Polish your whompers and get your dancing shoes ready. From April 14th to 17th this year, Australia is introducing its first large-scale annual kirtan festival, the Sacred Sound Kirtan Retreat.
Just as Europe has Radhadesh Mellows in Belgium, Asia has the Mayapur Kirtan Mela in India, and North America has the Sadhu Sanga Retreat in North Carolina, organizers hope to make Sacred Sound the major kirtan festival for Australia and New Zealand, where devotees can dive deep into the nectar of the Holy Name and recharge their spiritual batteries.
Interestingly, like Sadhu Sanga, which now draws nearly 2,000 people, Sacred Sound is inspired by well-known joyous purveyor of kirtan Indradyumna Swami. Over the past several years, Australia’s New Govardhana farm has been holding Holy Name Retreats that brought the Australian ISKCON community together. But in 2016, Indradyumna Swami took it to the next level, creating the Sacred Sound Kirtan Retreat and drawing many renowned international kirtaniyas for a full weekend of festivities. He suggested it become an annual event, which brings us to today.
The stunning natural setting of New Govardhana
Around six to eight hundred devotees from New Zealand, Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and along the east coast of Australia are expected over the four-day weekend for this year’s festival. Many will be from the New Govardhana community, including WWOOFers living and working on the farm.
The setting for the chanting will be dramatic. A huge main marquee is being built just down the hill from the temple. With high ceilings, the tent will be decorated with mantra banners, silk draping, colorful hanging fabrics and flags. At one end will be a small stage where kirtan leaders and instrumentalists will sit against a beautiful natural backdrop.
Among the lineup of devotees experienced in inspiring others to truly delve into the Holy Names will be Indradyumna Swami, Sri Prahlad Das, Bada Haridas, Madhava Das and Jahnavi Harrison. Premananda Kirtan Das from South Africa will add some virtuoso trumpet-playing to the mix, while an as-yet-unconfirmed Ethan Smith on saxophone and many local devotees with their own accompanying instruments will further infuse the atmosphere with emotion and celebration.
Each morning, Indradyumna Swami will steep devotees in the nectar of why we chant, with his classes on the Life, Pastimes and Teachings of Namacharya Srila Haridas Thakur.
Listening to a class at last year’s retreat
Meanwhile, children over four will get to have lots of safe, supervised fun in the Krishna Kids Activity Area, while their parents attend the retreat with peace of mind. Activities will include outdoor games, story time, arts and crafts, yoga, and both structured and free play. Children will also have their own kirtans with special visitors. And they’ll get to bounce to their hearts’ content on two giant specially created Krishna Kids Jumping Castles with Jagannath themes, one each for two different age groups.
For children under four, parents are working together to take shifts and provide shared care so everyone will get the chance to participate in the kirtans.
Three meals a day will be served, with Australian devotees – among the most renowned in the world for prasadam – truly living up to their reputation. Lunch prasadam will be arranged in market stalls set up in the large grassy area next to the kirtan marquee, so that devotees have a variety of options to eat – including pizza, nachos, salad wraps, burgers and a Govinda’s feast plate.
Madhava gets chanters fired up
“A variety of devotees are preparing the Govinda’s prasadam, with the well-known cook Garuda Prabhu as one of the main chefs,” says organizing team member Braja-Vallabhi Dasi. “Krishna Balaram and Murari Chaitanya Prabhus will be making some divine Asian cuisine. And other upcoming cooks such as Suratnath Prabhu will be cooking and taking care of the temporary kitchen that is being assembled with the world-famous Govinda’s catering truck.”
After lunch – during which they’ll get to relax in the beautiful grassy environment, sample the delicious cuisine, catch up with old friends and make new ones – devotees will head back to the kirtan tent for another four hours of kirtan until 8pm.
“I can’t wait!” says Braja-Vallabhi. “Australian devotees are known to bring a whole lot of ecstasy to their kirtan – and based on the fact that last year there were devotees swinging off the ceiling of the kirtan tent, I can’t wait to see what nectar this year has in store! It is especially beautiful to see the convergence of all cultural backgrounds and ages, as everyone chants, dances and serves together with no inhibitions – diving straight for the nectar! I am looking forward to seeing smiles on devotees’ faces, and hearing them chant the Holy Names together.”
Braja-Vallabhi says that Sacred Sounds will strive for a mood of deep focus on the Holy Name, and foster an atmosphere where devotees from around Australia and beyond can connect with each other and volunteer for service together.
“It will be so nice to see the Australian yatra chanting and serving together in the beautiful setting of New Govardhana,” she says.
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To register and get more information about accommodation, kids’ activities, market stalls and volunteer opportunities, visit http://www.sacredsoundkirtanretreat.com.au/
Jan 22, 2022
Sunanda Das, tovp.org