ISKCON Fiji held its first ever Kirtan Mela in the island nation’s capital, Suva, from June 8thto 10th, to a rapturous reception.
The event was organized by Braja Govinda Das, a Sydney-based disciple of Tamal Krishna Goswami, who wanted to give Fijian devotees the kind of international kirtan experience they hadn’t had before.
About sixty international devotees – mainly from Australia and New Zealand – attended, along with several hundred from Fiji.
The festivities kicked off with a massive four-hour Harinama on Friday June 8thin downtown Suva, with over one hundred devotees participating.
“Harinamas in Fiji are very successful,” says Auckland temple president Kalasamvara Das, who was one of those leading the chanting. “Fijian people love the devotees, the way we’re dressed, and especially the mridanga drum. They are naturally inclined to be attracted to kirtan.”
Chanting with children from the village
After the Harinama, the rest of the Kirtan Mela was held in the ISKCON Suva temple, in front of the beautiful Deities of Gaura Nitai, Sita Rama Lakshman Hanuman, and Sri Sri Radha Golokabihari.
Colorful drapings and lights artfully hung from the ceiling added to the atmosphere as everyone chanted the Holy Names from 10:00 in the morning until 10:00 at night – “or until the devotees dropped!” according to Kalasamvara.
Among those leading the chanting was internationally renowed kirtan singer Sri Prahlad Das, along with Divya Govinda Das, Trivikrama Das and Govinda Das from Auckland; and Radhika Dasi from Fiji.
Sri Prahlad Das leads the chanting at the Suva Kirtan Mela
“The temple room was packed from the moment the kirtan started in the morning right until the end,” says Kalasamvara. “Devotees just loved the whole experience.”
The Kirtan Mela came at the culmination of a walking tour of Fiji by a group of nine devotees from New Zealand, including Kalasamvara. Running from June 1stto 8th, the tour was the group’s third year walking around the South Pacific islands, from village to village.
“This time we mainly covered areas we didn’t go to last year,” Kalasamvara says. “We traveled from Lautoka to Sigatoka, along the coral coast.”
On the way, devotees chanted Harinama and distributed Srila Prabhupada’s books to everyone they met. This year for the first time, they also fed villagers Krishna prasadam, cooked and delivered by Jairam Das of ISKCON Suva.
Feeding village children prasadam
Devotees walked around twenty-three kilometers every day, with no plan as to where they would stay or what they would eat.
However every night they would approach the chief of the closest village for shelter.
“The Fijian villager’s hospitality is out of this world,” says Kalasamvara. “The chief would always offer us the community hall to stay in. But as we walked through the village, everyone would invite us to stay in their homes instead – it became a competition!”
Kalasamvara is deeply impressed and inspired by the villagers of Fiji.
Kalasamvara Das leads the chanting in a 100-person Harinama in Suva
“Just like us, they get up early in the morning – around 3:00am – to pray, so we would pray together,” he recalls. “They are also excellent examples of simple living and high thinking in practice.”
As well as staying in villages, the travelers also stopped by the three beautiful ISKCON temples in Fiji – the four-storey Sigatoka temple on the coral coast; Lautoka, where there is a Krishna Kaliya Deity; and of course Suva.
“We’re trying to do this trip every year now, or even twice a year, because it’s so enlivening,” says Kalasamvara. “This is a pioneering program for the Hare Krishna Movement – to go on the road with no destination, and just depend on Krishna. Try it and see! The way Krishna reciprocates is amazing.”
Yasoda Dulal Das from New Zealand being greeted by the Chief of the Village[ chanting ] [ fiji ] [ kirtan ] [ mahamantra ]