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By Nrsimhananda dasa
A gathering of devotees is always an auspicious event. In the flower-bearing spring, nestled in the rolling hills of West Virginia, the New Vrndaban festival was more than glorious.
His Holiness Radhanath Swami was the perfect host as he generously shared himself with all comers. Baradraja prabhu, the famous ISKCON artist, led swooning kirtans and tear-jerking mangal arotiks much as he had done in the early years on Henry St. in New York and elsewhere. Malati devi dasi ran herself ragged serving the needs of the devotees, while Vaiyasaki prabhu gave new meaning to the word "seminar" as he assisted the assembled Vaisnavas in relishing the nectar of the Holy Names. Mangalananda premiered a few of his newest songs that — can you believe it? — are even better than his old ones.
I don't think there was a dry eye in the temple as we listened to his poetic and musical yearnings for Prabhupada and Krsna. The incomparable Peter Burwash motivated everyone present to follow his own wonderful example of creative preaching and staunch principles in his business. He is plugged into some other-worldly power source that can run unlimited circles around the Energizer bunny. Srutikirti regaled us all with Prabhupada nectar. He never runs out of Prabhupada stories. He didn't even stop for lunch— though nearly everyone else did!
Apurva prabhu and Shanka prabhu kept us all hankering for chow time. They are magicians with prasadam and kept everyone free from hunger and thirst. There were so many other seminars and spontaneous kirtans that I was saddened only by the fact that I couldn't attend them all including those by Ravindra Swarup prabhu, HH Radhanatha Swami, Ramabhadra prabhu, Dhira Govinda prabhu, Yogesvara prabhu, etc. Too many to mention them all, but all of them were sharing and caring in their unique and special ways.
One evening, the bhajan in the temple went on until midnight. I am always amazed when I see those same devotees in the temple four and a half hours later. Ekanatha prabhu and Ranjit prabhu set up an impressive display of the latest offerings from Archives. They keep on expanding the legacy of Srila Prabhupada in irresistible varieties. Sankirtan prabhu entertained us with stories about Krsna. He is a nationally recognized storyteller who is in demand all over the region as a professional raconteur. Bhargava prabhu, the original ISKCON photographer, showed videos that he edited of footage he shot in India. He has a eye that always finds transcendent subject matter somehow perfectly composed and takes us where we have never gone before.
Gauravani prabhu introduced the intrepid Avatar Studio team and previews of their newest productions. I'm looking forward to seeing the entire "Chowpatty" experience. It's "coming soon." John Matlick, unofficially known as Janananda, introduced the devotees to the "Blue Boy" animation project, and devotees snapped up copies of the preliminary artwork by Baradraja prabhu. John (with Ishan prabhu) invented the fiberglass Balaram mrdunga, way back when (I don't want to give away people's ages without their permission). This was his first time in New Vrndaban. (He's a thoroughly West Coast phenomenon.) Tulsi prabhu offered his retreat-spa home to all comers, so if you want to combine a pilgrimage with a soothing sauna and hot-tub experience, look no farther. (It's bonafide! Make a pilgrimage to Yamanotri in the Himalayas, and upon reaching the source, you'll find a much-used hot spring to relieve your stress.)
There are four transcendental shops in New Vrndaban including one at the Palace, one in the temple, one in the guesthouse, and a second-hand recycled Krishna-conscious thrift shop. I found my mom a great Mother's Day gift in no time (I never know what to get her, so that was a real New Vrindaban miracle).
Kuladri prabhu has taken on the "burden of love" of helping New Vrndaban restore its brilliant luster. The devotees who have stayed there through thick and thin are seasoned survivors and staunch Prabhupadanugas. The accommodations are very comfortable, and the milk is fresh from the cows just across from the guesthouse. Do yourself a favor and visit New Vrndaban this year. Sri Sri Radha Vrndaban are eternally awaiting you. I'm really glad that I went and got a recharge from the holy dhama. Get yours.
© CHAKRA 19 May 2002
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