99. The Pyramid Rock Festival 2008/09

I was there. And I never thought that there would be a time in my life, when I would spend my precious new year’s eve with thousands of drunk, zapped, loud, sun burnt, lusty, scantily clad, meat loving, young rock fans. But Krishna Consciousness took me right to the middle of such a situation. During the beginning of this ordeal, I couldn’t help wondering how this involvement was going to help me progress in my spiritual growth.

Pyramid Rock Festival is an open air rock show featuring musicians from Australia, USA and New Zealand. Last year, tickets were sold out in a record 4 days. The music styles include Pop, Rock, Punk, HipHop/Rap, Funk, Blues, Acoustic, Folk, Electronica/Experimental, Indie/Alternative, Reggae/Dub, Electro, House, Breaks and Techno. The following sentences from an online writeup basically lets one know what to expect from the event:

“Traditionally, a five year anniversary is a wooden anniversary. In 2008, Pyramid defies tradition and delivers a platinum, diamond-encrusted line-up. Featuring three spectacular days of music, sea, surf and on-site camping for thousands of Australia’s music lovers. Set on a private coastal property on Phillip Island, The Pyramid Rock Festival is ideally located in between picturesque Cape Woolamai and Phillip Island’s famous landmark and the festivals’ namesake Pyramid Rock.  In 2008, Pyramid Rock Festival will continue to offer early-bird camping tickets for primo camping possies, ample shower and toilet facilities, a wide variety of market stalls, an international food village that will cater to every taste and the ever-popular shuttle bus services to local surf beaches. ”

Adrian loads the van

Adrian loads the van

Shortly after the morning prasadam on 28th Dec 08, a car carrying Koti, Chaitanya Vallabha Das, Pritesh and Vivek prabhus plus the above van carrying Adrian, Rupesh and me along with plenty of vegetables left for Philip Island, where the much anticipated rock show was to take place. Our job was to provide these youths with clean, fresh, healthy vegetarian food options. I couldn’t see how this was possible.

The Pyramid Rock

The Pyramid Rock

We reached the venue after almost 2 hrs on the road. When we reached the place, it was very windy. But the view was spectacular. We could see the sea in the distance with an uneven terrain all around us. Had it been a sunny day, the place would have resembled a part of heaven. It was not possible for the general crowd to get to the waterfront as they had barricaded the venue with steel fences.

Our homes...

Our homes...

Chaitanya Vallabha Das and myself immediately set out to fix the 3 tents. The wind was so strong that it took us close to an hour to get them all up. Had it been a normal day, perhaps we would have taken around 20 mins.

Only the beginning...

Only the beginning...

By the time we finished, we could see so many other tents mushrooming all over the place. After all, the ground all around the main stage, had to house close to 15,000 youths and their cars. Not to mention the various service providers and staffs. It was a mini village. After we set the tents up and unloaded our luggage, I went for a quick stroll to check out the pictured tents. Some were good, some didn’t make sense. Some tents even had a full living room couch installed !

The Fantastic 5 + me

The Fantastic 5 + me

Let me introduce the crew from left to right – Pritesh, Rupesh, Vivek, Koti and Adrian prabhus. We all assembled at our catering tent to start with our cooking chores.

The view from our catering tent

The view from our catering tent

The view with more people around

The view with more people around

How auspicious is that ?!!

How auspicious is that ?!!

Adrian prabhu managed to get a photo of this sign inside our tent. It was truly incredible that we were assigned the number ” 1008 ” for this event. We knew instantly that Krishna was going to make our 4 days very special.

Pritesh starts with the kofta balls

Pritesh starts with the kofta balls

I do the main curry...stirring that is...

I do the main curry...stirring that is...

Offering the cooked food

Offering the cooked food

Ready to be served !

Ready to be served !

