on Jan. 31, 2009
Indradyumna Swami leads the chanting.
From behind the black curtain the loud chime of brass karatals keeps time. The drums start off as a low rumble, but gradually they beat out a flowing rhythm, rising and falling in speed and tempo. A thousand hands clap together in time – and then, without warning, everything stops.
With a deft flick of their heads the Manipuri drummers throw their turbans into the crowd. BOOM! The beat continues and eventually the hand claps turn into rapturous applause. The two Masters of Ceremonies, Srila Prahlada and Chandrasekhar Acarya, walk on stage. “Mesdames et Messieurs, bienvenue sur Le Carnaval Sprituel. Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to Le Carnaval Sprituel!"
Those who have not yet managed to take their seats quickly do so. The word has gotten out that if you are late for the show, you may not get a seat at all.
The ISKCON-produced Le Carnaval Spirituel is now in the second year of its Australian tour. Many devotees spend months in advance advertising in regional newspapers, television and radio for the upcoming shows. A group of twenty-six devotee artists from around the world come together to deliver a performance that is a thrill for the mind, senses and soul.
The Carnaval comes in three layers. The first is entertainment – each artist spends countless hours daily perfecting their act. For those whose acts require a great deal of physical strength, exercise is the name of the game. But mostly, they just practice, a constant endeavor to perfect choreography and overall presentation.
“His Holiness Bhakti Marg Swami flew in from South America just to train our drama group,” explains tour director Indradyumna Swami. “Everything has to be professional. We try to do everything to the highest standard possible – the cultural presentation of Krsna Consciousness has to match the deep philosophy we follow in our daily lives.”
The Carnaval’s second layer is emotional. Throughout the show, the Masters of Ceremonies frame each performance with a positive emotion. All the cultural presentations portray spiritual emotions for Krsna. These emotions are described prior to each act to help give the audience greater appreciation of the act, and to encourage them to capture and apply them in their daily lives.
The final layer of the festival is, of course, spirituality. The main aim of Le Carnaval Spirtuel is to make the audience aware of their deeper spiritual nature as explained in The Bhagavad Gita. The theatrical performance, although visually entertaining, actually portrays a deep spiritual message.
In a twenty-minute talk, Indradyumna Swami explains this message in more direct terms, covering the real meaning of spirituality as described by Krsna in the Bhagavad Gita.
Then comes the grand finale, the moment the entire presentation has been building up to -- Kirtana Yoga. Now, the audience are encouraged to be not just onlookers, but part of the festive experience. After learning the mantra, they try chanting the Holy Name of Krsna with the devotees.
Le Carnaval Spirituel is more than just entertainment. Unlike most other festivals, the music, dance, martial arts, and yoga, are performed with the view to evoke love for Krsna in the hearts of both the performers and the audience. The show in its entirety gives people a complete taste of the different aspects of Krsna conscious culture.
The response to each festival has been so positive that plans are already under way to continue developing the travelling festival program in Australia. Throughout the month of December, Le Carnaval Spiritual toured Sydney before heading up to Brisbane and the Gold Coast region of Australia. Melbourne now takes the tour to the end of January with five more shows.