This year’s European Kuli Mela in Radhadesh, Belgium, was another storming success for the infectiously spreading ISKCON youth initiative.
With 400 gurukulis (youth and adults grown up in ISKCON) attending from over twenty countries including Russia, India, America, and most of the European nations, the event was nothing short of a global phenomenon. Says assistant organizer Kapila Monet: “When a guest from Tomsk, Siberia shows a slide show of a Kulimela event in Siberia, at a Kulimela event in Belgium, to an audience of organizers from Kulimelas in America, everyone sees the power of Srila Prabhupada.”
Although organizers were initially worried about the language issue with so many nationalities, their concerns were soon abated as they realized that chanting and dancing have no language barrier. The organizers of Radhadesh Mela had hoped to unite the fractured space that is Europe, and in that they were a success.
Kulis spent their days attending progressive seminars on many subjects. Particularly well-attended were classes on martial arts, Thai massage, yoga, henna, and stick-dancing. Deep therapy sessions, while more understated and private, also drew many. But it was Bhakti-lata’s Japa Revolution seminar, co-hosted by Manu and Govinda, that received the most excited feedback. “For me, the film festival, with Madi's Cymbals and Ishan's Kiss of the Lark, was also a major highlight,” says Kapila.
As the sun set, the floodlights came on, and Kulis gathered at the main stage to watch an array of top-flight entertainment. Bala Bosch and Kumar, a professional DJ, delivered an amazing late night show of dance music infused with spiritual themes, while UK band Transcendence added a more traditional rock set. Vraja and Rasalila’s professional dance show also stood out. But once again, the holy name of Krishna landed at the top of everyone’s list. Entertainment was delayed because no one would leave the all-day bhajan kutir, and the Saturday night kirtan sung by Madhava of 24-hour kirtan fame rocked the house.
“The goal of Kuli Mela is first to share, then to serve, then to be inspired, and then to act,” Kapila says. “The formula allows for each person to experience the spiritual and material connections on their own terms and in their own ways, but always with a gentle push towards the highest level of happiness, the congregational chanting of the holy name.”
The mood of service to devotees also prevailed at Kuli Mela. “We gave out t-shirts to all volunteers who did service for more than three hours, and we ran out,” Kapila says. “We started with 300 t-shirts, which means that over 75% of the delegates served. It created an amazing atmosphere.”
The event struck the material balance too, showing Kulis what they could do when they united together as a group, and giving shared experience of business and artistic success. And the sports field – where Team Radhadesh defeated Team Italy in the Kuli Cup Final – was a hit.
People went home from Radhadesh Kuli Mela as they had from the ones before, turning the experience over in their heads and knowing with certainty that inspiration can envigorate action.
“Kuli Mela is growing,” Kapila says. “New crews keep coming forward to do events. An Australian event is lined up for 2010. Teams in Italy, France, and amazingly, Kazakhstan have stepped forward to organize their own Melas. A European bus tour may be on the cards. And the mega mela in LA in 2009 should really take the whole project to an even higher level.”
But with all this, the most important task is to bring all the generations together in service to one another. Service to devotees, Kapila feels sure, is the highest form of devotional activity.
The organizers of Kuli Mela would like to thank the management of Radhadesh, who were open, generous, tolerant, inspirational, encouraging, and provided every facility. “They exhibited all Vaishnava qualities, and gave us a great example of how to be in management,” Kapila says. “We hope that they have also been inspired by our energy.”
Thanks also go out to everyone who volunteered, participated, and attended Kuli Mela 2008, sharing inspiration and love of God with one another.
A DVD will be available in the next few months, and you can check out photos at the Facebook group: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=28844948383. To sign up for LA Kuli Mela in 2009, visit www.kulimela.com.