If you’re planning a fun holiday for this summer and want to add a dash of spirituality, Villa Vrindavana might be a good place to consider this July.
The rural ISKCON center, nestled in the vivid green Tuscan hills near the historical city of Florence, is planning two festivals that will literally bring color and music to Italy’s bright summer sunshine.
The first festival, to be held on Sunday July 6th, is the Festival of Colors, or Holi. It was originally celebrated by Lord Krishna in Vrindavana as He and Srimati Radharani, along with their gopi friends, playfully threw powdered and liquid colored dyes at each other.
The festival is a relatively new addition to ISKCON’s roster, but has become popular with many ISKCON temples now due to the ease with which it can be used to introduce Krishna consciousness in a light, digestible way to young newcomers.
“We first held Holi on September 29th last year, but the weather was not good and so we didn’t get as many visitors as we expected,” says Serena Petrucci, one of the event’s organizers. “Then Sanatani Dasi, a second generation devotee, had the idea to hold the next one on a hot Sunday afternoon in summer.”
“Sanatani is always thinking about how to promote Krishna consciousness to as many people as possible, especially the youth,” Serena adds. “She lived in India for many years, and knows all the traditions, so she thought to bring this joyful celebration to Italy too!”
The change of date is expected to draw anywhere from 200 to 500 people, with local Italians joining devotees.
All will gather in the courtyard of the temple villa at 3 o’clock in the afternoon, in front of a beautifully decorated stage.
After introducing the event and explaining its meaning, devotees will carry festival “murtis,” or forms, of Villa Vrindavana’s presiding Deities out to the stage along with kirtan. After a short puja inviting the Deities to open the event, the show will begin.
Many devotional musicians and dancers will perform, including internationally known kirtan group The Mayapuris. Each band will perform the Hare Krishna maha-mantra in different musical styles, urging the audience to sing the Holy Names along with them.
Every hour, there will be an uproarious countdown, and then everyone will hurl powdered colors into the air, creating a rainbow cloud. As the music goes on, they’ll chant and dance wildly in the multicolored haze.
When guests want to take a break, they’ll tuck into some delicious prasadam served at an assortment of booths. The fun will continue until around 8pm.
“For devotees, this will be a joyful chance to remember Krishna’s pastimes and get some great association and inspiration,” Serena says. “For others, it will be a colorful and exciting experience, one that will be lots of fun but at the same time bring them one step closer to Krishna!”
Plans are underway, she adds, to sponsor the event with donations so that organizers can invest in better equipment and host more visitors in future years.
Meanwhile on the weekend following Festival of Colors, Villa Vrindavana will host its fourth annual Sravanam Kirtanam festival.
Also conceived by Sanatani Dasi as a means to expand Villa Vrindavan’s outreach efforts, the festival will give Italian youth a fun Krishna conscious experience and distribute the Holy Name to as many people as possible.
The name of the event, Sravanam Kirtanam, refers to hearing and chanting the Hare Krishna mantra. “By hearing and chanting the Holy Name, we can free ourselves and others too,” says Serena.
Fifty people attended the first Sravanam Kirtanam in 2011, and last year’s drew around 300 from Italy and around the world. This year, organizers hope to host closer to 400, with local youth and members of the general public expected to join devotees.
The festival will open at 7pm on Friday July 11th, and the kirtan itself will run from 10:00am to 10:00pm on both Saturday July 12th and Sunday the 13th, creating a total of 24 hours of kirtan.
A whole host of kirtan singers known for their devotion will lead the chanting in the Villa Vrindavana temple room, including Jahnavi Harrison, Amala Harinam and Nadiya Mani from the UK, Madhava Naidoo from Switzerland, Ojasvi Das and Tarana Chaitanya Das from Vrindavan, India, and gurus Kadamba Kanana Swami and Chandramauli Swami.
Harmonium, mridanga, kartals, flute and violin will add rhythm and soaring accompaniment to the chanting. Devotees will close their eyes and rock back and forth in meditation, clap and sing along, and sometimes dance in ecstasy.
For some, it’s such a spiritual high that 24 hours isn’t enough.
“Many also stay through the night,” Serena says. “Last year, we had two amazing nights with Ojasvi Prabhu and Amala Harinam Prabhu playing until 1:30am.”
To keep the chanters going, a delicious prasadam breakfast, lunch and dinner will be served. As they eat, devotees will get the chance to catch up with old friends and meet new ones.
Serena says the event is the perfect chance to allow Krishna into our hearts, to find ourselves again and to reconnect with the Supreme Soul.
“I hope that everyone leaves Sravanam Kirtanam with a sense of gratitude, happy and inspired to do more for their own spiritual path and to help others in theirs,” she says.
The event creates excellent publicity for Villa Vrindavana and draws international attention towards the activities of ISKCON Italy. Organizers plan to keep improving and growing it in the future.
“We are trying to do our best,” Serena says. “And with the devotees’ blessings, and Krishna's mercy, it will become nicer year after year!”
If you'd like to attend Festival of Colors at Villa Vrindavana, please email email@example.com. Or call (+39) 333 5270778 or (+39) 340 2378051. For more info and photos of the Festival, please visit https://www.facebook.com/festivaldeicolori.
If you'd like to attend Sravanam Kirtanam, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. Or call (+39) 333 5270778 or (+39) 340 2378051. For info and photos visit https://www.facebook.com/SravanamKirtanam?fref=ts[ 24-hour-kirtan ] [ festival-of-colors ] [ holi ]