If we remove ‘spirit’ from ‘spiritual’, what remains is ‘ritual’. We can directly observe the effect of this loss of ‘spirit’ in distorted forms our Vedic festivals have taken today. Either it be Holi, Diwali, Dussehra, Shivratri, or Navratri, many people have started taking these pure festivals as an excuse to indulge in illicit activities like gambling, intoxication and so on. As a result, such festivals are being seen by young generation as burdensome meaningless ‘rituals’ their parents are doing just on the name of continuing a ‘pratha’, which even they don’t know why they are doing. Due to ignorance of spiritual knowledge and misinformation through various media sources and so called intellectuals etc., people have started seeing spirituality as something impractical, illogical, old fashioned, boring, unscientific and irrelevant. Such misrepresentation of spiritual knowledge leads to loss of ‘spirit’ of the festival, and hence to reinstate this ‘spirit’ we need to show how spirituality is relevant, interesting, logical and scientific. In order to give a glimpse of glory and practicality of Vedic knowledge we present seminars on various topics in these festivals.
Topics for the seminars are chosen in such a way that it is relevant to particular time, place, circumstances and audience. Some of the topics are: ‘Naam, Naami, Tsunami’, ‘Mera Bharat Kahan’, ‘Kaun Banega Brahm-Anna’, ‘Faithology: Science of Faith’. The message we want to give through these seminars is ‘Spirituality is Relevant, Deep, Logical and Scientific’.
Educating people about spiritual knowledge has been an integral part of Vedic culture, as well as of Srila Prabhupada’s vision for ISKCON. How we present this knowledge also matters a lot. In this age when attention span of people is going down, especially in context of spirituality, drama becomes a very important medium to convey deep spiritual principles in exciting manner. The entertainment factor of drama works as anaesthesia for general mass, which helps to inject deep principles of spirituality in one’s consciousness. The Natyashastra defines drama in verse 6.10 as that which aesthetically arouses joy in the spectator, through the medium of actor’s art of communication, that helps connect the individual to his real self, which is Krsna Consciousness.
Some of the themes of our dramas are: ‘Andha Yug’, ‘Saints and Swindlers’, ‘Mera Bharat Kahan’, ‘Swami ji se Sidhi Baat’, ‘Pig’s Pleasure’, ‘Devasur Sangram’, etc.
UDGAAR festival also serves as bridge between youth and our traditional Vaishnava festivals, which very few people are aware of. Cake cutting ceremony is done for celebrating and making youth aware about upcoming major Vaishnava festivals like Janmashtami, Gaur Purnima, Ram Navami etc.
Cake is offered to deities of their Lordships in front of audience which is later served to them In feast.
‘Music and dancing employed in sense gratification are to be accepted as demoniac, but the same music and dancing, when employed in glorifying the Supreme Lord as kirtana, are transcendental, and they bring about a life completely fit for spiritual enjoyment.’ - Srila Prabhupada SB 3.20.38
Indian music industry sales has grown from 7 billion rupees in 2007 to 15.4 billion rupees in 2016. [https://www.statista.com/statistics/254328/musicsales-in-india-by-platform/] This clearly shows how much importance music holds in one’s life. Music easily becomes companion in all emotional stages of one’s life, either he be sad, happy, calm, or meditative. When someone is happy he likes to listen to happy songs, when someone is sad he likes to listen to sad music and so on. Mundane music can only raise the listener to a certain mental and emotional state and that also for some time, but spiritual music has power to raise one completely to spiritual platform where he experiences real bliss.
Vayu Purana describes sankirtan as, Hare Krishna Mahamantra sung in different melodies accompanied by different instruments. Just as Lord in, deity form is worshiped by dressing and decorating, similarly Lord in form of sound is decorated through sounds vibrations of various instruments and ragas. From musical perspective, Hare Krishna Mahamantra composed of 32 syllables is one of the most flexible mantra, which can be sung in any particular raga with varied emotions.
Mantra Rock show provides youth a taste of bliss of chanting holy Names packaged in the form of modern music accompanied by various instruments.
‘Krsna has given us so many nice preparations. Day before yesterday we were present here. We had feasting. Everybody had tasted. So many nice things we have got. Krsna bada daya may, kari bare jihva jay, sva prasad anna dilo bahi. Our tongue is very fastidious. He wants to taste this, taste this, taste this. But Krsna is so kind that He gives us varieties of prasadam so you can taste them, you can satisfy your desire at the same time you become spiritually advanced. This is a nice process.’ - Bhagavad-gita 10.2-3 January 1, 1967, New York
Food is another very important aspect of Krsna Conscious culture. The festival is concluded by grand sumptuous feast composed of various delicacies served according to season, climate and geographical location. We give Krsna Consciousness to people in different ways like lectures, temple programs etc. However, none of these can match the acceptance level people show towards feast prasadam. Unlike our philosophy and other intricacies, feast prasadam scores very high in terms of acceptance by new audience. Feast prasadam gives youth direct experience of Krsna Consciousness.