“Kulis” in over 20 locations around the world will be holding a synchronized 24-hour “Global Kirtan” this November 8 and 9. The Kuli Mela Association (KMA), which organizes Kuli Mela and spin-off events, as well as fostering community, family, spirituality, career and empowerment for ISKCON’s second generation, will be orchestrating the event. Krishna.com will host a live webcast from locations in Asia, Europe, USA, and the CIS.
Recently popularized in the west, Kirtan is an ancient call and response chanting of sacred mantras and prayers, often accompanied by drumming and dancing. KMA director Krishna Devata says that this kind of “spiritual sound vibration” is just what the world needs right now. “War, disaster, conflict, loss and fear are prevalent, both internationally and personally, within our own lives,” she explains. “A hugely anticipated and defining US presidential election is on its way, the world economy stumbles and spirals, Iraqi and Western men and women continue to die in a seemingly endless war -- and what to speak of the disaster, starvation, disease and war that plague many other parts of the world.”
Our greatest resources in this rapidly volatile state of affairs, she says, are our community of loving friendships, and our prayers.
Originally from Canada, Krishna Devata lived in Hawaii where she organized a World Chant for Peace during the island’s New Year’s Eve celebrations. She saw that although the local Vaishnava community was a diverse one, often philosophically and politically divided, all their differences melted away as they sang kirtan together.
The experience made a strong impression on her, but faded into the background until this year she attended Earthdance, a large global music and arts festival organized by visionary Chris Deckker. The festival’s highlight was a synchronized Prayer for Peace at 300+ locations in 60 countries. As she prayed with the others and gazed at the multitude of international flags, Krishna Devata felt a powerful inspiration rise in her. “We also have a global community,” she thought. “And our own prayer for world peace – kirtan.”
When Krishna Devata took the idea to the KMA boad in late September, they asked her when she wanted the event to happen.
Kartik, a sacred lunar month for worshipers of Krishna everywhere was coming soon in October-November, she considered. The same season heralded the time of harvest and Thanksgiving in the West, and Ramadan in Islamic communities. Even Christmas and Hanukkah were coming soon. It was a time of prayer, a time to reach the world and break down the walls that divide us.
“We have one month,” she said.
It seemed impossible. But within weeks, the spiritual and emotional connections of ISKCON’s second generation demonstrated their power, and the plan was spread almost entirely by word of mouth. The historic pilgrimage place Pandavali Kund at Kesi Ghat in Vrindavana, India was picked as the source location from which the world events would be timed. Krishna Devata secured a venue in San Francisco, and her brother and original Kuli Mela organizer Kapila Monet committed to an event in London. More people caught on and began organizing events in their communities. Now, 20 locations have been confirmed, and more look set to follow.
“Every place will have its own flavor and style,” says Krishna Devata. “The Vrindavan kirtan will be a full 24 hours, from Saturday November 8 at 6pm to Sunday November 9 at 6pm. It will have starting and finishing ceremonies, and offerings to the Jamuna river. And since it’s on the pilgrimage path on the sacred day of Ekadasi in the sacred month of Kartik, thousands of people will pass by during the kirtan.”
Other events won’t go quite all the way; some will be Saturday evening programs only, while others will be simple house parties where friends chant a little together and watch the webcast.
San Fransico, where Krishna Devata is based, is aiming for a twelve-hour session.
“Ours is going to be quite an interesting event, being in the middle of New Age Central,” she says. “I was putting up a poster in a bookstore the other day, and actually noticed someone else putting one up for another kirtan event. So the public here are as aware of kirtan as they are of mainstream yoga practice.”
Featuring celebrated kirtan leaders Karnamrita, Agnideva and Chaitanya Nitai, the San Francisco event will be billed as a “Kirtan Dance Jam” and involve the area’s eclectic dance and drumming community. “As Lord Chaitanya said, there are no hard and fast rules for chanting these names,” says Krishna Devata of the event, which will be hosted by prominent vegan restaurant owner and activist Lydia Kindheart.
For Krishna Devata and many other Gurukulis, the Global Kirtan is more than a public or community event; it’s a personal prayer. “We hope to invite many gurukuli veterans who haven’t been seen for a long time to the upcoming Los Angeles Kuli Mela in 2009,” says Krishna Devata. “It’s a daunting task – word of mouth is the only way, since we don’t know where they are, or even the legal names of half of them. But the Global Kirtan is a start, a chance to make a personal prayer and invitation to those who are in our thoughts and hearts.”
Many positive side effects for communities in LA elsewhere are arising from the Global Kirtan. It has has begun to mobilize international energy and to give LA gurukulis prior experience of working together. What’s more, communities are bonding, those who have never organized an event before are being inspired to take initiative, and people who haven’t been involved for years are coming out of the woodwork to attend.
Krishna Devata sees all this as just the beginning. If November’s Global Kirtan is successful, plans are already in place for a Gaura Purnima themed event in March 2009. And she encourages everyone to work together to make it happen. “It is hard to imagine that one person’s prayer is loud enough or strong enough to create a positive impact in the world,” she says. “But we can pray together, for one another: person-to-person, heart-to-heart. From one person to another, our prayers create a spiritual link, pathways connecting separate individuals. By activating & expanding this network of true, heartfelt & lifelong friends through prayer and song, our voices can span the globe.”
For more information, join the Facebook group Global Kartik Kirtan, or visit www.kulimela.com.
To register your location as part of the Global Kirtan, call 415-250-9339 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to let organizers know they can list you on the map.
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