Viva Kultura's Festiwal Indii started it's 21st tour of Poland in June. Over 100 Iskcon devotees assembled in a school in the small village of Siemysl just south of Kolobrzeg, one of the Baltic Coasts largest tourist towns. The team of volunteers will put on outdoor festivals for the public 6 days a week right through the Summer until late August.
The festivals consists of a dynamic 5 hour stage show, which includes the best of classical dance, martial arts, puppetry, drama, music and kirtana. Accompanying the large stage are many tents in which people can take part in the festival. Cooking Demonstrations, Questions and Answers, Astrology, Yoga lessons, shops and book stalls enthral people from all walks of life. Meanwhile for their children other tents provide face painting, magic shows, and facilities for them to dress in saris or turbans. The Vegetarian restaurant which serves both classical Indian cuisine as well as more contemporary recipes puts a smile on everybody's face.
"I come here every year with my family exclaims Marek from Warsaw. "I love the people, the food, the whole show. For the kids it's the most exciting event on the coast!"
For the devotees who give up their time every year the festival tour is an exhilarating experience. Devotees come from many different countries including Russia, Estonia, Australia, India, Ireland, and Ukraine to name just a few. "The Russian and Ukrainian devotees are extremely talented artists and we could not do the tour without them" explains Nandini Dasi, one of the main organizers. However the team is varied with both young and old taking part. This year in particular there is a lot of youth on the team with gurukula graduates from Mayapur as well as Iskcon teenagers who are on their summer breaks from school, taking part.
Senior ISKCON members such as Indradyumna Swami, Mother Sitala and Adhikarta Dasa lecture regularly, to both the public and the team of devotees at the daily morning program. The gym of the school is turned into a temple with the main deities of Ghandarvika Giridhari receiving a standard of worship the same as what would be found in any Iskcon temple around the world. Every morning the devotees rise and perform kirtana and japa for a couple of hours. The festivals keep everyone awake until no earlier than midnight so although not as long as a regular temple program it contains all the main components of a program of morning worship. Indradyumna Swami explains, "In order to effectively share a culture as rich and deep as the Vedic culture is, it is important to live that culture and experience it personally on a day to day basis."
The tour stops for a week at the end of July in preparation for the Woodstock festival which is held on the Polish German border town of Kostrzyn. This sees the team of devotees expand from 150 to 500 in what is one of Iskcon's largest outreach programs in Europe.
To keep up with events through the summer or for more info check out www.travelingmonk.com and http://www.vivakultura.pl/