for ISKCON News on Feb. 15, 2013
The Kirtaniyas chant in Los Angeles during the 2010 Global Kirtan.
Second generation ISKCON devotees working with the Kuli Mela Association are calling out to friends and ISKCON temples all over the world to join in a Global Kirtan for the Yamuna river on March 1st.
It’s the second time the worldwide prayer will be held for the beleaguered holy river, after the hugely successful January 30th, 2010 kirtan, which saw 130 groups participating along with prominent kirtaniyas Aindra Babaji, Shyamdas Ji, Radhanath Swami, Jai Uttal, Gaura Vani, Karnamrita, and The Mayapuris.
Back then, devotees were protesting the construction of a highway overpass across the river at Keshi Ghat in Vrindavan, the sacred land of Lord Krishna’s birth.
Soon after, construction was stopped when the Allahabad High Court declared the overpass illegal on the grounds that it was less than 200 meters from an ASI protected monument, the Jugal Kishor Mandir.
After this, however, an even bigger outrage came to light. Eighty-five per cent of the Yamuna, which emerged crystal clear from its source in the Himalayas, was being held back by an irrigation dam in the state of Haryana. Meanwhile, Delhi City sewage and industrial waste was being emptied into it, until not a single drop of original Yamuna water was left by the time it reached Vrindavan.
Activists and devotees headed by Vrindavan-based group Maan Mandir fought for their beloved Yamuna, forcing the government to take notice with a series of protests and marches.
On March 1st, the biggest march yet is planned, with an astonishing half a million people expected to embark on a ten-day walk from Vrindavan to Delh in protest of the sacred river’s plight.
To add devotional power to the march’s political clout, devotees around the world will hold their second Global Kirtan on the same day, raising their voices for the Yamuna river.
In Berkely, California, Global Kirtan organizer Krishna Devata McComb will be singing along with Mantralogy artist Prajna Vieira.
Gaura Vani leads chanters in New York as part of the 2010 Global Kirtan.
Major kirtan singers all over the US will join in, with Gaura Vani of As Kindred Spirits chanting in Washington D.C., the Mayapuris in New York, and the Kirtaniyas in Los Angeles.
In Canada, Govinda Ghosh will sing at the Saranagati rural village in British Columbia.
Many South American communities have also just confirmed their involvement in the Global Kirtan, from the tip of Patagonia to the mountains of Peru.
In India, participants at this year’s Kumbha Mela in Allahabad, where the Yamuna meets the Ganges, will also join in with kirtan for the Yamuna.
Finally at the historic Jugal Kishor Palace Complex in Keshi Ghat, Vrindavana, Gaura Mani of Vrajavadhus’ Kirtan will sing on the banks of the Yamuna, as 500,000 people gather to walk to Delhi.
Altogether, at least one hundred groups of chanters are expected worldwide. Some groups may be big, some may be small; some may chant for 24 hours, some just for one; but all will be praying for the Yamuna with devotion.
To Krishna Devata, a second generation devotee who grew up holding Yamuna Devi in great regard, it’s an extremely personal cause.
“Each time I dedicate myself to this meditation, I can’t help but recall my childhood days, swimming and playing in the Yamuna with my little brother back in 1981 when I was five and he was two,” she says.
Sadly, the next time Krishna Devata returned to the Yamuna--in 1998--it was to offer her brother’s ashes into the sacred waters, two years after he had passed away. There, as Yamuna Devi provided her solace, a deep bond was forged with the holy river.
So when Krishna Devata again visited the Yamuna in 2010 with her own children—now aged five and two just like she and her brother had been—and saw it blighted by pollution, garbage and construction work, the sight moved her to tears.
“I was sitting in the rickshaw with my children, and I couldn’t approach the river,” she recalls. “It struck me in a very deep place how in one generation I had seen this happen before my very eyes. And I realized that I was in for a lifetime of service.”
There may be a lifetime of caring for the Yamuna ahead. But it’s likely that Krishna Devata and the other devotees aching for the Yamuna may see developments that will soothe their hearts soon after their global chant on 3.1.13, if not before.
Radha Jivan Das, an ISKCON devotee businessman and activist working with Maan Mandir, recently reported that representatives of the organization met with Delhi head of Congress Ms Sonia Gandhi on February 8th with positive results.
Deena Bandhu Das chants at the first Global Kirtan and Yamuna Arti at Keshi Ghat in 2010.
“We talked to her regarding the problems with Yamuna,” she says. “She was very serious on the matter and has promised to do the best she can by speaking to the chief minister of Haryana. She said she will see to it that water is released into the Yamuna [to restore it to its original clean state].”
Maan Mandir representatives also spoke with Lalu Yadav, one of the top political leaders of Bihar state and a current member of Parliament. He promised to aggressively bring up the Yamuna’s plight at the upcoming Parliament sessions in Delhi from February 21st to March 21st and see if something could be done.
Meanwhile, awareness for the walk beginning March 1st is high all over the region of Braj, where the towns of Vrindavana, Mathura, Gokul, Govardhan and possibly even Agra will be completely closed down for the day.
“Jai Guru Dev ashram has taken responsibility to feed the 500,000 protestors every day for ten days, and bus services, shops and offices will be closed,” says Radha Jivan.
The march is expected to completely block the major National Highway 2, and Radha Jivan has expressed the expectation that the government will intervene and promise action before the protestors even reach Delhi.
Meanwhile there’s no doubt that the activists on the ground will feel hugely inspired and supported by devotees all over the world praying for their success—what to speak of the auspiciousness such vast congregational chanting will bring to the whole effort.
“Our unified voices really make a difference,” Krishna Devata says. “Just gathering and agreeing to dedicate our prayer together, is a huge act of peace and hope.”
So if you want to make a difference, please organize a kirtan in your community—long or short, small or large—on March 1st, 2013; and email Krishna Devata at firstname.lastname@example.org to let her know the location and details.