More than 5,000 devotees have flooded to Jubga, near the Black Sea, for the epic Sadhu Sanga festival which started on September 4thand will run for one week until the 11th.
A popular vacation spot in the south of Russia, Jubga is bordered on one side by lush greenery and on the other by the picturesque Black Sea. It has been the site of Sadhu Sanga for the past five years, although the festival was launched over two decades ago.
Russian GBC Acyutatma Das presents Niranjana Swami with a medal for his 30 years of preaching in Russia
Fittingly, this year the coastal event has drawn a veritable sea of Russian-speaking devotees from all over Russia, Ukraine, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia and other post-Soviet Union countries to dive deep into the Holy Name and devotee association.
Among them are an incredible who’s who of Srila Prabhupada disciples including Indradyumna Swami, Devamrita Swami, Bhakti Caitanya Swami, Bhanu Swami, Prahladananda Swami, Bhaktivaibhava Swami, Niranjana Swami, Lokanatha Swami, Bada Haridas das, Anuttama Das, Rukmini Devi Dasi, and Mondakini Devi Dasi.
Rukmini Devi Dasi and Mondakini Devi Dasi, who first came to Russia in 1972, address the crowd
Russian GBC Acyutatma Das kicked off the festival in the cavernous main pandal, revealing the presiding Deities of Sri Pancha-Tattva, setting the mood, and welcoming all the devotees and senior lecturers. In a touching move, he also presented Niranjana Swami with a medal for his thirty years of preaching in Russia.
With so many devotees coming together, the atmosphere was electric.
“The opening ceremony, where you first see Pancha Tattva, is very special,” says attendee Shaktyavesha Avatar Das. “Through the presence of so many senior devotees, you actually come closer to their understanding of the personal feature of the Lord, and feel Him present there with you.”
Sri Pancha Tattva preside over the festival
The main pandal, where the opening ceremony took place, is home to full morning and evening programs and lectures by keynote speakers every day. There, devotees are surrounded on all sides by fifteen banners showing beautiful pictures of different pastimes from the Chaitanya Charitamrita, along with verses that emphasize the importance of sadhu sanga, chanting, and hearing.
The elaborate setup for the Sadhu Sanga Festival also includes several other smaller pandals dubbed “Sankirtan,” “Nityananda,” “Gauranga,” etc. These will host three different seminars at a time, so that devotees can choose from a diverse range of speakers and topics.
A sea of devotees in the huge main pandal, surrounded by banners depicting the importance of hearing, chanting, and sadhu-sanga
Seminars this year include “The Heart of Vaishnava Relationships” by Bhakti Chaitanya Swami; “The Teachings of Lord Chaitanya” by Lokanath Swami; and “In Search of God with Dhruva Maharaja” by Indradyumna Swami, amongst many others.
In the evenings, devotees will also get to sit back and be entertained by Krishna conscious dance, drama, and new film releases.
Many sannyasis and Srila Prabhupada disicples were present
The icing on the cake, of course, will be the spectacular kirtans, uniting all 5,000 devotees in chanting the Holy Names together in ecstasy.
Shaktyavesha Avatar has attended five previous Sadhu Sanga festivals. When asked what keeps him coming back, he says, “For me, it’s the association. You get a chance to associate with sadhus, and meet many, many old friends. And whatever troubles you have in life, or whatever challenges you’re facing in your spiritual practice, you just get absorbed in this atmosphere where the Krishna conscious vibes are very high. Everything becomes alive again, and you get this long-awaited boost and really recharge yourself.”
Devotees arrive in the main pandal[ black ] [ russia ] [ sadhu-sanga ] [ sea ]