There you go ! That’s mixed vegetable subji with chickpeas, rice, spicy tomato sauce with Veggie balls, kofta balls and then halva at the far end. No sooner had we set up, we started to have people check us out and then eventually started ordering. The most popular was the small bucket of Kofta balls. Everyone wanted them. We were surprised to see how many people were being drawn towards our tent over and over again. Once they had a taste of the kofta balls there was no looking back. Our tent was so popular that we had our own fan club ! A good number of people went no where else. We would see people come to us for breakfast, lunch and dinner on all the 4 days. Look at some of the comments we got :

1. ” I am so glad that you guys are here”
2. ” Hey, we saw you at the other rock show…you guys here too…awesome !”
3. “Hare Krishna rocks!!!”
4. ” Its the best food I have had”
5. “How come you are all so happy?”
6. “Thank you for feeding us so well?”
7. “WoW…look at how much they serve

I am sure we got a lot more but I can’t remember.

Rupesh attends to the butterfly lady

Rupesh attends to the butterfly lady

The “butterfly lady” drops into our tent. Rupesh entices her with a sample kofta ball. Although she couldn’t take it because of her make up, the smell of the kofta ball worked. Many hours later, she walked into the tent without the high heels, costumes and make up and ordered a feast meal which included all the preparations. She had bought her another “butterfly” companion as well. 
2 of those 3 girls

2 of those 3 girls

At one stage, we had 3 girls come to our stall, look at each other, then looked at us and yelled out in a cheer leader fashion, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Hare Rama Rama Hare Krishna”. We all stood there shocked. Although, they didn’t quiet get the Maha Mantra right, we were overwhelmed that they attempted it so much enthusiasm. We all clapped, gave them an extra kofta ball and an extra serving of halva. They became one of our best customers. 
Is that a smile on the shoulder?

Is that a smile on the shoulder?

We noticed this couple at our stall sport the “Lord Jagannath smile sticker” on their shoulder. And we saw many other youths have them too.  When it wasn’t busy, I explained the significance of that sticker and they would stand there surprised.
Beef suppliers

Beef suppliers

Here is another strange incident. As I mentioned earlier, we had our kirtan going strong through the speakers all the time. This music was like a blanket to protect us from the loud rock music coming from the big tent far away. And we could see that all most all the people who waited beside our tent while the food was being served, enjoyed listening to it. But right next to our tent was the tent that belonged to another caterer specializing in BBQs and beef burgers. We were so demotivated and in some way devastated when the owner stepped into our tent and asked us to turn the music off because he was getting tired listening to it. We turned it off. But we were sad. We continued with our serving of food but we lacked the enthusiasm. Guess what happened? 
Fire !!

Fire !!

His BBQ facility catches fire !!! This happened only a few hours after he asked us to stop our kirtan. The fire was getting so out of hand that the fire authority had to be called who without hesitation put it out by spraying the gas from his fire extinguisher all over their grill that still had beef patties on the burner. The Lord taught him a lesson, we thought. We took some more photos, turned on our kirtans and started serving his waiting beef loving customers with our wonderful vegetarian food. 
Another fire in the distance...

Another fire in the distance...

Later we spotted another fire in the distance. This time, some drunken and hyperactive youths set a couch on fire. I took this pic just when it started. But later on, the fire became really big and I couldn’t help thinking if it would spread to our tents nearby. The fire authorities once again came to the rescue. When you have time, check out YouTube where there are a few video postings of this incident.
Its our turn now !

Its our turn now !

 
Few minutes later, we noticed that we got into the fire incident ourselves. Nothing serious. We left our plastic container lid near the hot stove…which melted the side.
 
Here is another memorable incident:
The Man who did some service

The Man who did some service

This man wandered into our tent for some food. He ordered a small serving of kofta balls. I packed the little bucket with enough koftas and topped it with some generous serving of tomato sauce. The cost was A$4. He gave A$8 or something.
Me : “Oh….its only 4 dollars…you can take all this back”
The Man : “Its ok….you guys can keep it”
Me : “Really? Are you sure?”
The Man : “Yes…I am sure…”
Me : “Thank you very much”

And then he said….

Our Menu board

Our Menu board

The Man : “You know, early this morning as I walked past your tent, I saw your menu sign board had fallen to the ground. I could not bear to see Lord Jagannath’s face on the wet and dirty ground. So I took it, cleaned it and put it back. As soon as I did that, the rain immediately stopped and it has not rained since. And I am telling you, it won’t rain hard for the next few days of the show as well”

I stood there shocked. I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t even expect him to say “Lord Jagannath”. My eyes welled a little. After I explained what had happened to the crew, we all fell silent. We felt that Krishna was giving us many chances to remember Him during such a busy day amidst such austere conditions. The entire day I thought about this incident. The man came back again on 31st Dec. This time, after serving him….

