It’s 12:22 am now….and I have just sat down to recollect the time, I had with “Le Carnaval Spirituel”, few hours ago. What am I doing? I should be going to sleep and do this, first thing on a Sunday morning. Nope. I just felt that it couldn’t wait. I had to pour them out to you all….I have so much energy left. And who wouldn’t after an exciting show like tonight’s?
When I arrived at the temple this morning, I could see the members of Le Carnaval Spirituel all over the temple. And you could feel the buzz. Volunteers and members were running here and there. Some were going up the stairs in a hurry, others came doming down with some mission accomplished. Some were going through checklists, others seem to be deciding who should go shopping for certain items. As I stood outside the temple president’s door watching the many activities sprout, suddenly the door behind me opens. It’s His Holiness Indradyumna Swami !
It took a few seconds for things to get in order in my head, before I could bring myself to pay my obeisances. On the staircase. It wasn’t easy. And if anyone saw it, it was a bit clownish. Won’t go too much into it. Anyway, the team was getting ready to hit the streets for a harinam (singing the holy name in the streets). And I tell you what, they looked pretty motivated and raring to get out there, on a beautiful 23 degree Celsius day in Melbourne. They had a job to do. Get the public to Fitzroy.
2 hours later, as I stepped back onto the staircase, after my morning meeting with Anirudha prabhu (Temple President), Stoka prabhu approached me and enquired if I could be put into some use. I was delighted. Here is my chance to do some service.
I had the cool task of folding up the evening program schedule. Easy. 500 of them !
I enjoyed the service. I met this lady from Sydney, Romi who was helping out with the carnival. She was my partner in the folding up of the above flyers. After we exchanged some greetings, I thought it would be a great idea to catch up on my iPod, the Srimad Bhagavatam lecturers of Srila Prabhupad. The day is 2nd February1975 at Caracas, Venezuela. Srila Prabhupad has just cracked a joke and there is a thunderous laughter in the background. And he continued with his explanation of the intricate ways of the spiritual and material world. Marvellous!
Once I finished with all the folding and packing, it was time to get to the venue. I took a tram, accompanied by Bhakta Hari from South Africa and Vishnu prabhu from Fiji. The entire trip, we spoke about the new digital cameras, the movie cameras, photography etc. After a nice 20 minute or so ride, we reached, Fitzroy. At a town hall here, we would witness the 2009 Le Carnaval Spirituel.
Fitzroy is a place with attitude. If you didn’t have any, you would get down here to watch others who have some. It has an edgy mix of alternative, artistic and trendy elements. Basically, home to Melbourne’s Bohemian culture. I spent sometime window shopping the many restaurants by the roadside and watching the owners get ready for a grand night of their own.
Fitzroy Town Hall – A civic building from 1873 would host our event.
Melbourne, sometimes like Kolkata, throws at you, these old, Victorian and grand white buildings. And what impresses me are those huge pillars. Whenever I see it, I can’t help wonder, if Lord Narasimha would pounce from one of those structures. This is an old habit of thinking by the way. When I was a kid, my uncle took me to watch “Das Avatar”, in our one and only village movie theatre, by the side of a rice field. The movie, educated the villagers about the ten glorious incarnations of Lord Vishnu. People would throw flowers onto the movie screen when each avatar came on. Anyways, as a very young child, I was struck with wonder and fear when I saw Lord Narasimha come out of those pillars !!!
I thought the venue and area was an excellent choice. It was big, clean, plenty of parking spaces around, a police station as our neighbour and tons of cafe’s for our audience to go to afterwards, on a late Saturday night. The Town Hall stage was large and from the rehearsals, I could gather that the acoustics were pretty good.
Very soon, devotees began to appear at the venue to help set up the place. A group started setting up the prasadam area, I ventured to help someone set up the seats, occasionally (really…) glancing towards the stage, to gain a peak into the on-going rehearsals. They were working hard.
Once the prasadam hall was set up, I am not ashamed to say this, but I joined the queue pretty early on. And it was great to see, people enjoy the Hare Krishna food once again. There were some fans who would explain our food contents to their wary friend, telling them it was very good and tasty and vegetarian etc. I went for a A$10 feast plate that came with rice, curry, kofta balls and cherry halva.
When I was talking to this devotee, a lady walks up to the table and says, “Hi…How are you? I came for the last night show and I loved it ! And I was wondering how I could run away with you guys…and be spiritual and all?”. To which the devotee said, “Yes…that’s good…Hmmm…can you come and see us at the end of the program and I am sure we can see how to help you out…”
I found a good spot by the side aisle and settled down for the show to start. I was impressed by the number of people walking in, of many ethnicity, of varied ages, of all sizes. They were all there. Some had come to know about the information through a flyer handed on the streets, others through a press ad in the local community newspapers and some even through Facebook. All avenues were used by the organizers to get to the public. They simply had to be there. Because they had every intention to put up a good show and they wanted the audience to take it all in. And by the time, the first act was on, the room was packed. And we had seating arrangements for 500-odd people. And we could see people standing at the back as well. Woohoo !!
Prahlad Das and Chandrashekar Das were the MC’s for the evening. And as a conclusion here, they did a great job. Prahlad Das explained the spiritual side of each performance, whereas Chandrashekar Das had a little story along with a one-liner or two.
I could not believe it was him. After all these years ! I walked up to him and said…
“Hari Bol Prabhu….I just wanted to say a big THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart. When I started on the path of Krishna Consciousness many years ago, owing to the distance of my home from the temple, I could not associate with devotees much or visit the temple. But, your CD, “Harer Nama” was the greatest asset I had along with the Bhagavad Gita. Every single day for 2 years, after I lit the lamp at the altar, I would put on your CD and sing along with it. It was one of the foundation that has kept me on the path strongly. So, thank you very very much. I am so glad to have seen you today!”
