ISKCON Houston 1st Kirtan Festival

 

Kirtan Fest Houston brings together kirtan artists who travel around the world.

This is your chance to participate in several days of sanga and Bhakti right in Texas. Join voices and hearts with many great souls.

There are a number of wonderful kirtan festivals in the United States. Bhakti Fest takes place several times a year in Joshua Tree, California. Sadhu Sanga, for the last few years, has been held in Boone, North Carolina. Then, there are a number of New Year’s Eve kirtan marathons in the United States.

For anyone that recognizes the power of bhakti, these large gatherings are especially powerful. Sadhu Sanga and Bhakti Fest each attract several thousand bhaktas. The power of sankirtana (group chanting) is spreading, and with good reason.

Beyond the beautiful sounds and rhythms, there is a special atmosphere. Bliss. Devotion. Whatever you want to call it. That’s what bhakti is all about. In fact, one of the translations for bhakti is devotion. When you practice sankirtan that special feeling is magnified a thousand times.

 

Kirtan Fest Houston

Now, there’s a kirtan festival in Texas.  Labor Day weekend. September 2 to September 4.  The venue is the most beautiful ISKCON temple.

HH Giriraja Swami and HH Bhakti Sundar Goswami are two of the ISKCON leaders that will grace the attendees. Born in Syria, HH Bhakti Sundar Goswami has spent much of his adult life in Spain and Latin America. HH Giriraja Swami left Chicago and a promising career after he met Srila Prabhupada. He spent much time in India. Before returning to the U.S., he oversaw ISKCON’s activities in Mumbai, Mauritius, South Africa, Spain, Portugal, Sri Lanka, and Pakistan.

Karnamrita Das is a recording artist steeped in tradition. She has a deep knowledge of the vedas and Sanskrit, having grown up in a Vaishnava home. While she spanned her artistic wings leaving the kirtan scene, like a monarch butterfly, she came back to her roots and embraced the beauty of sankirtana.

Gopi Gita Dasi is an instructor at the ISKON academy in Dallas. She is also one of the kirtaneers at the Houston festival.

Amala Kirtan Das is a Brazilian-born musician who now graces devotees in Austin and San Antonio with his ecstatic kirtan. He, too, will be at Kirtan Fest along with San Antonio’s Advaita Acharya Das. Both have a knack to inspire people with their rhythms and personal energy.

Advaita quotes the scriptures (Naradiya Purana, Prahlada-vakya) to explain why we chant.

“Compared to that person who is attached to chanting japa (beads), the person who performs loud chanting of the holy name of Sri Hari is one hundred times better. This is because the person who chants japa purifies himself, whereas the person who chants the holy name loudly in kirtana purifies himself, all those who are with him, and everyone else who hear the holy vibration.”

The maha mantra is widely celebrated. It’s always the grand finale at Bhakti Fest and is the mainstay at Sadhu Sanga and the upcoming festival in Houston. Advaita explains that “maha means great… great mantra for upliftment and restoration of our original loving nature that will swell in your heart more and more, the more you chant.”

Chaitanya-bhagavata 1.16 states, “The animals, birds, and insects cannot chant the holy name, but by hearing the holy name chanted they can benefit. Chanting the japa of the holy name of Krishna purifies oneself, but the loud sankirtana of the holy name of Krishna benefits all living beings. Therefore, loudly chant the holy name of Krishna in kirtana, and you will get one hundred times the benefit of chanting japa. This is the verdict of all the sastras.”

 

It Feels Good

Girish is a frequent Bhakti Fest musician. About why we should chant, he said, “Every one of us is born to sing. Each and every one of our bodies is a unique musical instrument. Are we a cello, or are we a flute, or trombone in this symphony of life?”

Girish pointed to research that validates what I learned as a young kid. Singing feels good.

“It’s scientifically proven that singing is really really good for us. Singers have lower cortisol levels, by about 15 percent. It activates the parasympathetic system. It lowers our blood pressure and calms our mind.”

And, especially when we do so with groups of people (sankirtana). Think

What’s more, Girish says when you sing in sanga (community of likeminded people), “Our heart beats and brain waves sync up.”

Girish said that freeing the voice is freeing the person. Moreover, “Our voice is a bridge between the inner world and the outer world. Singing and chanting is the best way to bring that forth. It’s not about having an amazing voice. I myself identify as a drummer who sings. Live your life so that when you die, the world cries.”

Girish told us that the word voice is related to the word invocation. Both come from the Latin  voxdictionary.com defines invocation as the act of invoking or calling upon a deity, spirit, etc., for aid, protection, inspiration, or the like; supplication. Another definition is a form of prayer invoking God’s presence, especially one said at the beginning of a religious service or public ceremony. So, that can be interpreted as chanting is a form of invoking that connects one with a higher spirit.

Girish first explored devotional singing when he was in college. There,  he found Kundalini yoga. Then, he deepened his chanting practice when he lived as a monk for five years. He studied Sanskrit and translated many mantras.

 

Girish’s Tips for Singing

1    Find your key. The majority of women are most comfortable in the key of A. On the other hand, men usually prefer C.

2    Relax the jaw, tongue and throat. Try a few lion’s breaths before you start to sing.

3    The dan tien (a few fingers below the belly) is the root of the voice. In Daoist practices this spot is special. It’s where energy brews. A sea of qi (prana). Similar to with yogic breathing, expand the flower pot, beginning here.

Advaita’s Tips for First Time Chanting

“We invite you again for complete chant-dance mantra united experience that will invoke more light and shine in your hearts and into the troubled world we all share,” said Advaita. For devotees that want to bring a friend or loved one to the festival, Advaita has tips for newbies.

1) Get as close to the kirtan circle as possible. Imagine fire. The closer you are, the more wholesome is the experience.

2) Don’t burn yourself.  Respect the fire. Respect kirtan sound and you will be able to feel something without touching it, and see something with your eyes closed.

3) Don’t come to kirtan tired. Don’t over eat, or eat not enough.

4) Remember your body is a temple. Focus on PPP:  Posture. Pronunciation. Presence.

 

Let us reserve you a spot.

HK

 

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