ISKCON devotees and the Sri Vaishnava followers of 11th century saint Ramanujacarya came together this March 8 for a “Peace Walk” in Chennai, South India.
The event, organized by ISKCON Chennai and Sri Vaishnava group Saran Darshan, drew over one thousand devotees eager to promote world peace and prosperity. The walk also heralded Gaura Purnima, the March 11 celebration of the birth of Shri Chaitanya, who founded Gaudiya Vaishnavism in the 15th century.
In their inauguration addresses, senior spiritual leaders from both ISKCON and Saran Darshan glorified the Hare Krishna mantra and other names of God. And despite public chanting not being a part of Sri Vaishnava practice, Saran Darshan founder Sri M.V. Anantha Padmanabhachariar enthusiastically joined ISKCON devotees in dancing and chanting, inciting his own group to follow suite.
A procession headed by a “Rath,” or cart, carrying four-foot deities of Gaura Nitai – names for Shri Chaitanya and his associate Nityananda – travelled the five kilometers from the Partha Sarathi temple at Triplicane to Adi Keshava Perumal Koil in Mylapore. ISKCON devotees sang and danced in front of the cart, while behind it hundreds of Sri Vaishnavas recited Vishnu Sahasranam – the one thousand names of Vishnu. Behind the reciters, various groups chanted songs praising Krishna in both Tamil and Telegu.
Intermittently throughout the procession, members of the Sri Vaishnava group joined the ISKCON devotees to sing and dance for Gaura Nitai. Many were orthodox Sri Vaishnava women who wanted to learn the ISKCON women’s dances.
As the cart reached its destination, members of both groups sang offerings of adoration to the deities of Gaura Nitai. The event concluded as everyone tucked into a delicious meal of sacred prasadam food.
“Shri Chaitanya once predicted that people from many different sects would come together to chant the Hare Krishna mantra,” says ISKCON Chennai president Sumithra Krishna Dasa. “The Peace Walk was a step towards making that prophecy a reality. It was refreshing to see Shri Vaishnavas and ISKCON devotees join together, and we hope to see more collaboration in the future.”