On August 29th, the school held a program to celebrate two very important events, Krishna Janmashtami (Krishna’s birthday August 28th) and Prabhupada Appearance Day (Prabhupada’s birthday August 29th). It was a day filled with offerings, song, dance and even some martial arts and yoga. The program commenced with each child offering flowers to Srila Prabhupada, the founder of ISCON. Followed by Deep Prajulan, in which the guest of honor Padmabuja Prabhuji a disciple of Prabhupada, did the ceremony of lighting the lamp in reverence to his teacher. The students then lead a merry song of Happy Birthday to Krishna.
It’s important to mention that I’m not from Vrindavan, in fact this is my first time in India. This is an account from a person who was born in the United States and is now living in Europe. So, much of what I witnessed of the beautiful and special traditions celebrated here are completely new to me.
The first classical dance came from the state of Odissa. The girls were colorfully dressed with ornate crowns and musical bracelets on their feet. Their feet and hand movements were precise and graceful.
Next came a contemporary dance, an interesting contrast to the more traditional dance before, telling the story of Krishna giving birth to 2 different types of people: those who embraced God (in this dance were dressed in white) and those who turned their back to him (dressed in black). The ones in white were distressed to be separated from Krishna in this material world, while the ones in black had no problem being without him. Eventually, the ones in black grew lonely and were invited by the ones in white to come and seek God, which they all did together, happily joining in their devotion to Krishna.
Then there was a Krishna Folkdance – Maiya Muri, (My mother), from Brij an area of Vrindavan. Krishna’s mother had noted young Krishna with something in his mouth. She kept asking him to open for her to see what he had and for a while he refused. When he finally decided to show his mother and opened his mouth, she was astounded to see that the entire Universe was there. Two young girls, showed us their yoga skills, making it all look so easy, going from one pose to the other. The older girls did Kathak, a classical dance style from Northern India, called Kahe Ched Ched Mohe, (Why are you teasing us?) in which Krishna playfully teases the Gopis, it is a game they engage in, complaining about Krishna’s mischievous behavior, while at the same time enjoying it. Another 2 devotional dances also display Krishna’s playfulness with the Gopis, one called Naachat kanha bagan mai (Krishna dancing in the gardens) and Kankiraya se mataki fori re (Krishna breaks the earthen pots) the later showing Krishna taking pebbles and breaking the pots of the Gopis, all in good fun.
I didn’t have prior knowledge of the stories behind the dances and yet was completely entranced with the performances of the students. I was impressed by how expressive the students with their entire bodies, especially the facial gestures. Their love and excitement came through each performance and I am very grateful to have been part of their artistic and cultural heritage. Thank you!