Me : “Can I ask you a favour?”
The Man : “Yes…”
Me : “Today is New Year’s eve…and I have been trying to get some flowers for the altar over there in the kitchen..but I couldn’t find any…and the nearest town is 15 Km away….and we have so much work here…we can’t leave the tent….”
The Man : “Do you want some flowers?”
Me : “Yes…if you don’t mind…are you able to get it for me?”
The Man : “You continue with your work and I will see you later…let me see what I can do…”
He got them !

He got them !

At some part of the night, we were very very busy. There was a huge line and word had gone out that our food was excellent and the servings were incredibly generous. There were 3 of us serving at fast pace, kirtan in the background and we chanted while we served every plate. Just during this busy scene, the man walks upto the stall and…
 
The Man : “I couldn’t get out of the venue myself but I went tent to tent looking for some flowers…after many searches..I got these roses..you can give it to Krishna now…”
 
The entire crew : “HARI BOL !!!!”
I gave him a big hug, thanked him profusely, shook his hands, thanked him again, washed my hands and then placed the flower at the altar. And all the while people in the line were watching the entire episode with much delight…the crowd increased and the prasadam was getting even more popular. 
Morning view from behind the tent

Morning view from behind the tent

Evening view in front of the tent

Evening view

We would start our day from 5am and work till 12:30 midnight and on new years eve, we took it all the way up to 2am. Nonstop work. We would get up at 5am in our tents amidst heavy noises of raging wind. There would also be a slight drizzle and the 10 minute walk to the portable loo and shower areas was an ordeal in itself. But, we knew it was important to get to the toilets early before any of the drunken youths got there. Because after 9am, you just can’t get inside because of the long queue and the filth. Very dirty. The organizers had arranged huge trucks that had number of toilets and showers. The showers had nice hot water and no time limits. After I finished my shower, a few of the Australians who had also woken up early and decided to shower was spell bound when they saw me apply tilaka marks on my body. It was funny. I think they looked scared.

My tent - damaged !

My tent - damaged !

The wind was so strong that it damaged one of our tents and this happened on day 2. We still had 2 nights to go. Anyways, going back to our routine, it wasn’t tough to wake up so early as we get up between 3:30-4am for the 4:30am mangal aroti at the temple. The habit came in handy. Once we were back at the tent by around 6am, we would start our chanting of 16 rounds of the Maha Mantra. I love chanting inside a tent. Its like being in a cave and your own voice echos within it…so clearly listening to your chanting is not a problem. Between 8:30 – 9am, we would make our way to the catering tent to clean the tent, rinse the cooking utensils, chopping up vegetables, cooking them, transferring them and then serving to the public. This year’s Pyramid Rock festival attracted around 15,000 people…so we had plenty of work to do.

We were motivated. We were inspired. We had a purpose. We knew deep in our hearts that we were different to other food caterers. They served food. Frozen and stored for long periods. We cooked fresh vegetarian preparations right there. We knew our food had the potency. It was cooked with extreme love and devotion. Right from 9am, while we did all the chores, we chanted and sang along with the loud speakers. There was so much care taken while preparing the food. Krishna must like it and then once that’s done, we need to give it to the people with much eagerness. Why? Because we saw this as medicine. Ours was the only food that had a purpose of helping these young drunk youths.

Drunk too much...

Drunk and fallen

I don’t recall ever seeing 15,000 beautiful youths get drunk…so drunk that they couldn’t talk or walk. A good majority of the people by the final day had spent all their money on alcohol that they had no money to buy food. They would come to our stall and basically beg. How crazy is this? And guess what…parents and the governments are not bothered. But you talk about spirituality and they get irritated. We saw 18-21 years old get glasses of alcohol one after another throughout the entire day. 

