I started coming to Ukraine in the year 2000 for their annual festival on the Black Sea. His Holiness Niranjana Swami invited me to teach devotional songs— bhajans of Narottama das Thakur, Bhaktivinoda Thakura and other acharyas. In 2000 about 750 devotees gathered for six days of seminars, association and kirtan. The festival, now known as Bhakti Sangam, has grown over the years. This year 11,000 people attended.
It’s very well organized. The all devotee kitchen crew prepare 3 meals a day for all the devotees (33,000 meals a day!) and a team of over 1000 takes shifts and works almost non stop. Through donations the organizers are able to provide all the seminars and prasadam without charge. Amazing.
The devotees here are famous for their warm hospitality, genuine service attitude, eagerness to hear and over the top enthusiasm for kirtan. It’s an amazing experience to lead kirtan with so many loving devotees.
A highlight for me was the session on remembering the glories of Yamuna devi dasi.
Myself and my dear friend His Holiness Radhanath Swami were scheduled to speak. At Maharaja’s insistence, we both sat together on the large vyasasana and passed the mic back and forth. He has great love for Her Grace Yamuna. Hearing him speak and having the opportunity to add my little bit was very sweet.
After that I got to lead my final kirtan in the evening. Thank you to Lord Gauranga and His wonderful devotees!
Photos credits: HH Indrayumna Swami (www.travelingmonk.com)