In the UK, the Hare Krishna Festival team has stayed at home and stopped all their outreach activities since March 23rd due to COVID-19, a hard time for devotees used to distributing the Holy Name.
From June 1st, however, the UK government has begun to ease restrictions slightly. Up to six people are now allowed to gather in public or private outdoor spaces without wearing masks, as long as they remain two meters (six feet) apart.
The allowances have spurred the Hare Krishna Festival team, inspired by the late Tribhuvanath Das and currently led by Giridhari Das, to think creatively.
The Jagannath Make London Smile banner
Back in Autumn 2019, Parasurama Das, Director of charity Food For All – which has distributed thousands of prasadam meals to the needy during COVID-19 – acquired a former life boat, previously owned by the UK Ministry of Defence.
On Monday June 1st and Tuesday June 2nd, a maximum of six devotees on each day rode the boat down the Paddington Basin through Wembley. The team spread out over the two days included Parasuram Das, Giridhari Das, Ratnavali Dasi, Govinda Das, Vasudeva Das, Narada, Neera and David.
Narada Das in front of the dragon bow, fashioned after a Viking longboat
Each afternoon, the kirtan lasted about two hours, with devotees playing mridanga, harmonium, kartalas, accordion, and djembe. The boat, designed to look like a Viking longboat with a dragon head at the bow, also featured a large cloth banner reading “Hare Krishna – Make London Smile” with Lord Jagannath beaming out from between the letters.
As they chanted, devotees waved at people on the banks, and passersby danced and waved back at them.
Devotees chant happily in public for the first time in months
“The devotees loved it!” says Hare Krishna Festivals spokesman Narada Das. “It was their first association, and first group kirtan in nearly three months.”
Looking ahead, the team hope for more boat trips, as well as kirtans in public parks. They also have a plan to start holding special online festivals, with details to be revealed soon.
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