The dance tent

The dance tent

And then they would dance all night long to loud music and loosely mixing with strangers. Then, from our tent we would hear them party back at their sleeping tents from 2am till 4am before they would drop dead asleep wherever they could. Some had the sense to locate their tents but not others. By late evening, the whole ambiance looked unhealthy – the landscape, the toilets, the shower areas, the tents, the dance floor, the air, the breath, people’s clothes – I mean everything. But these people were enjoying. They couldn’t care less. Their agenda was simple – drink as much as you can, dance as wild as you want, get a sex/flirt partner as soon as you can, sleep as less as possible and yell with rock stars as loud as you can. By the 4th day, the people looked terrible. They looked like zombies. We saw some fall asleep at the wheel while waiting in line to get out. Some couldn’t open their car locks. Others found it tough to fold their tents. It was terrible watching all these things.   

Smile ! You are with the Hare Krishnas!

Smile ! You are with the Hare Krishnas!"

A major factor that helped us become a big hit with the diners was that we served with a huge smile. Every single customer was greeted with a “Hare Krishna”. Many of them were new to the stall and it looked as if it was the first time they had seen men with markings on their forehead and instead of saying “Hello” or “Hi”, they heard “Hare Krishna”. Initially, they only smiled back. But we never stopped. Guess what happened? When they came back for their second and third serving, they would respond to our greeting with a “Hare Krishna” too. And some even greeted us first with a “Hare Krishna” !!! We also ensured that if people came back for more, we served them some free food or gave them more serving. Customers looked pleased that we remembered them and that we were wanting them to eat as much as possible. As the clock struck 12am on New Year’s eve, we had many customers come back to our tent to wish us. Some even ordered a complete feast and said, “This is our first meal for the new year, Thank You so much guys!”

And we felt so satisfied.
“The Pyramid Rock Festival”, was turning out to be a “Prasadam Rock Festival” !!
Here are some of our happy customers whose satisfaction kept us going:

A balanced diet

A balanced diet

This food makes me happy! Very Happy!

This food makes me happy! Very Happy!

The foods as colorful as us!

"The food's as colorful as us!"

The Pineapple Halva Fan Club

The Pineapple Halva Fan Club

Its all mine!!!

"It's all mine!!!"

These kofta balls are a true super star!!!

"These kofta balls are a true super star!!!"

The official Pyramid Rock styled serving

The official Pyramid Rock styled serving

I am absolutely, completely, 100 percent, positively and forever convinced. The best way to reach out to Australians and deliver Krishna’s mercy is through the food cooked for Krishna with love and devotion. This food needs to be delivered to the general public whether they are intoxicated or not, with great happiness. We must feel so lucky that we have the chance to do such an important service. With a huge smile, with great care, with great love and humility, we should hand it over to them. They will buy us first, then the food and then with time, they will understand the significance of true spirituality. This is the only way.

Prasadam: The Lord’s Mercy. Food prepared in pure consciousness with pure products and offered with love to the Lord. Our scriptures and Srila Prabhupad have clearly given us the following instructions:

‘Any sacrifice performed without distribution of prasadam is considered to be in the mode of ignorance.’
(Bhagavad-gita 17.13). 

”Temple worship necessarily includes distribution of prasadam . One should exhibit compassion for ignorant living entities by distributing prasadam. Distribution of prasadam to the ignorant masses of people is essential for persons who make offerings to the Personality of Godhead.’
(Srimad-Bhagavatam (SB) 3.29.24 purport).

‘Distribution of prasadam, even to the ignorant masses of people and to animals, gives such living entities the chance for elevation to Krsna consciousness.’
(SB 3.29.23 purport).

‘In this age, distribution of prasadam has replaced distribution of money. No-one has sufficient money to distribute, but if we distribute Krsna-prasadam as far as possible, this is more valuable than the distribution of money’.
(SB 4.9.24).

‘Somehow or other everyone can manage to perform such a yajna (sankirtana) and distribute prasadam to the people in general. That is quite sufficient for this age of Kali. The Hare Krsna Movement is based on this principle: chant the Hare Krsna mantra at every moment, both inside and outside of the temples, and, as far as possible, distribute prasadam. This process can be accelerated with the help of the state administrators and those who are producing the country’s wealth. Simply by liberal distribution of prasadam and sankirtana, the whole world can become peaceful and prosperous’.
(SB 4.12.10). 

