on Aug. 29, 2009
The crowd packs in to listen to contemporary Hare Krishna tunes.
Jurek Owsiak makes a plea live on Polish television. "Please don't come to Woodstock. We are already overcrowded. Stay at home and your friends will tell you all about it!" With over 400,000 people attending this years free Polish Woodstock Festival, it was indeed one of the biggest festivals to date. Police and emergency services struggled to cope with the large influx of festival goers that inundated the small town of Kostrzyn, near the German border.
Michael Lang, who organised the first woodstock 40 years ago in America, was one of the main guests at this years event. His motto for Woodstock is "Love, Friendship and Music" In keeping with that theme Jurek Owsiak, the main driving force behind the Polish Woodstock, decided many years ago to invite the Hare Krsna movement to be part of the festival, in order to "add colour and promote a message of peace". Over the years the working relationship that Jurek had with the devotees blossomed into a close friendship and as such Krsna's Village of Peace has become a prominent part of today's Woodstock festival.
Occupying more than an acre of the festival site, Krsna's Village offers a wide range of spiritual and cultural activities for the people. Indian boutiques, face painting, henna, yoga classes, astrology, Mantra Yoga, and delicious vegetarian meals are some of the many attractions that make up the village. Other tents such as "Questions and Answers" facilitate lively discussion about the lifestyle and philosophy of the Hare Krsna Movement. Ques of people wait their turn to taste the delicious sanctified food that is distributed en mass at the festival. This year over 130,000 hot meals were served to hungry festival goers over a 4 day period.
"We have a Double Decker Coach load of devotees from Ukraine who come every year to help with cooking and other services," explains Jayatam Dasa, one of the main coordinators. "Dominique Prabhu does and excellent job setting up, and maintaining the site itself, throughout the festival" I turned to Dominique and asked "You don't seem to have many problems for such a big operation?" "Yes, this year has run quite smoothly" he replied "Its simple really" he said with a smile, "We have a good team!"
And what a team! Over 500 devotees come together to make Krsna's Village of Peace an unforgettable part of the Woodstock experience.
Madhumangala Dasa, lead singer of popular Punk band "Gaga" and Sri Prahlada, lead singer of Reggae band "Village of Peace" encouraged thousands of people to dance and chant the Hare Krsna mantra to modern music. They performed both on Krsna's Village Stage and on other stages at the festival. However the spiritual festivities reach out to the entire festival site also on the daily Ratha Yatra procession.
Every morning a large Rath Cart accompanied by 100 devotees makes its way up and down the main road that cuts through the heart of the festival. People need little encouragement to pull the ropes enthusiastically and to dance to the melodious chanting.
The Rathayatra procession lasts for the entire day, and then kirtana continues in the Mantra Yoga tent back at the village throughout the night. BB Govinda Swami and his group of talented musicians keep people chanting and dancing until the early hours of the morning.
On the final night of the festival as a thunder storm gatheres in the distance, the kirtana moves to the main stage in Krsna's Village. The 100 metre long tent is packed with people who have grown fond of singing and dancing with Krsna's Villagers. As dawn slowly approaches, Indradyumna Swami gives the final goodbye speech from the stage. "This is not the end of the festival" Everybody cheers! "You can take this wonderful singing of Hare Krsna home with you. And when you chant this song, either alone or with friends, then every day can be a festival. One day we will all be together in a place where every step is a dance, every word is a song, and the festival continues day after day. Until we meet again, goodbye! Friendship, Love, Music, Hare Krsna!"
Two days later, the coach load of Ukranian devotees departs and hundreds of people file into train stations heading in different directions back into the heart of Poland. The Polish media happily reports practically no incidents of violence or public disorder during the event despite the huge attendance. The festival has been a grand success.