Recently, Amala Kirtan Das was honored for 15 years of presence and active participation at the Nova Gokula Kirtan Fest in Brasil. The honor was given on November 2023 by Vaikuntha Murti Das. Since 2008, he has been performing beautiful kirtans and contributing in many ways to the success of the Kirtan Fest.
Amala Kirtan Das expressed his gratitude, saying, “There are so many wonderful devotees who have done amazing services for decades. I feel unworthy of any recognition, but I also see how this offers some sense of accomplishment in service for Srila Prabhupada. I am thankful for the kind encouragement.”
Let us explore his incredible journey in the world of kirtan.
Born in a devotee family, Amala Kirtan Das started practicing Krishna Consciousness from a very young age. Amala shared, “While my parents were distributing books, Purushatraya Swami was teaching me my first lessons in kirtan. He put the mridanga over my neck and taught me very simple beats. He told me that before you play mridanga, you should learn how to clap. So, he taught me kartal first, then mridanga.”
Initiation into kirtan
Amala Kirtan Das’ initiation into Kirtan occurred at the age of eleven. He revealed, “The temple president let me play with the broken harmonium, so I started learning tunes. Then, one day, on a Sunday feast, he let me lead kirtan for the 30-40 devotees present. Kirtan has been my service every Sunday since then.”
During a city anniversary in Brasil, all religions were invited to participate in the event. Amala Kirtan Das was 12-13 years old and part of the group representing the Hare Krishnas. He noted, ” ‘Madana Mohana Murari Haribol, Haribol, Haribol’ was being played on a top-rated TV series in Brasil, so the entire country was familiar with the mantra. There were around 4,000 people at the event. I was a bit nervous, but when I started chanting and heard the thousands of people respond, I was amazed and inspired.”
He further pursued his spiritual education at the Gurukula in Nova Gokula farm, Pindamonhangaba, Brasil. He shared, “When I was at the Gurukul, I started reading the verses of Narottam Das Thakur and Bhaktivinod Thakur. When I started understanding the meaning of the words, I felt connected because I could feel and connect to the emotion of our Acharyas.”
He continued, “During my teenage years, kirtan was my refuge when things didn’t seem right. I’d go to my room and sing songs from the Acharyas for hours and feel connected to their words and Krishna.”
Turning Point at Fourteen
By age 14, Amala Kirtan Das was one of the leading singers in the renowned Ratha Yatra festival in Porto Alegre, Brasil. He said, “At the age of 14, an invitation to the Rath Yatra festival in South Brasil altered the course of my life. From that day forth, Kirtan became my dedicated service.”
Apart from his spiritual master and many senior devotees, Amala Kirtan Das shared that one of his greatest inspirations was Aindra Das. While doing kirtan, Amala Kirtan Das always had a few questions in his mind, like whether he was supposed to please the audience or Lord Krishna. He was struggling to understand the deep meaning of kirtan until he saw Aindra Das in Vrindavan.
He said, “When I went to Vrindavan in Gaura Purnima in 2008, I saw Aindra Prabhu looking straight at the Deities while he was singing. Within five seconds of watching him sing, I understood the meaning of kirtan. A leader should be driving everybody’s energy to focus on Krishna. It is absolutely nothing about us. It is about the holy name and driving others to join you in the chant, occupying their full energy and love in Krishna’s service.”
Giving Back to the Youth
Since the age of 16, giving back to the youth has been his commitment. Amala said, “Whenever I see young devotees learning, I see me in them. I go to their parents, encourage them, and tell them that this is what is going to hold them in difficult times.”
A software engineer by profession, Amala Kirtan Das does not have a structured training program, but he accepts invitations for workshops to share with learners about his journey.
Here are some wonderful suggestions he offers for anyone trying to do kirtan sincerely:
1. Reading Chaitanya Charitramrita. Amala said, “I highly recommend Chaitanya Charitramrita because that is the Sankirtana movement.”
2. Singing with comprehension. Amala Kirtan said, “When you chant with understanding, people understand it’s not just the sound. When you sing with understanding you purify others because you are emanating that energy and that knowledge.”
3. Chanting rounds as communion to combat nervousness when leading kirtan. Amala revealed, “When you are chanting your rounds, you don’t get nervous because it is so intimate, no matter who is around. You are communicating with Krishna. It’s between you and Krishna. It’s not a performance but a prayer, an offering of one’s best.”
4. Sincerity in Kirtan. Amala said, “Don’t focus on being fancy at the beginning. Feel secure and sing the simple tune. Remember, Kirtan is not a presentation, it’s not a musical performance.” Kirtan is not about showcasing musical virtuosity; it’s about sincerity. Avoiding disruptions, like missing a key, is crucial, treating Kirtan as a sacred ritual, akin to dressing the deity or preparing a recipe.
5. Practice Makes Perfect. Amala Kirtan shared, “My guru told me that we should learn the best so that we can offer the best in Krishna’s service. We should not shy away from learning. I learned Sarod for one year.” It starts with practice, evolving from a mechanical exercise to a heartfelt expression. He continued, “That’s why we do chanting. We do 16 rounds. This is a practice. If you exercise every day, then it becomes automatic. The same applies to every service you practice; it becomes very natural and spontaneous. Please don’t give up; never think it’s enough in Krishna’s service!”
Amala Kirtan Das encourages each one to try to understand what one is doing in Kirtan. He feels grateful to be a part of the Brasil Kirtan Fest for 15 long years. He concluded, “The biggest prize for me is the opportunity to contribute. I have met so many wonderful devotees and watched 3-5-year-olds now being masters of kirtan, traveling and spreading Harinam Sankirtan throughout Brasil.”
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