At least forty-three different ISKCON temples around the world celebrated World Holy Name Week from September 17th to 26th this year, in a variety of creative ways.
Participating centers included Toronto in Canada; The Bhakti Centre on Australia’s Gold Coast; New Varshana near Auckland, New Zealand; Bhaktivedanta Manor near London in the UK; locations in Indonesia, Ukraine, Brazil, and Singapore; and dozens of centers throughout India.
The celebration was launched back in 1996 by ISKCON’s Governing Body Commission, as one of many ways to celebrate ISKCON Founder Srila Prabhupada’s Centennial, or the 100th year since his birth.
Back then, it was just World Holy Name Day, and was held annually on September 26th, to commemorate the day in 1965 when Srila Prabhupada arrived in the USA, bringing with him the chanting of the Holy Names of Krishna.
When the event’s organizer Bhakti Tirtha Swami fell ill and then passed away, however, the annual celebration was put on hold.
But in 2006, the GBC passed a new resolution to reinstate World Holy Name Day, and in 2007, Lokanath Swami, Janananda Swami, and Ekalavya Das took up the mantle.
Auckland, New Zealand
Finally, in 2008, feeling that one day wasn’t enough to glorify the Holy Names of God, they lengthened it to World Holy Name Week, and it has been held for one week annually ever since.
While its scheduling changes every year according to the lunar calendar, each World Holy Name Week is always packed with special days related to the Holy Name.
”This year, for instance, the Week started on September 17th, the appearance day of Srila Bhaktivinode Thakur, who is considered the Seventh Goswami and the pioneer of spreading the Holy Names in the modern world,” says Global Communications Secretary Divyanam Das.
He continues, “The 18th was the disappearance day of Srila Haridas Thakur, Namacharya himself. The 19th was Srila Prabhupada’s sannyasa anniversary, when he accepted the renounced order of life to spread the Holy Names. And the 26th, the last day of World Holy Name Week, was the anniversary of Srila Prabhupada’s arrival in the West.”
Although all the Vaishnava holy days make things more special for ISKCON members, Divyanam explains that World Holy Name Week is for everyone.
“It’s not just an event for Krishna devotees,” he says. “Its purpose is to connect people with the Holy Names of God, which all major religions have a strong connection with. So we invite people of all faiths to glorify the Holy Names in their way too. That is the most sublime, easy, and joyful process of connecting with God.”
For their part, ISKCON devotees are encouraged to spread the glories of the Holy Name in a wide variety of different ways during World Holy Name Week.
This year, an amazing 35 temples across India participated in World Holy Name Week, with Japa meditation camps, themed classes, 64 round japathons, 12 hour kirtans, holy name walks, distribution of free japa beads and bead bags, and of course huge Harinamas with hundreds of participants.
Devotees in Toronto, Canada, participated in a 48 rounds japa day; held a Harinama in popular shopping district Yorkville; listened to memories of Srila Prabhupada told by senior devotees; had special sangas and a Srila Prabhupada movie night; and wrapped up with a kirtan and pizza party for the grand finale. A planned double decker bus kirtan in Toronto had to be cancelled due to rain, but is still planned for a later date.
Double Decker Bus Harinama in Toronto, Canada
On the other side of the world, devotees at the Bhakti Centre on Australia’s Gold Coast held six Harinamas for World Holy Name Week, a four-hour kirtan, and three themed classes by Ramai Swami and Rupa Vilasa Das.
In New Zealand, devotees held two maha-Harinamas in the city of Auckland, and a 12-hour kirtan at the New Varshana farm community.
In Bali, Indonesia, Maha-Harinamas were held in the city’s parks and famous beaches, while seminars on the Holy Name and workshops on how to play mridanga, harmonium and kartals were also offered.
In Ukraine, an incredible 10,000 devotees participated in a full day kirtan with well known kirtaniyas Radhanath Swami, Niranjana Swami, Bada Haridas and Madhava Das.
At Bhaktivedanta Manor in the UK, a nonstop forty-hour kirtan was held.
And in Brazil and Singapore, major daily kirtans and Harinamas resounded.
“We are seeing that there is great excitement amongst devotees for World Holy Name Week,” says Divyanam Das. “It’s a chance for them to focus more on the Holy Names for almost ten days, in many different forms.”
Gurukula youth in Mayapur, India
As well as enhancing devotees’ personal spiritual practice, World Holy Name Week has seen a lot of success in distributing the Holy Names to the general public. People have joyfully chanted and danced with devotees in Harinamas, learned how to chant on beads at japa booths set up at temples, and discussed the significance of the Holy Names with devotees.
While there is still somewhat of a lack of awareness of World Holy Name Week within ISKCON -- the USA, for instance, has not reported its participation -- Divyanam hopes to reach out to temple leaders and encourage all to be involved in the coming years.
“It has a very positive effect on ISKCON devotees and people in general,” he says.
If you have questions or ideas for next year’s World Holy Name Week, please contact Divyanam Das at firstname.lastname@example.org or Ekalavya Das at email@example.com.
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