Hare Krishna devotees performed at the 21st annual Woodstock music festival in Trutnov, Czech Republic, this August. Organizer Martin VÄ›cheta first invited devotees to the event – which draws 20,000 people – in 1999. Since then, ISKCON has had its own stage at the festival site, and Lord Jagannatha’s smiling face even features on official promotional material for the event.
Festival attendees showed a high level of interest in the Krishna Camp. When Danavir Goswami chanted a simple Hare Krishna melody for three hours, the audience danced the “Swami Step” along with him, with eighty per cent of them also chanting. Travelling preacher Krishna Kripa Dasa stood in the audience, helping them along. “They were fantastic,” he says. “I noticed one girl who chanted for the entire three hours, smiling the whole time.”
When Krishna Camp organizer Punya Palaka invited festival-goers to chant with the devotees around the festival site and downtown, many took him up on the offer. One girl even volunteered to carry a Hare Krishna mantra sign for the entire hour and a half duration. “Quite a few people come to Czech Woodstock solely to attend the Hare Krishna camp,” said Punya Palaka. He recalls: “One year, as we were setting up our sound system, our audience picked up instruments and had their own Hare Krishna kirtan while waiting for us.”
On night two, Danavir Goswami amped up the energy, bringing in a full band to back his chanting. Accompanying him were two devotees on electric guitars, one on bass, one on a full drum set, and another on a djembe drum. “The Swami would chant the lead, then point the microphone toward the crowd on the response, encouraging them to sing along,” Krishna Kripa says. “It was very lively.”
Despite the dozens of bands featured on the Trutnov line-up, Krishna hardcore band Shelter were among the top five billed. The group, which resurrected itself to play Trutnov (lead singer Raghunatha Dasa is now a full-time yoga teacher in upstate New York), played an hour-long set, smiled upon by a glowing Jagannath face embedded in the stage above them. Raghunatha’s personable rapport with the audience won them over. His between-songs banter was punctuated with various spiritual gems. “It’s not how well you play the guitar that matters,” he told the audience, “but how much you sing from the heart.”
Young people loved the Krishna Camp: three girls practically lived in the tent for the full four days, often chanting along. One young man, who would spontaneously throw his arms into the air and chant, “Haribol!” purchased several books.
Prasadam is very popular at Trutnov, and was served at three different venues. Krishna Kripa took the opportunity to invite diners to visit ISKCON Prague’s Govinda’s restaurant. He also invited them to harinams in the city, and directed many people to visit Krishna.com.
“You may wonder how much spiritual benefit is gained by these festival-goers, who although they like to sing and dance with the devotees, are still drinking their beer and puffing on their cigarettes,” says Krishna Kripa. “But according to The Nectar of Devotion, such people, if they have unflinching attraction to Krishna, become eligible candidates for devotional service.”
He concludes, “From this it seems that if we can encourage people to develop their attraction to Krishna to the extent that it is unflinching, they too may take up the path of devotion in a serious way and attain love of Godhead in due course.”
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