ISKCON worldwide is gearing up for 2016, when the society will celebrate the 50th anniversary of its July 11th, 1966 registration in New York City.
But first off this year will be several celebrations of ISKCON Founder Srila Prabhupada’s journey from Kolkata to the U.S., which he began on August 13th 1965.
One of these will be in the island country of Sri Lanka – then known as Ceylon -- where Prabhupada’s steamship the Jaladuta stopped on August 17th.
“On the first day that the Jaladuta was anchored at the dockyard in our capital Colombo, Srila Prabhupada stayed on it, as he had sea-sickness,” says ISKCON Sri Lanka temple president Mahakarta Das. “The next day, August 18th, he felt better, and on August 19th he asked Captain Pandia about seeing Colombo City.”
The captain and Srila Prabhupada took a motor launch to the shore, then a taxi to the office of the Narottam & Pierera Company. There, manager Mr. Banka – a Gujarati gentleman -- received them well and arranged for a car to take Prabhupada to see the city.
“Srila Prabhupada saw the Governor General’s house, the Parliament house, and the Town Hall,” says Mahakarta. “In his diary, he noted the clean roads and bazaars. He also stated that Colombo city rather resembled an Indian city like Madras or Poona, and said that the culture and civilization of Ceylon was a hundred per cent Indian, but that India and Ceylon were divided artificially.”
The ISKCON Colombo congregation meet to discuss plans for the 50th anniversary of Srila Prabhupada's visit
After visiting Colombo, the Jaladuta stopped at Cochin, South India on August 22nd, to load two trunkloads of Srila Prabhupada’s Srimad Bhagavatams, before heading on to the U.S.
The congregation of ISKCON Sri Lanka met at Mody Hall, Colombo this April to raise awareness of the historical visit’s 50th anniversary and enlist volunteers for the upcoming celebrations. Devotees also had news about their planned events published in local newspapers on May 10th and 17th, with plans to continue advertising them in the coming months.
The celebrations will begin in July with several Island-wide school competitions on Srila Prabhupada’s life and mission, for which prizes will be awarded.
The “Bhagavad-gita For Every House” program will distribute Srila Prabhupada’s Bhagavad-gita As It Is on a large scale throughout Sri Lanka.
On August 22nd or 23rd of the weekend following Prabhupada’s visit, devotees will hold a “Nagar Sankirtan,” chanting Hare Krishna along the Colombo roads that Srila Prabhupada traversed.
“There are many Hindu Bhajan groups throughout the island, and we are planning to invite them to join the procession too, so there will be thousands of participants,” says Mahakarta. “Through this event, many people will get to know about Srila Prabhupada.”
That evening, Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe will be invited to attend a special program along with GBCs Jayapataka Swami and Bhanu Swami, and other VIPs and spiritual leaders. Prominent singers and musical artists from across India are expected to perform at the event.
Devotees are also trying to arrange for a postal stamp of Srila Prabhupada to be released on the same day.
It is estimated that more than 10,000 people will join the celebrations.
Mahakarta points out that the movement Srila Prabhupada established is still growing today, with thousands of devotees joining it; millions of books being distributed; public chanting in cities around the world; new temples, schools, ashrams, farm communities and goshalas constantly being established; thousands becoming vegetarian; and free sanctified food being distributed to the needy.
“Srila Prabhupada has brought this enormous change to the world, and he is the founding father of this great spiritual revolution,” Mahakarta says. “Through our festivities, awareness of Srila Prabhupada and his Sankirtan movement will spread enormously in Sri Lanka. We also expect many people to join ISKCON Sri Lanka after this event.”
“We feel very fortunate that Srila Prabhupada came to Sri Lanka on his way to America, and very happy to be part of ISKCON’s 50th anniversary celebrations in this way,” he concludes.[ 50th-anniversary ] [ sri-lanka ]