Husband and wife Radhe Radhe Devi Dasi and Nandanandana Das, second generation devotees and disciples of Bir Krishna Goswami, are running a series of online kirtan festivals to bring devotees around the world together during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Born in South India, Nandanandana attended Vrindavan Gurukula; while Radhe Radhe was born and raised in Vrindavan and later relocated to Australia to establish the Bhakti Centre on the Gold Coast with her father Jamalarjuna Das.
Before COVID-19, the Bhakti Centre, which started twelve years ago, would host regular programs, often with visiting ISKCON personalities, and participate in nationwide parades with their own Rathayatra cart. Radhe Radhe was one of its main kirtan leaders, and she and Nandanandana continue to be the main curators of the Bhakti Centre’s Facebook page.
While the couple was visiting India this year, COVID-19 hit, and they were stranded in Vrindavan Dham.
“Although we were grateful to be in the holy dham, it was boring being stuck indoors, so we were doing a lot of kirtan,” Radhe Radhe says. “We started doing kirtan on various Facebook pages, and that’s when Nandanandana got the inspiration to organize kirtan events through our Bhakti Centre page. Originally, it was mostly to inspire the local Gold Coast community who were not able to attend programs in our Centre due to government restrictions. We both have many contacts in ISKCON, as you do when raised in the movement, so getting people to participate was not so difficult.”
The first major program the couple organized was the Harinam Cintamani 24 Hour Kirtan, which ran from 9am to 9am Australian time on May 24th and 25th. Featuring both international known and unknown kirtaniyas, the roster included Nirantara Das and his wife with an old-style ISKCON tune, Lokanath Swami, Agnidev, Vaiyasaki, Gauravani, Amala Kirtan, Gaura Mani, Ajamila, Acyuta Gopi and more.
Nandanandana’s cousins led an incredible kirtan, while Krishna Virya from Spain, who had just lost her mother to Coronavirus, delivered an emotional offering. Australian gurukuli kirtaniyas from the New Govardhan community and the Bhakti Centre’s core crew also chanted. Most singers used traditional instruments and common tunes, while some chose guitars, keyboards and flutes.
Brajananda Das and Kumari Sakhi Dasi in North Florida
“It was very inspiring for us,” Radhe Radhe says. “Being indoors during lockdown in Vrindavan, with not a lot of service other than our own Deity worship, it was a relief to find a viable service.”
Gradually, more ideas for different online programs began to manifest. Radhe Radhe and Nandanandana had the brain-wave to showcase and encourage children kirtaniyas, and held a 12- hour Kids Kirtan Festival dedicated to under 16-year-old Vaishnavas on May 29th. The online event saw kids from India, Mauritius and Spain all chanting for fifteen-minute blocks.
A 12-hour Ekadasi kirtan followed. Most recently, from June 20th to 21st, the couple put on a 24-hour “Worldwide Kirtan Festival 2020,” which featured kirtans dedicated to Bhakti Charu Swami, who, at that time, was in critical condition in hospital due to COVID-19, and gurukuli Dharma Powell, who recently passed away due to an unrelated condition.
Dula Purkay in Vancouver, Canada
Among the chanters were BB Govinda Swami, Bhakti Purusottama Swami, Mahavishnu Swami, Kavichandra Swami, Bhakti Dhira Damodar Swami, Bhakti Vighna Vinasa Narasimha Swami, Bhakti Carudesna Swami, Mahatma Das, Sri Prahlad Das, Naru Gopal Das, Amala Harinama and Nadiya Mani, Visvambhar Sheth, Akincana Krishna, and Ajamila Das.
Less internationally known chanters also led kirtans that were just as sweet, including Vrindavani and her husband Deva Madhava Das, talented young devotee Mayuri Gandharvika, and up-and-coming young singer Nimai with his mother Sundari Radha. There was also a family from Panama who performed a wonderful kirtan with many different instruments such as guitars, flute, and harmonium.
“So many devotees deserve recognition for their contributions, plus they can influence others with their devotion, and social media is the perfect platform,” says Radhe Radhe. “It is inspiring to showcase different devotees and kirtaniyas around the globe. We feel we are serving the society by creating a via medium to give us all access to our worldwide family, and sharing our Bhakti culture far and wide. After all, we are an international society. There should be no borders between us all.”
Jagannath, Baladeva and Subhadra at the Bhakti Centre Gold Coast
The kirtans Radhe Radhe and Nandanandana have organized have drawn kirtaniyas from South Africa, Canada, USA, Hawaii, Mauritius, Australia, Mayapur, Vrindavan, the UK, New Zealand, Belgium, Italy, Mexico and many locations.
“Many participants have expressed gratitude for being able to chant on this platform,” Radhe Radhe says. “We are all cut off from temples due to the pandemic, so an opportunity to serve the Lord through His Holy Name is welcomed. Those watching the kirtans are also grateful to be engaged in their various lockdown states around the world.”
The couple plan to hold many more kirtan and lecture events on the Bhakti Centre Gold Coast’s Facebook page – among the most recent were talks by disciples of His Holiness Bhakti Tirtha Swami, and a 24 Hour Kirtan for Aindra Prabhu’s disappearance day.
“Please bless us to be able to continue, and to evolve this preaching platform,” says Radhe Radhe. “One thing devotees are good at is always finding a way to spread Harinam no matter what the circumstances. We are all using this difficult time of COVID-19 to share our Hare Krishna culture over social media. As the Bhakti Centre Gold Coast’s catch phrase goes, ‘#karunanotcorona. [karuna means compassion]’”
Watch the live kirtan events at https://www.facebook.com/goldcoastbhakticentre/
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