The place to be in North America come May.
Devotees from all over the USA and the world will congregate at New Vrindaban, West Virginia to attend the tenth anniversary of the Festival of Inspiration on Mother’s Day Weekend this May 7th, 8th and 9th.
The event was first held unofficially in 2000, when Sudharma Dasi of ISKCON Women’s Ministry suggested extending New Vrindaban’s annual GBC/temple president’s meetings to include educational seminars and workshops. The next year, ISKCON Communications’ then secretary Citralekha Dasi coined the name Festival of Inspiration, and became involved in running the event along with IC director Anuttama Dasa, Kuladri Dasa and Malati Dasi, who is now the main organizer.
Although in its first year the Festival drew less than 200 attendees, it has since grown into an ISKCON institution and one of the most popular events of the year, with nearly 800 devotees participating last year and a similar-sized crowd expected this May.
As usual, this year’s seminar schedule is packed to capacity, with several exclusive presentations and many speakers making their Festival debut.
One highlight will be the North American premiere of ISKCON monk Bhakti Vaibhava Swami’s documentary film “Lost Village,” presented by the Swami himself. Featuring an original score by a well-known Czech composer and professional voiceovers, it tells the story of how, as a result of industrialization, India’s villages are being deserted, and a whole way of life is being lost.
Also making their debut will be veteran Bhaktivedanta Book Trust artists Dhrti Dasi and Ram Dasa Abhirama Dasa, with a three-hour intensive art workshop. “For the past three years in a row, they have conducted art seminars on behalf of the BBT in Vrindavan, India,” explains Festival of Inspiration Head Organizer Malati Dasi. “So this will be a preview of that seminar and will hopefully inspire people to continue exploring Krishna art. It’s very exciting.”
Meanwhile, a BBT artist of a different type, master photographer Nitya Tripta Dasi, will teach attendees how to use their own cameras to take great pictures. A rare chance to get advice from the lead photographer for Darsana, the popular BBT publication featuring photographs of Deities around the world, this should prove extremely popular.
Film-maker Siddhanta Dasa will also appear at this year’s Festival, with an interactive presentation of his Prabhupada Memories series featuring video clips as well as live devotees speaking about their own memories of ISKCON’s founder.
Returning by popular demand, Bhima Karma Dasa will again speak about the role of the sacred mridanga drum in kirtan, as well as its history and meaning, before giving some practical lessons. “Bhima Karma is beyond being simply a mridanga player—he lives and breathes mridanga,” Malati comments.
Also returning to the Festival of Inspiration will be the Grihasta Vision Team, a group of certified marriage and family therapists dedicated to the health of ISKCON devotee relationships. “Last year, I would drop in on all the different sessions,” says Malati, “And whenever I looked in on theirs, there was always so much enthusiastic audience participation—they always involve the crowd and generate a lot of positive energy.”
Many other fascinating presentations will be on offer: Danavir Goswami will speak on his book Brain Gain, about the benefits of chastity and celibacy; Ekanatha Dasa of the Bhaktivedanta Archives will do a workshop on using the Bhaktivedanta Vedabase, a computerized encyclopedia of Srila Prabhupada’s writings; Ekavira Dasa will talk about holistic health and Krishna consciousness; and Dhaneswara Dasa will speak on implementing Varnashrama, a traditional vedic social structure of natural vocations and life stages.
Other speakers include ISKCON Book Distribution Minister Vaisesika Dasa, author Srinandanandana Dasa (Stephen Knapp), Romapada Swami, Danavir Goswami, and Urmila Dasi.
Another much anticipated event will be ISKCON guru Radhanatha Swami’s extended 90-minute Srimad-Bhagavatam class, given on Mother’s Day morning as part of Sunday’s seminar schedule.
Alongside all the seminars and classes, guided children’s activities will be conducted at “Festival of Kidspiration,” were pre-schoolers will have plenty of Krishna conscious fun and learn new skills such as how to make a tilak box and how to apply the sacred clay while repeating the appropriate mantras.
Festival-goers will be sustained throughout their busy schedules by three tasty, healthy meals a day, all included in the event’s $161 admission fee. Cuisine Master Govinda Gosh, a second generation devotee who grew up in New Vrindaban, will prepare lunch and evening meals, assisted by his peers. Breakfast will be provided by the Prabhupada disciple and cookbook author Sanka Dasa.
Another second generation devotee, meanwhile, will be organizing a packed roster of entertainment for the evenings: Bhakti Lata Bija Dasi has scheduled performances from professional comedian Yadhunatha Dasa and veteran Krishna rocker Titiksava Karunika to enthrall audiences, while the Bhakti Marg Swami drama “Lonely People,”—the plot of which has been kept tightly under wraps—is expected to be the perfect curtain call.
The Festival of Inspiration 2010 will end with a closing circle on Sunday, followed by a delicious feast at 2pm.
“Out of all the services I do, my favorite is definitely organizing Festival of Inspiration,” Malati says. “It’s invigorating to distribute Prabhupada’s mercy in such a way, and to see so many people come away inspired.”
Bookings for the Festival of Inspiration opened on January 1st, and were sold out by January 5th. However, a full list of local hotels and motels can be found at festivalofinspiration.org, and you are always welcome to bring a tent and camp out! There are also limited off-site cabins available for large groups of 10 – 16 people only. Contact Malati at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 304-845-9591 or 614-580-9279 for more details.