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Krishna at Woodstock
Kirtana leaders from around the world descended upon the Polish Woodstock as Krsna's Village of Peace graced the festival for the 15th Year. ISKCON`s annual presence at the festival has become known worldwide as one of ISKCON`s largest outreach festivals in Europe. Jurek Owsiak the main organiser of the Polish Woodstock is a good friend of Indradyumna Swami who heads Polands' Festival of India tour.
Always an admirer of ISKCON, Jurek has learned English, and visited Vrndavan a number of times in order to deepen his friendship with devotees and better understand the lifestyle and principals they follow. As such, Krsna's Village of Peace takes up a large portion of the festival.
As well as a large variety of activities in Krsna's Village of Peace, everyday for 3 hours devotees would take out the Rathayatra cart and have a grand Kirtana procession down the main road which cuts through the heart of the festival. Despite the hot sun the Kirtanas were always lively and enthusiastic. Hundreds of eager festival goers would pull the cart and dance in the kirtanas.
Prasadam, pure vegetarian food, was distributed on a phenomenal scale, with over 100,000 full plates distributed over the 3 day period. On the main stage in the Krsna Tent, cultural entertainment captivated audiences during the day and music bands such as Gaga led by polish punk hero, Madhumangala Prabhu had people chanting and dancing at night. Sri Prahlada also regrouped with another team of international musicians to reform Village of Peace, a Hare Krsna Reggae band.
Because the Hare Krsna devotees have been so prominent at the festival for so many years, the Question and Answer tent was always full with both inquisitive and challenging questions. Chaturatma Prabhu exclaimed, "I am amazed how each year the questions get more deeper and to the heart of the philosophy. Years of chanting with us has led people to seriously enquire as to what Krsna Consciousness is really about" The Indian Ambassador to Poland, also a great admirer and follower of vaisnava culture also spent time with the people in the Question and answer tent as well as speaking on the main stage.
Apart from the main tent the Mantra Yoga tent was the most popular place in Krsna's Village. Here devotees performed kirtana all day long into the early hours of the morning. Madhava and his wife Radhika flew in from Switzerland and led sweet melodious kirtanas. BB Govinda Swami who attends almost every year with his band of musicians also led kirtana late into the night. Over the course of the event hundreds of people passed through the tent, some dancing and chanting for hours at a time while others watched from outside. The only impediment to the blissful kirtana was the dust raised by the vigorous dancing of the crowd.
"The different kirtana leaders kept taking turns leading the kirtanas as all their voices were weak from hours of singing and all the dust," explained Madhavendra Puri Dasa. "So we took large buckets from the kitchen tent and sprinkled water on the ground to stop the dust from raising up. It was great! The first night we did that the kirtana continued until almost 3am!"
Each night the audience at the Mantra Yoga Tent would voice their appreciation of the kirtana and disappointment that it had to end. Shouts of "Hare Krsna!" and "one more time!" would inevitably encourage the devotees to continue for another 20 minutes. Even then, on the second night, two young Polish men, one waving an incense stick and the other playing a harmonica shouted out in English, "just play kirtana for 5 more minutes!" Physically exhausted however the kirtana singers encouraged the two men and their friends to continue with their own kirtana, a suggestion which was both appreciated and acted upon by the young men as they sang their way back to the camping fields.
On the final night of the festival BB Govinda Swami took the kirtana to the main stage of Krsna's Village. For two more hours hundreds of people chanted and danced in the grand finale, some for the first time while others had already memorised the mantra after a weekend of constant chanting. To close the festival Indradyumna Swami gave a speech thanking festival goers for joining devotees in the religious process recommended for this age. Encouraging them to continue chanting after the festival Indradyumna Swami explained the potency and benefits of chanting Hare Krsna. In what was a somewhat emotional final address he concluded by saying, "As we often say at our festivals, there is only one good thing about saying 'goodbye' and that is that we can say 'hello' again in the future! Keep Chanting. Until next time, Hare Krsna!"
By Gaura Hari Das for ISKCON News on 6 Aug 2010