Photography by Nilambhari Dasi.
Yet another Moscow weekend has gone by, and with it went the summer festival of Moscow Kirtan Mela. It may be called one of the biggest mantra-events in 2015. There were three days of unforgettable kirtans that lasted late into the night, hundreds of guests, participants and volunteers, and Bhakti Bringa Govinda Swami and his international team. And, of course, the Hare Krishna Maha-mantra - the song of salvation, the song of love and service to God.
The first day of the festival took place in the Indian cultural center near Polejaevskaya station. In the presence of 500 guests the kirtan went on till midnight, even though the center closes at 9 p.m. But this time everyone had a good reason to stay – Govinda Swami was for two hours telling amazing and impressive stories of his close friend, Srila Prabhupada’s disciple – Kurma Rupa prabhu, who dedicated his whole life to serving cows in Vrindavan. Many of the event participants couldn’t help crying, when Govinda Swami was asking everyone to pray for Kurma Rupa prabhu who was leaving his body at that moment.
Sofia, one of the participants, recalls: ”Maharaj told us about the necessity of speaking out our feelings to the other devotees, whom we love. He talked about it for a long time. He said that this time he was able to speak with this devotee before he leaves this world, but Maharaj also had had different experiences… He asked everyone present to share their feelings with other devotees; he said: “While you are young, you have more chances for this, and it is important.”
The kirtan was dedicated to Kurma Rupa Das.
The second day of the festival was the main one and took place in a rented space called PMLoft on Kutusovsky lane.
Many of the popular singers with their kirtans were there: Sacisuta from Alachua, Florida, has been living in India for the past 5 years, in holy places such as Mayapur and Vrindavan. The first time when he visited India he was 14, and he heard Aindra prabhu’s kirtan. In the course of the next few years Saci Suta was getting inspiration by his association to sing more and more. Today he is a well-known singer of very deep and sweet kirtans filled with the sense of tenderness and separation.
Vrindavan Kirtan came to Moscow from far away, from Australia. And he himself was born in New Zealand, where he studied at a traditional Vedic school, in which he learned to play mridanga, and since then he has never stopped playing it. Despite his young age, he had lived in Vrindavan where he served in 24-hour kirtan. Also he travelled the world with different famous musicians, such as Govinda Swami and Madhava Das.
Another singer, Ojasvi Das, was born in Bosnia, now lives in the sunny Croatia. Since childhood music has been his source of inspiration. When he first was introduced to the culture of kirtan, he felt that one can live fully through the singing of the Maha-mantra. Since then more than 20 years have passed, and now Ojasvi is famous for his deep kirtans and for his endless enthusiasm – as he is ready to lead a kirtan at any time of day and night, for an unlimited amount of time.
Akincana Krishna came from New York. His father was a globally known tenor Mikolosh Gafni. Since early age he has played various music instruments: such as the piano, saxophone, and the bass-guitar. In his youth he started his philosophical research, he even graduated from NYU with a major in philosophy. Nevertheless, music has always been his top priority. As a bass-guitarist he was the member of bands such as Glassjaw and As Kindred Spirits, with whom he travelled around the world. In 1988 he visited India for the first time, where with guidance from Aindra prabhu he became a participant of 24-hour kirtan and acquired his own unique style of performing. He is an incredible singer and plays virtuously on all the classical instruments of kirtan: harmonium, mridanga and karatals. He also knows classical Indian music theory and applies it in his kirtans.
Other participants included Gambhira, Abhai Chaitanya, Sundara Govinda and Nilambari, Ashoka Krishna from Switzerland, Gauri Dasi and Medini Pati Das.
And, of course, the second day ended in the middle of the night with BB Govinda Swami’s kirtan. Once more, he led a meditative kirtan and gathered around him all the musicians. Moscow has never seen such an emotional meditation-concert.
On the third day, again, the program was held in the Indian cultural center, where the most tough fans of kirtan had gathered. There were a lot of them, the hall was full of people up to the last minutes of kirtan, which was led by BB Govinda Swami. After three days of singing the Maha-mantra the atmosphere was that of full concentration. Govinda Swami made an inspirational introduction and started a long and calm kirtan. For a whole hour the audience was concentrated on one melody. Once Maharaj started playing a faster melody, the whole audience got up on their feet and danced till they almost fell to the ground after midnight.
From where did they get their strength? Govinda Swami spoke very important words about the importance of association and collective singing of the names of God. “The spiritual reality is not somewhere far away and it does not exist in our dreams only, it is inside us, and with the help of the Maha-mantra we can feel that spiritual reality.” He also spoke about the importance of sharing with someone else the happiness that we experience, as “love should always be shared – such is its free nature. Love cannot be limited, we just need to become the instrument, through which love will flow further and further…”
B.B. Govinda Swami shared his impressions of the event on his Facebook page:
[ bb-govinda-swami ] [ kirtana ] [ kirtan-mela ] [ moscow ] [ russia ]
“Friday, Saturday, and Sunday were all wonderful days of Nama Sankirtan in Moscow. In the company of Akincana Krishna Dasa, Sacī-Suta Das, Vrindavan Kirtan Das, Ojasvi Das, and the many, many Moscow devotees, the holy names of the Lord were flowing like a limitless ocean of nectar.
When the Kirtan was hitting these ‘mercy filled crescendos’ Akincana and Saci would sing in raga style. Build it up to a greater crescendo, and then change the gears on the kirtan and pull it back down into an amazing funk.
Then Ojasvi would tune in clearly on Aindra's style of kirtan and the entire congregation would explode.
Ever faithful to the rhythm Vrindavan Kirtan would never miss a beat. He so much inspired the Mrdanga with his steady funkiness that the Mrdanga began playing itself and challenged Vrindavan Kirtan to "out-funk" his own beats.
Devotees were chanting with all their heart, lungs, dancing like wild drunk elephants, and it went really, really late.
My heartfelt thanks to all the devotees who organized such a great weekend, who hosted all the kirtaners, who cooked such tasty prasadam, provided such perfect sound, and made every arrangement that the pure and powerful vibration of the holy name of Krishna was being broadcast all over the universe, from the heart of Mother Moscow.”