Over the five days of the fifth annual Holy Name Festival in Ljubljana, from May 28th to June 1st, around 250 devotees from all over Slovenia, Croatia, Hungary, Serbia and other Eastern European countries chanted the Hare Krishna maha-mantra. The festival also brought the joy and color of chanting to the general public.
The majority of the festival was held at New Yoga Pitha in Ljubljana, the biggest ISKCON temple in Slovenia, a small country with a population of only two million.
Participants gathered in the temple room, decorated with tilak and maha-mantra banners, paper chains of dancing devotees, and paper mridangas by Prema Gopi Dasi and Devendra Gopal Das. Before them, were the presiding Deities of Pancha-Tattva.
“They are so beautiful, that as soon as you see them, you fall in love!” says Audarya Candrika Dasi, who organizes ISKCON Slovenia’s annual Krishna conscious summer camp and attended Holy Name festival as a participant.
The celebration began on Thursday with ISKCON guru Krishna Ksetra Swami inaugurating the event with an auspicious Adhivasa yajna.
After that, every day from morning till night, devotees gathered to chant the Holy Names of the Lord.
Gunagrahi Das leads kirtan in the temple room
They were led by devoted kirtaniyas from all over the world, who along with Krishna Ksetra Swami included Chandramauli Swami, Ojasvi Das from Bosnia, Jahnavi Harrison from the U.K., Manu Das from Radhadesh, and Gunagrahi Das from Hungary.
Along with the traditional mridanga, kartals and harmonium, Jahnavi’s violin and Radha Mohan Dasa's flute created a deep mood of service to the Holy Name.
“We had kirtaniyas who really have a taste for and a relationship with the Holy Name,” Audarya Candrika says. “And they put us in the mood to really sing for Krishna’s pleasure.”
Devotees were so absorbed that on Friday May 29th, the occasion of the sacred fast day Nirjala Ekadasi, they chanted until one o’clock in the morning.
The next day, 150 devotees stepped out into a day full of sunshine and blue skies to chant in public on the quaint cobbled streets of downtown Ljubljana amidst its beautiful historical architecture.
The huge group of devotees looked vibrant, colorful, and coordinated, dressed in bright saris and dhotis and carrying matching red and yellow tilak banners and maha-mantra flags, with their mridangas encased in matching red covers.
A group of ladies lead the party, dancing in two choreographed rows. The lead chanters – including Gunagrahi Das and Jahnavi Harrison – along with their accompanying musicians followed in the middle. And the rest of the devotees, chanting and dancing ecstatically, brought up the rear. Amidst them were members of the international Harinama Sankirtan party Harinama Ruci, who leapt about in their saffron robes as if the law of gravity didn’t apply to them.
Chanting and dancing in the sunshine
The group looked so joyful and attractive that passersby were immediately drawn to them.
“We went through Ljubljana’s biggest park, Tivoli, and there happened to be a women’s mini-marathon on the day,” says Audarya Candrika. “We were distributing prasadam cookies and Srila Prabhupada’s books, and people were waving and smiling at us, taking photographs with us, and even coming to dance with us.”
The members of Harinama Ruci were particularly adept at connecting with the public, drawing people sitting at a nearby café to join in the Harinama by offering them a go on their mridanga drums.
“You’re supposed to both receive and give the Holy Name – so this service really connected us devotees like one big family, while at the same time we were giving the Holy Name to others,” Audarya says.
She adds, “We go on Harinama every Saturday in Slovenia. But this was something really special.”
Following the Harinama, celebrated cook Lalita Govinda Das whipped up a delicious pasta dinner for the hungry devotees, after which the the kirtan continued unabated into the night.
On Sunday, both devotees and members of the public gathered again for a kirtan, lecture by Krishna Ksetra Swami, and a delicious Sunday Feast.
Finally on Monday afternoon, the Yoga Is Music kirtan program, normally run by Bhaktin Sabina in outside venues to reach the public, was held at the temple instead, and also drew large numbers of newcomers.
“People were dancing like crazy, and they were so happy,” says Audarya Candrika. “It was such an amazing atmosphere.”
As for the devotees, they’re still talking about Somyadhatri Dasi’s thoughtful care in managing their accommodation, temple president Ananta Das’s excellent organization, Lalita Govinda’s out-of-this-world homemade prasadam ice cream, the blissful devotee association, and of course the ecstatic kirtans.
“Even though the festival’s over, it stays in your heart,” says Audarya Candrika. “This year may have been the fifth one, but for me it was the best of the best.”[ holy-name-festival ] [ kirtana ] [ ljubljana ] [ slovenia ]