After years of planning for its 50th anniversary, and nearly six months of celebrations this year so far, ISKCON is now gearing up for its Golden Jubilee Incorporation Day on July 13th, 1966. And temples, centers, and individual devotees all over the world are getting ready to do something big for founder Srila Prabhupada, whom many feel they owe their lives to.
After braving thirty-five days at sea on the Jaladuta steamship and two heart-attacks to bring his message of devotion to the Western World, Prabhupada arrived in New York City on September 19th, 1965 with only seven dollars and a few boxes of books to his name. By the next spring, he had initiated the legal work to establish an “International Society for Krishna Consciousness,” while still living in the Bowery.
Early followers in his small storefront at 26 2nd Avenue helped him complete his legal documents, which revealed his seven purposes of ISKCON for the first time. On July 11th, 1966 he signed the papers, and on July 13th, he received a certificate showing that ISKCON had been officially incorporated.
“It was from this day, that Srila Prabhupada started a revolution that succeeded in transforming the hearts and minds of millions of people all over the world,” says ISKCON 50’s International Cordinator Romapada Das. “It was on this day that Prabhupada revealed his mission in the service of Lord Chaitanya for the first time. Temples all over the world should plan something that glorifies this exemplary and compassionate vision of Srila Prabhupada in their local communities within and outside ISKCON.”
Romapada suggests a host of different special things temples can do on Incorporation Day or any day during Incorporation Week (July 11th to 17th).
During their morning programs, devotees can sing the songs ‘Markine Bhagavad-dharma’ and ‘Prayers to the Lotus feet of Krishna,’ which Srila Prabhupada wrote aboard the Jaladuta. They can also give classes about Srila Prabhupada, with readings from the Prabhupada-Lilamrita about how he incorporated ISKCON.
Either after class or in the evening, they can hold a “Gratitude Program,” during which they can make Vyasa-puja style ‘offerings’ to Srila Prabhupada; read from his Jaladuta Diary and New York Journal to appreciate the struggles he went through; stage the play “Swami at Sea,” which is available for download at iskcon50.org; distribute the ISKCON 50 magazine; and display ISKCON 50 Expo panels showcasing ISKCON’s achievements over the last fifty years.
Before or after the Gratitude Program, devotees could also hold a maha-harinama chanting procession that culminates in a park or public place, reminiscent of Prabhupada’s first Tompkins Square Park Harinamas. Or they could hold six, twelve or twenty-four-hour kirtans, during which they sing many of Prabhupada’s favorite bhajans.
While these are guidelines, devotees can get creative on the day, week or even months surrounding Incorporation Day – there’s no hard and fast rules for what to do or when to do it.
ISKCON Moscow, for instance, is celebrating its Incorporation Week in June with a Vaishnavi Festival, during which female Prabhupada disciples will give seminars on Deity worship, cooking, developing one’s relationship with Prabhupada and more. The 45th anniversary of Srila Prabhupada’s visit to Moscow will also be celebrated, with key disciples telling stories of the early pioneering days.
On Incorporation Day itself, devotees in Guyana will open their first ever temple in their capital Georgetown with a huge five-day festival. Elsewhere in July, devotees in Durban, South Africa will perform kirtan and distribute prasadam to over 50,000 people at public trek Walk the City. And in Mauritius, the Mauritius Broadcasting Corporation will feature a special discussion about ISKCON’s 50th anniversary.
Meanwhile the World Holy Name Week will shift from its usual October spot to July and August this year. It will culminate in grand harinama processions all over the world to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the first public harinama in the Western World – led by Prabhupada on August 14th, 1966 from 26 2nd Avenue to Washington Square Park in New York.
Of course, the ISKCON 50 celebrations will continue on past Incorporation Day and its surrounding months.
Some of the biggest plans later in the year include completing 50 Padayatras (foot pilgrimages) worldwide; 50 Hare Krishna festivals in the UK; and major VIP events in Cape Town, South Africa, Washington D.C., USA, and Delhi, India – the latter of which is expecting an audience of 50,000.
There will be major melas for youth and older second generation devotees too in New Vrindaban, West Virginia; Leicester, UK; and Johannesburg, South Africa. The New Vrindaban one, held this weekend, will explore the themes of celebrating family and building community; the UK one from September 1st to 4th will empower youth and connect them with Srila Prabhupada; and the Johannesburg one will also focus on community-building and kirtan.
And in Weisbaden, Germany on September 20th an Interfaith Summit will see delegates from different faith communities learning about Srila Prabhupada.
ISKCON 50 Coordinator Romapada Das encourages devotees everywhere to organize similar events in their area, or get other ideas for 50th anniversary celebrations at http://iskcon50.org/ideas-for-50th/. Resources for your events are also available at http://iskcon50.org, including posters, logos, banners, video clips, Powerpoint presentations, and scripts for plays.
“With all these events, we want to educate people about ISKCON and its Founder Acharya, and their remarkable achievements in the last fifty years,” says Romapada. “We also want to celebrate the fifty years of ISKCON in a befitting manner. And we want to appreciate all those dedicated devotees who have contributed their entire lives in the service of Prabhupada by spreading the sankirtana movement to every town and village to fulfill the prediction of Lord Chaitanya.”[ celebrations ] [ delhi ] [ durban ] [ germany ] [ guyana ] [ iskcon-50th-anniversary ] [ jaladuta ] [ moscow ] [ new-york ]