The Glastonbury Festival is the largest greenfield music and performing arts festival in the world. The festival is best known for its contemporary music, but also features dance, comedy, theatre, circus, and many other arts. In previous years, the 900 acre site had over 385 live performances, however that has since expanded, and the festival continues to grow each year.
For decades now ISKCON devotees have also been part of the Glastonbury experience. Despite the fact that the festival coincided with London Rathayatra this year, a dedicated team of 20 devotees went down to make a spiritual contribution to the event. “For years the organizers have given us free tickets and a good spot for putting up our tent,” explains team leader Giridhari Dasa, “So we reciprocate by giving people a helping hand and genuine festive experience.”
Devotees distribute hot prasadam meals for free throughout the festival. As this is the only free service on offer at the festival, it is greatly appreciated—devotees at Bhaktivedanta Manor once found an envelope in their donation box containing cash and a note saying “Thanks for the free meals at Glastonbury!” This year the team of four cooks was headed up by Arjuna Dasa; and from 11am until 11pm festival goers lined up for a plate of their tasty and healthy prasadam, with tens of thousands of people taking advantage of this kindness over the three-day event.
The large “Hare Krishna Tent” was beautifully decorated throughout with greenery, banners and festoons and housed an altar with large deities of Gaura Nitai. It was filled with small benches for people to come in and eat or just chill out, sheltering from the hot sun or occasional thunder storm. On a small platform devotees performed kirtan and dance, and engaged in lively question and answer sessions throughout the day. As night fell, the tent filled with people dancing to the melodious and uplifting kirtans, which went on until the early hours of the morning.
As the festival site itself is so big, devotees also took the opportunity to publicly chant throughout it. Weaving their way through the many roads and walkways of the festival, they attracted groups of dancing people who enthusiastically joined the kirtan party. For six hours during the day they covered as much ground as possible, making sure that everyone got the chance to hear Krishna’s holy names.
In addition, because the devotees had missed out on the Rathayatra procession in London, they built a small Ratha Yatra cart and took Lord Jagannatha, Baladeva and Lady Subhadra around the festival site in a historic mini Rathayatra procession.
“Glastonbury’s main organizer, Michael Eavis, spotted us as we chanted one day,” recalls Gopala Dasa. “It is important that he and others see that we are building on the hard work of the many devotees who have been to this festival over the years. We have something tangible and joyful to offer people here. The beauty of Krishna consciousness is that it is naturally a festive culture. We don’t have to change anything, thats our formula!”
As the festival wound up on Monday morning, devotees were already discussing next year’s event. Some of these devotees joined the movement after experiencing Krishna consciousness for the first time at a previous festival. For these devotees, Glastonbury is an opportunity to share Krishna consciousness with people on a huge scale—and there is every indication that this will continue long into the future.