There’s a certain electricity in the air this weekend at the historic Radhadesh castle in the Belgian countryside. 350 first and second generation ISKCON youth and alumni from ISKCON schools, commonly known as Gurukulis, have gathered for Kuli Mela 2008. And organizers say the numbers could swell to 500 before the weekend is up.
This year’s festival follows the hugely successful Kuli Mela 2006 in New Vrindaban, USA, as well as local Kuli Mela themed events in Alachua and Moscow last summer. Like its predecessors, it will inspire, educate and entertain. And on a deeper level, it will explore the ties that bind Gurukulis together, and how those ties can help them achieve both material and spiritual goals in a practical context.
The festival began on Thursday, when Kulis registered, attended the introductory presentation, and participated in fun “ice-breaking” activities. Light entertainment, including group devotional singing, followed.
On Friday and Saturday the whirlwind begins. Kulis will attend conferences, workshops and seminars on subjects as diverse as relationships, business, Bollywood dance, hypnosis, traditional Vaishnava music, teaching, Thai massage, and martial arts. There will also be a kid’s camp for children of Gurukulis, and various sports activities.
If 2006's New Vrindaban Kuli Mela is anything to go by, the evenings will bring something to be truly excited about. The impressive entertainment bill, organized by Krishna Das Bosch of Holland, will feature multiple dance, theater, and music acts, as well as a fashion show and a DJ set.
Performers include trance-rock kirtan band Dust of Vraja from Hawaii, Dutch professional modern dance group Samadhi Dance Company, Florida hip-hop group Azitiz and the Kuru Dynasty, bhajan singer Madhava Naidoo of 24-hour-kirtan fame, and the Paravidha Musical group, playing Broadway musical themes and melodies with a devotional twist and sense of humor.
The festival will end on Sunday August 3rd with a mega Sunday Feast.
“This is a festival to cross borders,” says ISKCON youth Bhakti-Lata Bija. “There are 350 of us from 25 different countries, all drawn here with often nothing more in common than a passion to connect and inspire one another. But Krishna has reached through the walls of our different languages, countries, bodies and cultures to touch our heart. Many here don’t speak English, but when the Hare Krishna mantra began to fill the castle grounds this afternoon, we all became in sync.”
Lead organizer Bala Keilman agrees. “This festival has the power to unite people with different backgrounds, beliefs and experiences from all over the world and to inspire us all with new ideas and opportunities for being successful in our own lives,” he says. “We have a strong organization team representing all the major European countries as well as North America – which, combined with the fantastic facilities and atmosphere of Radhadesh will make this one of the largest and most enjoyable festivals ever seen.”
Special thanks to Bhakti Lata Bija at http://seedofdevotion.blogspot.com/, reporting live from Kuli Mela 2008.