With the ever growing proliferation of yoga and music festivals (Wanderlust, Bhaktifest, Hanuman Festival, Tadasana Fest, etc.), one may begin to wonder, “Which one (or two, if you’re lucky), should I check out?”
If you were to ask me, I won’t pretend to be unbiased, or objective in my recommendations. I have my favorites for sure. However, I know, more often than not, that location and life schedules play a significant role in making such decisions, so I say first and foremost get to anyone which works.
But, I thought I might let you in on perhaps the best kept secret in yoga festivals out there. The annual 24 Hour Kirtan, held in the secluded hills of West Virginia.
This past weekend, I had the good fortune to travel to New Vrindaban, the home of the 24 Hour Kirtan in America, to participate in what is the simplest (and I mean this in the best possible way) celebration of yoga and the community surrounding its practice.
Forget all the hype and hoopla, you won’t find any of that in New Vrindaban. But what you will find is a large community in support of chanting without end, well, or at least for 24 hours. The premise and the practice of the festival is pure kirtan. Beginning at 11:00 am Saturday morning and continuing until 11:00 am Sunday, kirtan leader after kirtan leader takes the reins and leads the assembled congregation in the chanting of the Mahamanta:
Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare.
Nothing else and nothing more. Sleep if you want or eat if you get hungry, but just know that you will potentially miss some of the most amazing kirtaniyas out there today. Some you may have heard of, such as Gaura Vani, the Mayapuris, Madhava, but many you would fail to recognize if they passed you the street. Don’t let their seeming anonymity fool you. These “unknown” singers can belt it out with the best of them and do so simply to please God and those in attendance.
That’s right. This festival is not about the money. In fact, you can attend for as little as you would like, or are able to give, assuming you are willing to offer some assistance in other ways. The suggested donation is $25, which, when you consider that this includes three meals, makes the 24 Hour Kirtan the best bang for your buck out there. And keeping the money to a minimum, in my humble opinion, clears the stage for those simply devoted to singing and hearing kirtan as a practice of linking with the Divine.
So, next year, if you find yourself with some free-time around the middle of June consider traveling to West Virginia for the 24 Hour Kirtan. Love it or hate it, I guarantee you won’t be the same when it’s all said and done.
Or, if that’s a bit outside your area consider looking somewhere a wee-bit closer to home. You may not find a full-fledged 24 hour event in your neighborhood, but there are an increasing number of six and 12 hour kirtan celebrations occurring in places like New York, Los Angeles, Dallas, Toronto and even internationally across the pond in London.
The spirit and good vibrations of kirtan are beginning to be felt far and wide and as the path of yoga prescribed for the age of Kali by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, you can’t go wrong by jumping on board. So whether you make it to the next 24 Hour Kirtan or not, be sure to take advantage of the amazing wealth of kirtan flooding the yoga and festival scene.
Hope to see you out there.