The worldwide activities of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON)
Ratha-yatra Comes to Durban
Durban, South Africa More than fifty thousand people flocked to Durban's beachfront on December 29 and 30 for the ancient Indian celebration of Ratha-yatra the Festival of the Chariots held by ISKCON devotees for the first time on a large scale in South Africa. Durban temple president Indradyumna Swami coordinated the festival. His efforts and those of devotees and members of the congregation of the Radha-Radhanatha Temple of Understanding in Chatsworth helped make the festival a resounding success.
Hundreds of chanting devotees pulled on the ropes drawing the fifteen-meter-high chariot, which carried the deities of Lord Jagannatha, Lord Balarama, Lady Subhadra, and Srila Prabhupada. As the parade moved along Durban's popular Marine Parade, spectators jostled for positions to get their share of the fifty thousand sweets that were tossed out.
The parade culminated in a two-day festival at the beachfront amphitheater. The festival included open-air exhibits and a stage show of continuous entertainment: devotional chanting, drama, films, discourses, and classical Indian music and dance by local artists. Seventy thousand plates of prasadam (food offered to Krsna) were distributed.
Durban's mayor, Mr. Derek Watterson, delivered the opening address. He gave great credit to ISKCON for having built the spectacular temple in Chatsworth, for putting on the Festival of the Chariots, and for promoting love and peace among all races of people in South Africa.
All the major newspapers in Natal gave the festival extensive coverage. TheNatal Mercury ran a large full-color photo of the chariot on the front page with the caption "Beachfront Spectacle." The South African Broadcasting Corporation filmed the festival.
Durban's Publicity Association director, Andrzej Kiepiela, remarked, "In addition to providing both local residents and visitors with free entertainment, the festival will contribute toward harmony between communities, as it provides an insight into the cultural and religious life of India. I believe it will become a traditional part of the Durban summer holiday festivities, as it has in other cities throughout the world."
Gurukula Cake-and-Book Drive
Gainesville, Florida The girls of the Vaisnava Academy here spent the two weeks before Christmas last year on the school's eighth annual Prabhupada Marathon, distributing Srila Prabhupada's books and Back to Godhead magazines and raising money for the school by selling cakes. The girls baked the cakes themselves and offered them to the Deities of Sri Sri Gaura-Nitai at ISKCON's New Ramana-reti farm here before distributing them to the public. Going door-to-door to stores and homes, the ten girls, ages ten to sixteen, sold almost six hundred cakes and distributed two thousand pieces of literature about Krsna.
The girls' academy, headed by Laksmimani-devi dasi, was originally located in Lake Huntington, New York Before coming to Gainesville, the school spent a couple of years in State College, Pennsylvania, home of Pennsylvania State University. While the girls were selling their cakes in Tampa, Florida, they met former Pennsylvania State University football stars Joe and Larry Hamilton, who now play for the Tampa Buccaneers. "God must have sent you," one of them said. The brothers invited the girls in, took five books and four cakes, and eagerly spent time hearing about Krsna consciousness.
The girls had many similar experiences. People often eagerly took several issues of Back to Godhead.
"It's important to recognize," said Laksmimani dasi, "that although these are normal teen-age girls with all the distractions that entails still, they enthusiastically worked eight hours a day for two weeks preaching Krsna consciousness."
The leading distributor, twelveyear-old Caitanya dasi sold 150 cakes.
The Pakistani Bhaktivedanta Book Trust recently published Sindhi editions ofBhagavad-gita As It Is and Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Earlier publications include Krsna; the Reservoir of Pleasure in Sindhi and The Perfection of Yoga, Sri Isopanisad, and Krsna, the Reservoir of Pleasure in Urdu. Pakistani devotees have distributed fifty thousand books in Sindhi and Urdu.
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ISKCON's Mayapur Candrodaya Mandir in West Bengal is a popular attraction for pilgrims to the land of Lord Caitanya's pastimes. Jayapataka Swami, who has been overseeing the project for many years, recently gave India's director general of police a tour of the complex. He explained the plans for a Vedic city that will be built there. The director general accepted a copy of the Srimad-Bhagavatam, and his wife took beads for chanting Hare Krsna.
The education minister of the Indian state of Manipur also visited recently and expressed his appreciation of Lord Caitanya's teachings.