Sri Mayapur Dham is located on the banks of the Ganges river, at the point of its confluence with the Jalangi, near Navadvip, West Bengal, India, 130 km north of Kolkata. It has always been celebrated as a place of learning and pilgrimage since time immemorial and in modern times its fame continues to grow.
Yearly, a religious festival of international magnitude, called Gaura Purnima, takes place there. Thousands of followers of Caitanya Mahaprabhu from around the world gather to chant and dance the names of God. Pilgrims from all around India converge thus the attendance can easily top one million. Hence, local residents are accustomed to seeing huge international crowds.
What are six hundred visitors if ISKCON Mayapur receives far more than that even on a daily basis? What is so special about them? So much so that the whole ISKCON campus is undergoing all kinds of restoration like painting buildings, repairing water taps, polishing the marble floors and building a drama stage? Even the guest houses are restructuring their service system in order to fulfill the necessities of every visitor.
They are members of the United Religions Initiative’s Young Leaders Program. The late ISKCON educator Bhaktisvarupa Damodara Swami (Dr. T.D. Singh) was a founding member of URI and, before he passed away, he expressed a heartfelt desire that the annual conference should take place in Sri Mayapur Dham.
Although they all have different religious faiths, bright young participants come to talk about cooperation, ecology, unity and harmony among religions. They meet in order to share the wisdom and cultures of their own faith traditions and to promote a positive understanding towards others. The conference demonstrates that it is possible to live in peace and harmony, although having different religious convictions.
On November 24 a group of 100 URI students from different parts of the world arrived in Mayapur and were warmly welcomed by local residents. The reception was organized to make them feel at home.
The students also belong to youth organizations in their respective countries such as the Artisans United Youth from Nicaragua and the Shaman Youth Association. In some cases the URI paid their air tickets and accommodation costs. Besides mainstream beliefs, several delegates represent indigenous religions from Africa, Indonesia and even South America.
The Mayapur community members are cooperating in order to make their stay in Mayapur unforgettable. Many have offered their volunteer services as translators, tour guides and, for the last day, families can host a group of five students to their house for a feast of vegetarian food.
The main assembly will take place between 30th Nov until 5th Dec. If you can name a religion, they will probably have a representative attending this event.