Krishna House’s first ever Vaishnavi’s traveling sankirtan party made its stunning debut this summer as three young bhaktins, Amrita, Jennii, and Ally – collectively known as the Gauranga Girls – swept up the east coast from Gainesville to Niagara Falls and back.
The lack of a sankirtan van was no impediment for this determined trio as they loaded Jennii’s Suburu Crosstrek from floor to ceiling with Srila Prabhupada’s books. Like well-armed warriors heading into battle, they rolled out of Krishna House amidst roaring kirtan and made a beeline for their first destination, Atlanta, GA. They were welcomed at the Atlanta temple and soon hit the streets at nearby “Little Five Points” for their first round of book distribution.
What they lacked in experience they made up for in determination and sincerity, and they quickly developed their own style of book distribution, a cooperative strategy where one would play mridanga, one karatalas, and the third would have a stack of books in her arms. They would walk around doing kirtan, and as soon as anyone paid attention to them, they would walk up and say, “Whoa! You know this song?” and get them to chant. Of course, most people didn’t know the song, but they soon learned! After a few minutes of chanting, they would offer the person a book and ask for a donation.
Apart from introducing new people to Krishna consciousness, a major highlight of the trip was visiting different temples and getting a lot of inspiring devotee association. Amrita recounts, “The devotees were so kind and supportive. We had brought along camping equipment and cookstoves, but we only had to use it once in the whole month because as soon as devotees found out where we were from and what we were doing, they were happy to open up their homes to us. We made a lot of new friends that way.”
The association they got at the New York Ratha Yatra with HH Maha Vishnu Swami and the Harinam Ruci devotees inspired their harinams for the rest of the trip. While in New York State, they also took advantage of the opportunity to meet ISKCON legends like HH Satsvarupa Maharaja and Ravindra Svarupa Prabhu.
“It was phenomenal how much everyone appreciated what we were doing,” Ally said, “Sometimes, when we spoke to Srila Prabhupada disciples about our sankirtan adventures, they would literally get tears in their eyes remembering their early days on book distribution and reflecting on how dear this service was to Srila Prabhupada. They were so happy and grateful to hear that travelling sankirtan is still happening.”
Out of all the places the Gauranga Girls went for book distribution, they all agreed that Niagara Falls was the best. “People were literally jumping out of our chairs to dance with us,” said Jennii, “On our first day, we ran out of books, distributing 70 in just a few hours. The next day, we set up a table and were able to do 120, by Krishna’s grace. It was amazing to meet such an interesting range of people, from Mohammed and Salem, a young Muslim couple from Jordan, to Diamond, a finalist for the Miss America title – and all of them chanted with us and took books!”
Second to Niagara Falls for book distribution was Washington DC on the 4th of July. The Mall in front of the Capitol Building was packed and they all ended up getting lost in the crowd for hours, rejoining each other only after all their books were gone!
The trip was not only about teaching others about Krishna. It was also about learning for themselves. One thing they realized is that people everywhere are basically the same -they have the same problems, and they are trying to be happy in the same ways, not knowing that what they are really looking for is Krishna. Yet when they are connected to Krishna, they light up. It’s like the soul springs to life.
Another realization was how working together in Krishna consciousness can harmonize all relationships. “When we first set out on our trip, our relationships were somewhat strained,” Amrita said, “and it was kind of awkward at times. But by pulling together as a team for the benefit of others and for the pleasure of Krishna, any tension quickly melted away. By the end, there was nothing but gratitude and love between us. Contrasting our first kirtan of the trip with the last one, it’s clear that our relationships had come to another level. It was an amazing growing experience for us, and it was a lot of fun.”
Over the whole trip, the Gauranga Girls distributed over 1000 books, and got at least three times that many people to chant the holy names. Not only did they light the fire of Krishna consciousness in the hearts of many people, but they also lit the fire of travelling sankirtan in the hearts of many young Vaisnavis they met along the way. Almost all the girls they met at other temples were super enlivened to hear about their adventures and expressed interest in doing the same. “Our wish,” Amrita said, “is that once a year, young women from all the temples across North America could join together and do travelling sankirtan.”
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