on Sept. 18, 2010
Devotees in Washington D.C. hold a 24-hour chant for peace
Over 500 devotees and guests from all over the U.S. attended a 24-Hour Kirtan at the Potomac ISKCON temple near Washington D.C. last weekend.
The kirtan, held in honor of the late Aindra Dasa—a renowned kirtaniya who led the 24 Hour Kirtan Department in Vrindavana, India for over two decades—ran from 5:30pm on 9/11 to 5:30pm on 9/12.
Organizers Laksmivan Dasa, Sarvajaya Dasa, and Lakshmana Dasi chose 9/11 as the day on which to hold the kirtan so that ISKCON could offer its contribution to the nationwide peace effort.
“The world is on fire, and we need the peace formula of God’s Holy Name,” says Laksmivan. “And of course, it should be given in a way that is sincere and non-sectarian, rather than simply being another set of religious rituals that create divisions between people. We see the Holy Name as a way to rise above strife and disagreement, and to connect spiritually with everyone, regardless of religious affiliation.”
Kirtan singers at the event included Kardama Muni Dasa from New York, Lilananda Dasa from Alachua, Potomac’s own Shastivar Dasa, and Lakshmana Dasi, who was present for most of the 24 hours. There was also a special children’s kirtan.
“We had a lot of skilled singers, but we also had some kirtans that were very very simple,” Laksmivan says. “As one of the organizers, I was thinking that we had to make sure we had all the best singers all the time. But that didn’t really matter to people—everyone loved all of it. It made me realize that the holy name is pure and untouched by any kind of pride or ego.”
As well as the 500 people attending from many different communities and walks of life, the live webcast of the kirtan on Ustream.com proved very popular—at one point, over 300 people were watching it at the same time.
Aindra’s presence was felt strongly at the event, with a screen displaying a slideshow of his kirtans throughout, and of course his famous Hare Krishna tunes on high rotation.
The needs of guests and devotees were taken care of during the long hours of the kirtan, as prasadam was served throughout.
The 24 Hour Kirtan ended at 5:30pm, just when the kirtan at the temple’s weekly Sunday program would normally end, and was followed by a half-hour spiritual discourse and a delicious feast.
“Our movement is primarily meant for chanting, and this was a special occasion where everyone could do it together,” says event coordinator Chaitanya Nitai Dasa. “We had guests from New York, New Vrindaban, Gita Nagari, Baltimore, Alachua, North Carolina and more. And they all bonded in this experience. Nothing brings people together like kirtan.”
Although devotes at ISKCON Potomac have hosted 12-hour kirtans for New Year’s Eve celebrations on several prior occasions, this was their first 24-hour kirtan.
With this year’s success, however, it won’t be their last.
“People were delighted that we did this—that we were simultaneously honoring a wonderful Vaishnava and praying for peace,” Chaitanya Nitai says. “And our announcement that we would do it every year from now on met with a huge round of applause.”
While the 24-Hour Kirtan may not be held on September 11th every year, it will be held annually at an optimum time for devotees around the country to be able to attend.
“Next year we want to make sure it doesn’t conflict with Bhakti Fest in California, so that kirtaniyas such as Gaura Vani and As Kindred Spirits and the Mayapuris will be able to attend,” Laksmivan says.