After Hurricane Ida hit the US State of Louisiana on Sunday August 29th, the devotees, deities and cows at ISKCON New Orleans and the New Talavana Farm in neighboring Mississippi have been reported safe and unharmed. The temples’ public Janmastami festivals, however, had to be canceled or delayed to next weekend.
Hurricane Ida made landfall as a Category 4 storm the day before Janmastami, but dropped to a Category 1 as it moved inland. New Orleans was hit by gusts over 100 mph, and according to news reports, nearly 800,000 people are still without power in the area.
Officials estimated on Monday that it could be weeks before full power was restored in some areas, although on Tuesday it was reported that the city could see “some level of transmission” of power as early as Wednesday evening.
According to Sraddhadev Manu Das at ISKCON New Orleans, there was no physical damage to the temple. However, like the rest of the city, it does not have power, and devotees are using candlelight and a small generator. They do have “water, gas, and food to offer to guru and Krishna,” said Sraddhadev, and can bathe and use the toilet.
Although the public could not attend Janmastami and Srila Prabhupada’s Vyasapuja on August 30th and 31st, ISKCON New Orleans was still able to conduct “wonderful spiritual programs” for the devotees at the temple. Furthermore, on Prabhupada’s appearance day devotees distributed prasadam to fifty neighbors who did not evacuate and had no means to get food, since stores are closed. Going forward, the New Orleans devotees plan to distribute prasadam daily.
Meanwhile, at the ISKCON New Talavana farm 60 miles away in Mississippi, there were winds of 30 to 50 mph the night before Janmastami, along with constant heavy rainfall. Several trees and branches were downed, but there was no real property damage.
“Primarily, it made it really inconvenient and difficult to do the Krishna Janmastami morning program,” says temple president Yogindravandana Das. “So we had to put the new dress on Sri Sri Radha-Radhakanta and Sri Sri Gaura Nitai with no power, using inverters and batteries, which allowed us to plug in some lamps. The generator broke a fan belt, and devotees were out in the rain trying to get it working.”
The community’s private well was a generator, ensuring water so that they could continue to cook and flush toilets throughout the outage. Power was restored on the morning of Srila Prabhupada’s Vyasa Puja.
Due to the hurricane, a groundbreaking ceremony for a new temple which was scheduled on Sunday, as well as the public program for Janmastami had to be canceled. Instead, guests will be invited next Sunday, September 5th, for the groundbreaking at New Talavana, along with an abhishek for the deities, and talks on Lord Krishna’s appearance. Cultural performances that were planned for Janmastami will also be performed.
A small Janmastami celebration for local devotees took place on Janmastami day itself, while Srila Prabhupada’s Vyasa Puja went ahead as planned.
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