Messages swirl around the Internet. "You have an event invite on Facebook!" One message simply reads "Whatever you do, make sure you are free this weekend! " My phone buzzes again, the text message reads "24hr Kirtana Birmingham. Be There!"
The ISKCON temple in Birmingham, England's second largest city, is a small house in the suburbs. One large room acts as the temple room, where deities of Gaura Nitai and Lord Jagannatha, Baladeva, and Lady Subhadra grace the small alter. For almost two decades this simple temple has served the needs of an ever-expanding congregation. For ten years it has also hosted the annual 24 hour kirtana festival, which for the local devotees, is now one of the major festivals of the year.
In 2009, the Balagi Hindu Temple helped by providing a much needed larger venue for the event which hit the global stage as the kirtanas were streamed live across the internet for the first time.
This year hundreds of devotees descended on Birmingham from around the country and beyond. The excitement had been building for weeks. Kirtana leaders from around the world, such as Madhava from Switzerland, and Vishvambara and the Mayapuri's from America are now regulars at the kirtana festival and flew in especially to take part.
Master of ceremonies Ravinal Chambers announced the festival as a celebration of unity, creativity and compassion. "Kirtana brings us all together uniting us in glorification of the Lord. It is a chance to express our creativity, through song, music, and dance. Most importantly it is an opportunity to demonstrate compassion for ourselves and the world by chanting with sincerity and a willingness for purification"
Sacinandana Swami was also in attendance and opened the festival with a talk on the glories and importance of kirtana the modern age. He addressed the 200 people in the audience, as well as the hundreds of people watching live on the Internet.
Vince Lane explained how three cameras filmed from different angles and the footage was streamed live on Mayapur.tv.com along with the audio. The places where people had logged on to watch was impressive, including countries such as Brazil, Russia, South Africa and Kuwait.
In the final hours of the festival, a bathing ceremony was conducted for the deities by Krsna Ksetra Das. However, nobody seemed to want the festival to end. The kirtana continued long into the night extending the festival from 24 to 28 hours. Those leaving Birmingham late that night will be counting the months, days and hours until next year`s festival.