Founder Acharya His Divine Grace
A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada

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Natural Disaster Strikes New Govardhana Festival
By ISKCON News Staff   |  Jan 18, 2008

At the beginning of every year a gathering takes place at the ISKCON New Govardhana Community in Australia. Devotees come from all around the world to hear thoughtful classes, dance in the blissful kirtans and honor the sumptuous feasts offered to the Supreme Lord with love and devotion. This year’s schedule ended up a lot different from previous years as unexpected flash flooding was a prominent theme.

The forecast was for rain. Understandably, the organizers might have thought, “Why should a day or two of showers cancel the whole festival? We have a covered eating area and the temple roof doesn’t leak.”

If anyone knew exactly how much rain would fall between the 4th and 5th of January, the scenario might have panned out differently. As devotees slept after a blissful day of hearing and chanting, the torrential rains poured, and poured and poured some more.

Meteorologists claim that the rainfall was the most in several decades. The bridge that crosses the river leading onto New Govardhana was submerged more than 8 meters under water. Days later the waters receded and revealed it damaged in several places and covered with debris. No one could drive onto the farm, nor could anyone leave.

Local managers quickly organized work parties to salvage equipment used for catering that was submerged the night before.

When the morning program finished, the teams were joined by guests who shifted rain soaked boxes of prasadam distribution paraphernalia for hours. Janananda Goswami worked in muddy conditions alongside the devotees the entire day.

“It’s not exactly the kind of festival most of us had in mind, but somehow it still seems festive to work alongside devotees I’ve never had the pleasure to meet before. We’re still enjoying camaraderie engaged in practical service here due to the circumstances”, said local resident Ekendra Dasa.

News began to filter in that, in some places, evacuations were being mandated by the federal government and that the entire region had been declared a natural disaster area. There was fear that the rivers would resurge as tides rose and as rain continued to fall over the next several days.

Indradyumna Swami’s travelling festival crew had left the previous evening to perform to a capacity crowd in the local town of Byron Bay. When they returned that night they were unable to cross the rapids that rushed over the bridge. They ended up booking motel rooms in Murwillumbah town that night.

After days of examining the large property the damage was assessed. Many low lying fences were damaged beyond repair. Four cars were submerged in flood water up to their dashboards, rendering their engines useless. About AU$15,000 worth of catering supplies were ruined. A 4 metric tonne shipping container was lifted from its footings and floated downstream. The most unfortunate loss, however, was of two older cows who ventured from high ground into the quickly rising waters and were swept away by the strong current.

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