Around 16,000 people flooded onto ISKCON’s New Varshana Farm in the suburbs of Auckland, New Zealand last weekend, drawn by the Hare Krishna Food Festival and Krishna Holi.
The Food Festival, a brand new event capitalizing on people’s love for Hare Krishna Food, came on Saturday February 9th. A beautiful blue summer’s day in New Zealand, it saw blue and white tents, a stage and colorful flags dotted around the farm.
People could chose from a variety of cuisines including Indian Thalis, Asian, Italian, dosa, pizza, chips (French fries), other snacks, and drinks – all offered to the Lord of course.
As they milled about and ate, relaxing, on the grass, devotees chanted Hare Krishna onstage and youth performed Bharatanatyam dances.
Festivalgoers tuck into prasadam cuisines from around the world at the Hare Krishna Food Festival
Many guests also took the popular temple tours, which left every half hour and showed the prasadam hall, the kitchen where devotees were cooking, the temple room with Sri Sri Radha-Giridhari on Their ornate altar, and the finely crafted doors, large oil paintings, and beautiful Orissan stained-glass windows.
Because the Food Festival was only in its first year, it was advertised to a purposefully limited number of people to see how it would go. It drew three to four thousand.
Krishna Holi, however, now in its fourth year, attracted some twelve thousand.
“The idea came up when we saw what Charu Prabhu was doing with his very successful Holi at the Spanish Fork temple in Utah,” says temple president Kalasamvara Das. “Krishna Chandra Prabhu, one of our council members brought it up. I jumped at the chance. As a manager, I’m always brainstorming, how am I going to get people to come to the Hare Krishna farm? I wanted to show Kiwis that we’re not so different from them, and also that we can have fun without intoxication.”
A devotee rock band gets the crowd to chant the Holy Names
Organized by Krishna Chandra, the free community festival drew a largely Western audience of families and young people. Among the special guests were Member of Parliament Michael Wood, and the local fire brigade and police force, both of whom specifically asked to participate.
“The first time the police came, they took photos back to the high commissioner in Wellington, who immediately posted them to their main web page,” says Kalasamvara.
This year the festivities began in front of the spectacular New Varshana temple with an hour-and-a-half of Hare Krishna bhajans at 10:30am. At midday, a group of Maori devotees inaugurated the Holi event with a Haka – a ceremonial dance from Maori culture – replacing the traditional Maori chants with the Hare Krishna maha-mantra.
The MP, police, and fire brigade then ascended the stage to do the first color throw. As blue, green, red, yellow and pink powder clouds exploded in the air, Bhadrasena Das and his rock band kicked in, chanting the Hare Krishna mantra to classic rock tunes. The crowd bounced up and down, chanting along, while onstage the cops appeared the most enthusiastic, dancing for all they were worth.
The local police dance enthusiastically in the kirtan
Color throws continued every half hour. As well as the rock music, kirtan groups led by Trivikrama Das and Divya Govinda Das also chanted different prayers with more traditional instruments.
The fire brigade squirted dyed water over everybody with their hoses, while children from local schools performed dances they had learned. Celebrations continued on until about 5pm.
Feedback was extremely positive. Police, fire brigade and members of council were glad to be able to connect with the community. Many families and young people said they would definitely come back next year. And the festival’s Facebook page was packed with happy comments. “I couldn’t have planned a better birthday for my son!” one mother exclaimed.
Kalasamvara feels that it’s the perfect ice-breaker, while GBC Ramai Swami, who also attended, said, “People who would never usually come to the temple came.”
The fire brigade spray festival goers with dyed water
Kalasamvara adds: “It’s advertised as Krishna Holi, so when people come here, they’re getting Krishna. The temple’s open, they take darshan, they hear the Holy Name, and they get prasadam and devotee association.”
He explains that temple tours also take place throughout the Holi Festival, and people are often so blown away by the beauty and atmosphere of the temple, that they become tearful.
“Srila Prabhupada said people should come to the temple and be moved,” he says.
With the Food Festival and Holi, there is now a whole Facebook page full of thousands of followers who have received a great impression of the Hare Krishnas and are looking for more.
Temple president Kalasamvara Das with the local police
“We plan to invite those people again for a Sacred Sounds kirtan event when Sri Prahlad and Madhava come over, as well as for other festivals,” Kalasamvara says.
He quotes a letter from Srila Prabhupada to Karandhara in November 1970: “The opportunities for expanding the Sankirtana Movement are unlimited. We should tax our brains as to what is the best way to present Krishna consciousness to particular people at a particular time and place.”
“So we’re always trying to tax our brains as to how to attract more people to our Hare Krishna farm,” Kalasamvara concludes.[ auckland ] [ holi ] [ new-zealand ]