At the second annual Govindadvipa Mellows, held on Inis Rath Island in Northern Ireland, Irish devotees brought their unique flavor and all-inclusive mood to the 12-hour kirtan festival.
The 22-acre emerald wooded island on Lough Erne, once owned by an Earl, was the perfect setting for immersing oneself in the Holy Name.
About ninety people took a barge across the lake for the Govindadvipa Mellows event, held on Sunday October 13th. They included devotees from counties all over Ireland such as Dublin, Wexford, Sligo, Galway and Wicklow; as well as some from India, Mauritius, Bhaktivedanta Manor and Eastern Europe. Some devotees brought newcomers with them who were making their first trip to the temple.
Organizers had been working hard to prepare for several months, and inside the converted mansion, the temple room was beautifully decorated with an autumn theme. Sri Sri Radha-Govinda’s altar was adorned with elaborate flower arrangements; maple leaf festoons hung from the ceiling; and silk flowers dangled from the arches.
On a small decorated table was a picture of Irish born Prabhupada disciple Tribhuvanath Prabhu, who passed away on October 16th in 2001. A trailblazing preacher who united the Irish Yatra, his mission according to the accompanying plaque was to “tirelessly spread the glory of Sri Krishna-kirtan in a festive mood.”
A shrine was created for Tribhuvanath Prabhu, who remains a major inspiration for the Irish yatra.
The Govindadvipa Mellows event began at 7:00am with Deity Greeting, a class by Derek Carroll, who travelled extensively with Tribhuvanath Prabhu, and breakfast. Kirtan leaders then sat facing Sri Sri Radha Govinda to sing for Their pleasure, with non-stop kirtan running from 9:30am to 9:00pm.
Kirtaneers who came from England, India, and other countries included Jaggi Suta Das, Nakula Das, Kalindi Dasi, Premarnava Das and Maha Jvala Das. Local chanters, some of whom have led at events like Birmingham 24 Hour Kirtan and Dublin Kirtan Mela, included Sri Rupa Das and Satya Dasi, Pavani and Anasuya Dasi, Ananda Hari Das, Jagannath Suta Das, Ananda Maya Dasi, Sita Dasi, Pat, Orla, Rosie, Manu Das, and Jayananda Das.
“We always try and accommodate any individual who has asked to sing for their Lordships Sri Sri Radha Govinda,” says organizer Supriya Radha Dasi. “Irish Melas are all-inclusive – you don’t have to be technically perfect or know fancy musical skills. We have a family mood and very much support each other in Kirtan. We encourage everyone who has a sincerity to sing for Krishna to have a go and come join in the Kirtan regardless of technical ability. Tribhuvanath Prabhu once pointed out that even your dancing is a service to Krishna and for His pleasure, and we very much take that to heart in Ireland.”
Devotees chanted for the pleasure of Sri Sri Radha Govinda.
Devotees brought Ireland’s long culture of music into the kirtan. As well as traditional instruments such as harmonium, kartals and mridanga, they also used specialty hand drums, bass guitar, and djembe drums.
“Many Irish devotees attending Kirtan bring their own instruments, which often include flutes, accordions, and guitars as standard,” Supriya says. “The vast array of instruments also adds to the inclusive mood. Individuals feel like they’re part of the Kirtan, rather than just attendees.”
Amongst its many highlights, the festival featured an Irish staple – an ecstatic kirtan by Manu Das, a longtime leader and preacher known for his energetic harmonium playing. The grand finale was another rip-roaring offering by Manu’s son Jayananda Das, which saw the sweat flying and devotees dancing for dear life.
“Ireland has a very different energy than any other place in the world, and that energy is definitely infused in the Kirtan,” Supriya says. “I always joke that the Irish devotees are looking for an excuse to dance at any given moment! There is a rawness and passion to Kirtan in Ireland that is very much like the earliest days in ISKCON when the movement was starting.”
Varied instrumentation added flavor to the Mellows.
She adds: “Devotes here are fun loving and the community spirit in Kirtan is strong. Often the Kirtan leader will ‘let loose,’ leading to some of the most powerful and roaring Kirtan you could ever imagine. And it’s not unusual to see maybe twenty plus matajis dancing in a massive circle, or the entire congregation dancing up and down the temple room!”
Another element of Govindadvipa Mellows is that the focus of all this should be on Krishna’s pleasure. “I always try to remember what Srila Prabhupada said about Kirtan,” Supriya explains. “In a letter dated November 11th, 1967, he wrote: ‘I never thought about the audience. I was prepared to chant even if there were no men present to hear me. The principle of chanting is to glorify the Lord and not to attract a crowd. If Krishna hears nicely then he will ask some sincere devotees to gather in such a place. Therefore, be advised that thousands of centers may be started if we find out a sincere soul for each and every center.’”
Throughout the festival, organizers kept everyone fueled with three full prasadam meals – granola, milk, fruit, maha, and kichari for breakfast; rice, two subjis, salad, spring rolls, and Govindadvipa Mellows signature cupcakes for lunch; and subji, popcorn, apple crumble and snacks for dinner. The prasadam was mainly plant-based, with vegan milk options, and various gluten-free options to cater to dietary restrictions.
Devotees pack together excitedly as they line up for prasadam.
The response to the festival was extremely enthusiastic, with devotees saying they couldn’t wait till next year’s Mellows. First-time visitors also had positive experiences – one lady who had intended to spend just the morning ended up staying all the way until 9pm.
Preparations are already underway for the next Govindadvipa Mellows, as well as the next Kirtan Mela in Dublin, with dates set to be released soon.
Despite the huge amount of work involved, Supriya Radha is determined to continue organizing such festivals long into the future.
“The vision that was given to us by Tribhuvanath Prabhu was a powerful one of love and caring for other Vaishnavas, and Kirtan Melas like Govindadvipa Mellows undoubtedly bring Vaishnavas closer together,” she says.
Taking selfies on the way across the lake to Govindadvipa.
She concludes: “Govindadvipa Mellows is very much a labor of love thatwill continue for many years to come; because the core team believe that Kirtan programs like this will fundamentally improve devotee relations, preaching, and most importantly our connection to Krishna.”
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