Kirtan is a form of purification and liberation. The mantras sensitize us, polish away the clutter in our heads and melt the numbness in our hearts, so we feel clear, awake, and brilliantly alive; this is indeed true – as I can attest to feeling this way during the wonderful Kirtan Festival held at the Sri Sri Radha Radhanatha Temple in Durban, South Africa. The ‘Kirtanuity’ team, which is the official youth group of ISKCON Durban hosted the program. Kirtanuity aim to develop each other’s Krishna-consciousness by sharing and learning with each other and everyone around us.
Whilst chanting of the Holy Names is the prescribed method for God realization in this age of Kali, attraction to the chanting is developed by listening and participating in kirtan performed by pure devotees.
This was indeed the case when Agnidev Das and Amala Harinam Das enchanted the devotees who participated in the 6 hour kirtan that took place on Sunday, 12th July.
The entire temple, packed to full capacity, reverberated with the soulful singing of the mahamantra. Devotees were absorbed in meditation, following the sweet Bengali melodies of Agnidev das. The world around us seemed to fade away as we delved deeper and deeper into hearing and chanting.
The older devotees were nostalgic as Agnidev began to sing Bengali bhajans such as the Bhoga arati and Sri Nama songs taken from the Gitavali by Bhaktivinoda Thakur. This took the devotees down memory lane, entering into the spiritual realm envisioning the pastimes described in these songs. For the younger devotees, it was the first time that they heard these bhajans.
My heart melted as I focused intently on adopting the deep devotional mood that the bhajans were being sung. I was mesmerized from the second that Agnidev’s soft voice resounded through the amplifier.
Caught in the wave of this transcendental bliss, I found myself swaying rhythmically to the tune of the melody, my hands clapping to the beat of the drums and my mind immersed in a singular focus, the lotus feet of Sri Sri Radha Radhanatha and Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.
Like his illustrious spiritual master, Agnidev das exuded a special aura. His gentle unassuming demeanor, silky lilting voice, perfect Bengali accent, effortless intonations and cadence tapped into the core of my being as I became a helpless surrendered soul, slave to the beauty of the lyrics. It was an indescribable feeling. This chanting was truly a “washing” of the heart.
In the folds of those moments our bodies, minds and souls were fixated on the Supreme Lord.
Amala Harinam’s singing and interaction with the participants was likewise very inspiring as he raised the tempo of the mahamantra and spurred the crowd to become more involved.
Vibrations of the kirtan rippled through the temple room long after the kirtaneers left. On the way home, I found myself humming some verses of the bhajans and even murmuring them in my sleep. We were reminded of the importance of the Holy Names because they still lingered on the tips of our tongues. Till this very night, I hear the bhajans repeatedly playing over in my head. I can’t turn it off even when I’m trying to fall asleep. This is not a bad thing at all – having Krishna dance on the tip of your tongue and in your mind endlessly!
It seems that everyone who attended felt the same way.
Paripurna Radha devi dasi said, “They say a moments association can change ones life forever. For us it was 6 hours! Surrounded by these great souls. Singing and dancing together.”
This joyful event bridged the whole community together, regardless of age, gender, shape or size we were all swept in the current that drew us closer to Krishna. The association and sweet melodies are embellished in my heart and mind and will remain amongst my fondest and happiest moments in life – an experience that I will cherish forever.
Jan 22, 2023
Bhaktivedanta Institute for Higher Studies