On June 18th, nearly one hundred and sixty yoga teachers attended a Mantra Festival in Buenos Aires in honor of ISKCON’s 50th anniversary.
“Last year we put on a lot of events for ISKCON 50 in our temple,” says Argentina’s ISKCON 50 coordinator Merudevi Dasi. “So this year we decided to start going outside and reaching out to new people.”
The free cultural event was held at the Valle Tierra yoga center in Palermo, a hip alternative neighborhood of Buenos Aires that is particularly receptive to vegetarianism, yoga and kirtan. The venue was decorated with an ISKCON 50 banner featuring Srila Prabhupada.
A devotee band led by Mahasundari Dasi began by chanting various mantras such as Om Namo Bhagavate Vasudevaya, they lyrics of which were projected on a screen behind them.
Mahasundari Dasi leads the band in chanting
They then brought in acoustic guitar and bass, harmonium, mridanga and kartals, and sang Vaishnava songs like Govinda Jaya Jaya. This was followed by the Hare Krishna maha-mantra along with an explanation of its meaning.
“At first, the audience was somewhat shy – as yoga practioners, they are used to being more quiet and meditative, so they sat with their eyes closed,” Merudevi says. “But when we brought in the instruments and all the energy, they opened their eyes and started to move. Eventually, they all raised their hands in the air and began to dance. It was so exciting!”
To add an ISKCON 50 element, MC Manohar Shyam Das – ISKCON Buenos Aires’ congregational director – gave a talk about Srila Prabhupada and how he brought his spiritual message to the Western World. The documentary film Joy of Devotion, about ISKCON’s activities around the world, was also shown with Spanish subtitles.
Finally, the two-and-a-half-hour program concluded with an Odissi dance in praise of Lord Jagannath by Anandini Dasi, an expert dancer who has performed at the Indian Embassy.
Anandini performs an Odissi dance in praise of Lord Jagannath
Afterwards, many attendees purchased maha-mantra kirtan CDs and copies of Yogesvara Dasa’s new ISKCON 50 Committee-approved one-volume Srila Prabhupada biography, “Swami in A Strange Land.”
“Then when they went downstairs to leave, we were waiting for them with laddhus and herbal tea made by Murti Murti Dasi, the only Srila Prabhupada disciple we have here in Argentina,” says Merudevi. “The people were very happily surprised, because it’s winter here now and was a very cold evening. All in all, it was a great experience for them.”
Later, the event’s Facebook page was plastered with appreciative comments. And when devotees sent attendees an email thanking them for coming and inviting them to a repeat event on July 23rd, many said it was too far away and begged for another kirtan sooner.
As well as the July 23rd kirtan and other planned yoga center events in September and October, there will also be a 50th anniversary event on July 28th at the Buenos Aires temple for devotees, with VIP guests and senior devotees talking about Srila Prabhupada.
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