He was shocked I think. And he very nicely said, “That’s very sweet and kind of you of you to tell me this. I am very happy. Thank you for sharing this today with me…..I wish you all the very best….”
The show started with some very nice bhajans which I saw some people tapping their foot to. Although, people might not have understood the language, it didn’t seem to matter, as they were enjoying it very much.
People loved these guys. Especially, when they threw their turbans into the crowd, just with a strong wave of their heads. I personally feel that the Manipuris, with their “Drums of Hope”, set the tempo for the evening. They had the energy and the rhythm. The audience could see the trio enjoy themselves on stage and that enthusiasm, very quickly transferred on to the crowd.
“Dance of Gratitude”, a classical dance was performed very beautifully by the Moscow Rasika Dance Group. Chandra das, in his introduction of the group to the audience, mentioned how this dance didn’t belong to earth but was actually imported from the higher planets within the universe. That got everyone excited. And they remained in that state for the entire dance.
This guy was just too quick for my camera ! Not to mention that he was so good with those long sticks, it was very hard to take your eyes of his performance. So much so, that I forgot to click enough snaps of him. This artistic display of traditional eastern martial arts was done by Dina Dayal. I remember watching him last year as well, with great awe and wonder. Like I said, it was the same this year too. It seems, he had learned the ancient technique of protection from a remote school in South India. I didn’t get to ask him, but I bet its somewhere in Kerala.
“Melbournians” love their coffee and yoga. And here, they got plenty of yoga from the twin brothers, who performed a very careful and majestic yoga postures to the delight of the crowd. There was nice music in the background, which had Indian and western music fusion. I think, it was the music of Karunesh, a German music composer, specializing in world fusion and new age music.
A nice pantomime of the Bhagavad Gita was held by a large cast of devotees from the troupe. In this sequence, they covered the background of the Kurusketra war, the workings of the senses, the desires of the mind, Arjuna’s confusion at the battle field, reasons behind Krishna’s descent, Arjuna beholding the universal form and then being satisfied with the Krishna form. I was surprised that they could put such a complicated set of events and philosophy, so very easily to the people. Once again, people just sat there with mouths wide open. They were understanding. You could feel that in the room.
The crowd favourites returned with another around of high voltage performance. They ran in circles, jumped up and down, screamed and used the entire length of the vast stage with so much ease and maintaining their drum beats all the time. WoW !
The Rasika Dance Group put up a nice dance number from an Indian movie, much to the delighted of the crowd. In fact, when I had walked into the venue earlier, this is what I witnessed in the rehearsals. And I was waiting for this piece, because they danced so well….well, like the Indian movie stars. They also quickly climbed up to be crowd favourites.
What a fantastic lecture ! Spot on ! His Holiness Indradyumna Swami gave one of the best talks, I have ever heard, as an introduction to spirituality, Bhagavad Gita, soul and relevance of Bhakti yoga. It just flowed in a well arranged manner, point by point, step by step, clearly intended for the mass of people to understand this great and tough philosophy, in an easy language. He used very nice analogies and examples to explain to people about the soul, the ever changing material body as well as how and why the soul accepts another body.Throughout the lecture, he encouraged people to accept this ancient Indian wisdom for their benefit and requested them, once and for all, to understand the difference of animal and human life. People got it. I am sure many did. The silence was heavy. As devotees, we were so happy. The audience loved every minute of it. They might have had to wait millions of births perhaps, for this chance.
Coming to the end of the program, the Carnavale Dance Troupe performed, “The Shyam Dance”, a Rajasthani village folk dance of the soul’s search for spiritual fulfillment. Very colorful and soul stirring music.
And the grand finale – Kirtan by His Holiness Indradyumna Swami along with his entire cast. It was so melodious, that my ears were glued to every word of the Maha Mantra. I even forgot to sing back with the rest of the crowd. Just sat on the floor, back against the aged Victorian hall wall, turned my camera off and listened.
And then that was it. Very quickly as it had started, it finished. When people got of their chairs, they were shocked that they had already spent a good 2 hrs, which felt something like 30 mins. That’s how the show was arranged. There were no gaps between each performance. They were all connected very closely that there was hardly a time when the audience just sat and starred at the blank stage while the next cast got ready. Not here. In fact, people only slowly rose from their chairs once it ended. They hoped that perhaps, the Manipur drummers, might spring back at them with even larger drums and take them into a wild yet spiritual journey.
Our society is an event driven society. A society that cherishes entertainment. And Le Carnaval Spirituel aimed, intended and did just that. It was an evening of Lights, Colors and Sound. The senses of the audience were actively involved in collecting such precious information which they will keep with them for the rest of their lives. These events also allows the crowd to develop a very important connection with us – Friendship. And that’s because we looked after them again – with great food and a great memorable evening. They will remember this. We will know in days, weeks, months or perhaps even years, before we realize the impact this evening of high voltage performance have had on people.
This event also gave a precious chance for 2 devotees, who put their heart and soul, blood and sweat to make this event as successful as possible. And that’s Sri Krishna Chandra prabhu and Stoka prabhu. You will see their pics in the above collection. I am sure there were others as well who did a lot of work. But these 2 were the centre of all decisions and planning. For the last 4 months, these guys spoke, thought, slept and wrote about this festival. This was the only thing they were concerned about. It was their number 1 priority. And tonight after the show, as they continued with their service of cleaning and packing up, one could see their happiness of having a job well executed and perhaps, even more the chance to have pleased their guru maharaj. Well done guys ! And a huge THANK YOU from all of us !
That’s it !!! Good morning. It’s 3:59 am!!! Gotta go. And oh…sorry for the dark pics…I need a better camera.