Professor Hill, principal of Stonewall Elementary School in Dallas, Texas, recently requested local ISKCON devotees to stage a Vedic music and dance performance for his students.
When a small group of four devotees arrived at the school on Friday February 22nd, they were welcomed by students and teachers all dressed in Indian attire, including saris, punjabi suits, kurtas, and yogi pants.
The devotees began their performance with a melodious sit-down chant known as bhajan, accompanied by traditional instruments such as harmonium, mrdanga and kartalas.
"We introduced ourselves and our instruments, and asked students to guess how long mrdangas had historically been in use," says ISKCON Dallas member Nityananda Chandra Dasa. "Some students said 60 years, some said 200 – one even suggested 1,000. They were pretty surprised to hear that the mrdanga has been around for at least 5,000 years."
Even more astounding to the students was the revelation that in Vaishnavism, there were no fewer than 10,000 names for God.
Next, devotees rose for kirtan – a standing chant of the Hare Krishna Maha-mantra. "We felt a little self-conscious with such a small chanting party," says Nityananda Chandra. "But that didn't last long. When we asked if any brave souls in the crowd would like to join us, about forty kids ran onto the stage. Now we had a forty-four strong chanting party, and an audience of 160."
The devotees began with a lesson in legendary Hare Krishna dance move the Swami step, followed by call and response chanting. By the time they'd moved on to the Swami jump, 200 students on the stage and off were dancing and chanting, arms held high in the air. A second session later in the day left a total of 400 students with the Hare Krishna mantra ringing in their ears.
"It was a wonderful experience," says Nityananda Chandra. "The school had obviously put a lot of time and energy into this, studying India for a full week. When they gave us a school tour at the end of the day, we were amazed to see that they had lined not just the hallways, but the entire school with decorations of Indian heritage and culture."