Going after them with kofta balls!

Going after them with kofta balls!

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14 thoughts on “99. The Pyramid Rock Festival 2008/09

  1. that was a great story!! I hope you bhakti’s are are well and in Krsna Consciousness!!

    harebol!! All glories to Srila Prabhupada!!!

    Reply
  2. Dear Merkywave,
    Thank you for appreciating the story! We are doing well here…the day is nice and warm and ready for the weekend! I am trying my best to stay in Krishna Consciousness…not good enough…but making some sort of progress

    Dear “Sabjimata” !!!!
    So nice to see you here ! I was planning to buy bucket loads of jam from you as new year gifts for my friends. But all these events took my mind away from the tasty task ! Anyways, I accept your designation of me as a funny person. Its official ! And since it came from you…its means a lot !

    Reply
  3. Hare Krsna Prabhus,

    Dandvats. AGTSP.

    That was exceptional. Words fell short to describe this wonderful piece of sincere service at the lotus feet of Guru and Gauranga. This is simply an expansion of Lord Nityanands causeless mercy…. even to those who dont deserve.

    It has touched my heart and soul.

    Thank you very very much.
    your unworthy servant,
    vibhava krsna das.

    Reply
  4. Hare Krishna Vibhava Krsna prabhu,
    Words are falling short for me as well to thank you for your heart-felt appreciation for this post. Even today, I was sitting with some aussie devotees and going through the realizations we had from this event. I can assure you that out of thousands that came to our stall, I won’t be surprised if I see one or two at the temple in the future. Just wait and see. The mercy is just too big for us to comprehend.

    Dear Ekendra prabhu,
    Thank you !! You rock too ! 🙂

    Reply
  5. A fun story to read, and inspiration from a small group of dedicated young bhaktas. Hare Krishna. Pusta Krishna das

    Reply
  6. Hare Krishna. Inspiring Festival. Good Job. I was just wondering how many of Srila Prabhupada’s books were distributed. Srila Prabhupada would alway’s ask how many of his books were distributed after festivals. He wanted his books to be in the forefront. Preaching is the essence, but books are the basis. All temples need to be pushing on all aspects of Srila Prabhupada’s mission. Keep up the goodwork but don’t forget the books. Your Servant, Devaki Nandana Dasa

    Reply
  7. Prasadum is our “secret weapon” against Maya and you devotees are empowered to give out the mercy. I hope you will continue to do this important service. Most people can’t understand or aren’t interested in philosophy, yet many will appreciate delicious prasadum. That may be the only way that they will get sukriti for bhakti.

    Thanks for your well written, entertaining article and the pictures. As i have done similar venues years back I could well imagine what it was like.

    Hare Krishna,

    dasanudas Karnamrita

    Reply
    • Dear Karnamrita prabhu,
      Thank you too for the kind words. I wish we had more prasadam outlets strewn across the cities of the world. Maybe we need more restaurants, or more programs and even more catering opportunities at weddings etc. Its also great to know that you had participated in similar events! Perhaps, you can join us in Melbourne for the next set of events!

      Dear Mridul,
      I am happy you enjoyed the article, I shared. Hopefully, I will have more. I am involved in one this long weekend. Hopefully, I will have interesting things to share from this as well.

      Dear Deavaki prabhu,
      The crowd assembled there, are unfortunately not the kind that will have the presence of mind to treat our books with respect. They couldn’t even count the money they were giving us, such was their intoxication level. And almost all the youngsters were so broke after spending money on alcohol, they would hardly have any money left for our books. Its not the right place to distribute books. But there are many other other events we participate in, where we set up a large book table with all our collections. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I will always remember this point.

      Reply
  8. HK, PAMHO, AGTSP!

    Prabhu, I would like to hear more from you about festival prasadam distribution. Is it possible to hear you by SKYPE?

    My username is [….]kept confidential by this blog’s moderator

    Hare Krishna, ys, Dina Dayala dasa

    Reply

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