The words “Kuli Mela” literally mean “celebrate community!” in Sanskrit. And the tenth anniversary of the very first Kuli Mela – coming back to New Vrindaban from June 15th to 19th — will do exactly that.
With its main themes of “celebrating family” and “building community,” the festival will bring around 1,000 people from the first, second, and third generations of ISKCON together: the original pioneers of Prabhupada’s society, their now grown-up children, and their children.
The days will feature a variety of seminars, with a special focus on family and community. For instance, there’s one seminar on parenting, and another on how to start and maintain intentional communities, with successful examples from around the U.S.
There will also be an all-day bhajan kutir in the ‘yajnashala’ between the temple and the Lodge, where kirtan-lovers will be able to sing their hearts out.
Evenings will be full of top-flight entertainment from the main stage set up in the field in front of Prabhupada’s Palace. Likely offerings will include contemporary and traditional dance, devotional music in a variety of styles, drama and more.
“We’re not just looking for professionals, we want to have a good time with people we know,” says lead organizer Bhima Walker. “That personal connection between audience and performer is a big part of what we’re trying to do.”
After the scheduled show every evening, non-amplified entertainment, such as music, dancing and kirtan, is likely to continue into the night, allowing attendees to express their creativity. Bhima wants to facilitate this kind of non-structured socializing as much as possible, so that people can connect with each other on a deep level.
“What I’m most interested in for this Kuli Mela is the quality of the association,” he says.
Relationship-building between ISKCON’s older and younger members is a particular focus. On Thursday, all the generations will socialize at a community picnic hosted by renowned chefs Advaita and Sudhanu.
In addition, Panels of New Vrindaban and ISKCON North American leaders will join Kuli representatives in two plenary sessions – “Celebrating Family” on Thursday, and “Building Community” on Friday. Together they’ll discuss our past, present and future in these areas with audience contributions.
There will also be a service appreciation ceremony to recognize the work of pioneering gurukulis.
“My idea is to make this whole thing about the people, and to get the different generations talking,” says Bhima.
All the generations will also chant together -- another powerfully bonding activity -- in the 24-Hour Kirtan festival, held back-to-back with Kuli Mela from June 18th to 19th. Kuli chanters like Amala Harinama and the Mayapuris will join senior Srila Prabhupada disciples such as Bhakti Charu Swami, Radhanath Swami, and Agnidev Das.
As would be expected for a festival where caring for people is the main concern, Kuli Mela will serve three delicious prasadam meals daily, with healthy and vegan options at every meal. As much as possible, cooks will use dairy from New Vrindaban and Gita Nagari’s protected cows.
An all-day kids’ camp will allow parents to attend seminars, while their kids have fun with coloring, arts and crafts, storytelling and more. “The kids will also get their own meals so that if the main lunchtime runs late, they won’t get cranky, and they and their parents will be happy and peaceful,” says Bhima.
Guests will be accommodated in the recently renovated motel-style Palace Lodge rooms, in the cabins around the lake, and in hotels in nearby Wheeling and Moundsville. Camping will also be available onsite in New Vrindaban.
“Kuli Mela’s 10th anniversary, celebrated in the same year as ISKCON’s 50th, is showing the continued evolution of our broader Hare Krishna society,” Bhima says. “So let’s gather to celebrate the love of our family and to forge new ties in our ever-expanding community.”
With festival costs estimated at between $75K and $90K, and all organizers working as unpaid volunteers, Kuli Mela is a labor of love. Attendees are invited to join in this loving service by helping the event to break even and contributing the registration cost.
Tickets for Kuli Mela are currently available at a discounted price of $75 per person until March 31st. Ticket prices will progressively increase until they reach the estimated $150 per person festival cost. Get yours now at https://www.tickettailor.com/checkout/view-event/id/43143/chk/b50f
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The event’s main website is at: http://www.kulimela.org/[ kuli-mela ] [ new-vrindavana ]