. In Manchester, there will be eight hour kirtans every month. And in Ireland, there will be a special “50 Years of Hare Krishna” event.
At London’s Soho St temple, devotees are planning fifty special events for the 50th throughout the year, including Srila Prabhupada remembrance classes, boat parties down the river Thames, interfaith weeks and kirtan weekends.
Srila Prabhupada's Garden at the Manor, which will be opened in 2016
Other “50 for 50” events that will run throughout the year will include 50 house programs, and a push to inspire devotees to contribute at least 50 hours of devotional service to their local temple, and distribute 50 books in the year – one every week. One of the most exciting such projects is “50 Harinamas in 50 Towns,” with UK devotees heading into a different new town that has never been publicly chanted in every single week.
All ISKCON temples will also be encouraged to “50th-ize” all their Vaishnava festivals throughout the year, as well as to organize participation in public events such as World Vegetarian Week, Multi-faith Week and National Yoga Week, and the ISKCON event World Holy Name Week.
A raft of publication, stationary and merchandise will keep ISKCON’s 50th at the forefront of everyone’s mind through all this, including a commemorative magazine entitled “The Hare Krishnas: Fifty Years On”; an ISKCON 50 calendar; and t-shirts, hoodies and notebooks featuring the ISKCON logo and the tag line “The Joy of Devotion.”
Double-decker bus harinama for the 50th anniversary of Prabhupada's arrival
Devaki hopes that all this will inspire every individual in ISKCON to do whatever they can for ISKCON’s 50th anniversary.
“Sometimes devotees stop me and say, ‘What should I do for the 50th?’” she says. “And I always tell them, ‘Well, what do you want to do for the 50th? What’s going to be your personal contribution to Srila Prabhupada’s movement?’ This is a once in a life time opportunity – so get involved, and don’t miss out!”[ London ] [ UK ] [ England ]