The worldwide activities of the International Society for Krishna consciousness (ISKCON)
The government of India has released a five-rupee commemorative postage stamp in recognition of Srila Prabhupada's contribution to society as a writer, an educator, and a philosopher. Along with the stamp, the postal service is selling booklets that tell about Srila Prabhupada, and an envelope with his picture (known as a "first-day cover"). The portrait of Prabhupada on the stamp was painted by his American disciple Puskara Dasa, whose art regularly appears in BTG.
Nearly one million people visited Hare Krishna Land, the ISKCON temple in Juhu, Mumbai, for the week-long celebration of Sri Krsna Janmasami, Lord Krsna's birthday (August 25). Among the many well-known artists who performed for Lord Krsna's pleasure were Jagjit Singh, Sonu Nigam, Anup Jalota, and Hema Malini. Kodak India Ltd. organized a photo contest, inviting professional photographers to submit their best pictures of the event.
Kuruksetra, where Lord Krsna spoke Bhagavad-gita, will be the site for a new ISKCON temple. ISKCON has acquired six acres of land there from the Haryana state government. The land is in Jyotisar, the very place where the Gita was spoken.
The Bangalore chapter of Rotary International presented their 1997 "Man of the Year" award to Madhu Pandita Dasa, the president of ISKCON Bangalore. State Cabinet Minister Sri Byre Gowda presented the award. Several other state ministers attended. Under Madhu Pandita's direction, ISKCON Bangalore opened a stunning new hilltop temple last June.
A contingent of forty bike riders from the UK, Kenya, and America pedaled from the source of the River Yamuna, 12,000 feet up in the Himalayas, down the Yamuna's course to the sacred forests of Lord Krsna. The three-week cycle journey "Yamuna '97" was undertaken in October to raise funds for the environmental charity Friends of Vrindavan.
ISKCON Mumbai celebrated a Jagannatha Rathayatra festival in mid-October, with a procession beginning in the Thane area and ending in Powai. The procession was followed by a week ofSrimad-Bhagavatam discourses and other programs.
Vraja Mandala Parikrama, ISKCON's annual circumambulation of Vraja Mandala, the sacred area of Vrndavana, took place from October 15 through November 17. Devotees from around the world took part.
ISKCON devotees from all over the world will converge on Sridham Mayapur, the birthplace of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu, seventy miles north of Calcutta, for the annual Gaura Purnima festival in March. After Mayapur, the festival continues in Vrndavana.
The staff at BTG join in offering our respect to Srila Bhakti Pramoda Puri Maharaja, whose 100th advent anniversary was celebrated on October 2. Srila Puri Maharaja, a devoted disciple of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, is the eldest among the still physically present Godbrothers of BTG's founder, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.
The chief administrative officer for the city of New Orleans, Louisiana, attended the Janmastami celebrations at the New Orleans Hare Krsna temple. After viewing the temple's Deities and hearing something about them, the officer, Mr. Marlin N. Gusman, stood before the deity of Srila Prabhupada and read a certificate from the mayor proclaiming August 25, 1997, "Lord Krishna's Birthday in New Orleans."
Nearly five thousand people attended the Festival of India at the Hare Krsna center in Spanish Fork, Utah, last September. The annual event includes the burning of a twenty-foot-high effigy of the demon Ravana.
The Purnima Puppet Theater won an award in the Theater Arts category at the Fifth Annual Berkeley Video Festival. The entry, by the puppeteer couple Lokanatha Dasa and Maharani Devi Dasi, was entitled "The Story of the Tulasi Plant." The festival accepts entries from independent video producers throughout the United States.
Four hundred people from diverse cultures and religions gathered for eight hours of dance, music, and poetry glorifying the holy name of God, at a festival hosted by Hare Krsna devotees in Cleveland, Ohio. The festival, called the "Lord Have Mercy Festival," began with prayers offered by ministers from the Muslim, Christian, and Hare Krsna traditions.
Four new books are out from Torchlight Publishing, a devotee-run company whose books help readers bridge the gap between materialistic thinking and Krsna consciousness. One of the new books deals with reincarnation, the other three with vegetarianism and spirituality. Torchlight sells to the public through bookstore chains.
The BBC World Service televised half an hour's coverage of the Janmastami festival at Bhaktivedanta Manor, the Hare Krsna center outside London. The Service has an estimated global audience of thirty-five million.
Ramayana: A Journey has been released by book publisher Collins & Brown. The author is Ranchor Prime (known in ISKCON as Ranchor Dasa). While relating the story of Lord Ramacandra, an incarnation of Lord Krsna, the book introduces Western readers to Vedic culture and philosophy.
About six hundred local guests attended last summer's Hare Krsna festival at the ISKCON farm in Germany's Bavarian Forest.
The government of Denmark has formally recognized ISKCON as an official religion.
Commonwealth of Independent States
Devotees in Kiev installed new Deities of Gaura-Nitai (Lord Caitanya and Lord Nityananda) last August on the appearance day of Lord Krsna's form known as Lord Balarama.
Devotees in Dnepropetrovsk, in east central Ukraine, installed deities of Lord Jagannatha, Lord Balarama, and Subhadra Devi in August. Three hundred people attended the festival.
Ukrainian national TV produced a half-hour documentary on ISKCON Mayapur (West Bengal) and ISKCON's roots in Vedic culture, and aired it four times. Planned next: a documentary on Vrndavana, the site of Lord Krsna's appearance and pastimes.
The Russian government has passed a bill severely restricting religious freedom for groups considered new to Russia. President Boris Yeltsin had previously rejected a similar bill and had asked a committee to work on a new one that would satisfy the interests of both the state and new religious groups. But the so-called compromise bill is no better than the original one.
An audience of 2,500 in Moscow turned out for an ISKCON-sponsored cultural evening in honor of Sri Krsna Janmastami, India's 50th year of independence, and the 850th anniversary of Moscow. Featured performers: singer/musician Pandit Jasaraj and actress/dancer Hema Malini. The audience filled the State Central Concert Hall Rossiya ("Russia") for the event.
Devotees held a Rathayatra on the main streets of St. Petersburg in August. Five thousand people attended.
About a thousand people took part in the second annual Rathayatra in Sudak last August. Sudak is in the Crimea, on the Black Sea.
Devotees in Johannesburg, South Africa, held that city's first-ever Rathayatra at the end of October.
Devotees in Nairobi, Kenya, held their annual Ratha-yatra last August. A half-page article on the festival appeared in the Kenya Times.
ISKCON's Padayatra ("walking pilgrimage") toured the South Indian state of Andhra Pradesh late last summer and visited many of its holy places. Devotees distributed 12,000 Bhagavad-gitas and 10,000 smaller books during the walk.
After spending the holy month of Karttika in Vrndavana, they returned to Tirupati to begin walking to Chennai (Madras), which they plan to reach in time for ISKCON Chennai's Rathayatra at the beginning of 1998. From Chennai they will tour Tamil Nadu. Padayatra India has been on the road since 1985.
Fifteen devotees and two bullock carts are traveling from village to village in India's westernmost state. In each village, they chant Hare Krsna and distribute Srila Prabhupada's books during the day and hold a festival in the evening.
Padayatra North America
Traveling by truck between cities, last summer the North American Padayatra devotees walked with their ox-cart in nine U.S. cities and several Hare Krsna and civil parades.
The Padayatra oxen have become an attraction in England, regularly receiving invitations to attend city carnivals. During one weekend last July, devotees brought the oxen and chanting andprasadam to three city carnivals. At each carnival, devotees presented the city's Lord Mayor a garland from the temple and a copy of Srila Prabhupada's Bhagavad-gita As It Is.