First Russian Kuli Mela. a Few Impressions.
Posted September 2, 2007
"KULI - MELA" ... hmmm.... a strange name, one I never came across before, while living all along in India. What is it ...? In north India, the name Kuli (written Coolie) is used for porters who help carry your luggage on train stations for small money. Another similarity that came to my mind was that of the russian bread 'KULI-chki' eaten on Russian Easter. But a 'Kuli' Mela? I only witnessed Diwali melas or Kumbha melas! ... I wondered to myself as Krsna Das popped in the colorfully made New Vrindavan "KuliMela" dvd while the Namahata group hustled up to watch it.
I liked what i was being shown on the screen. There was lots of excitement, tons of events and the young blood Hare Krsna Gurukul / ex-Gurukul students showing off their various talents in rich team spirit.
Finally it struck to me!! Yes 'Kulis' are the "GuruKulis" or the Gurukul students!!
As we watched the mela roll on, I suddenly hear Ananda exclaiming in excitement from behind, "let's have a KuliMela here in Moscow!!" I thought to myself... "hmm... doesn't sound very real, does it.." I was also a bit skeptical about it as I had witnessed the struggling Gurukul structure that had collapsed time and again from lack of funds in Moscow and had then continued solely on devotional desire, some small funding and support from temple leadership. But, with time, I've learnt not to consider anything impossible or too surprising. Especially knowing that not everything is in our hands after all. ;-)
As a few months pass by, I find myself happily invited to the first Russian "KuliMela", duly organized by Ananda. "Wow!! She really did it" I said to myself!
This was the first Kuli Mela ever organized on the Russian soil and was worth experiencing. I wanted to see this in person as well as gladly cover up the event as a photographer too. I came to know of all the hardships that Ananda and her organizing helping "kuli" friends had to undergo, including the stress of venue cancellation at the eleventh hour. But in-spite of the difficulties, the 'Kulis' came through the hurdles with their hard work, sheer enthusiasm and will to make it happen. It didn't seem lavishly funded, but quite adequately provided for, meeting the needs of all attendees and participants. The students looked happy meeting old friends. Kuli humor was high. The Kuli guys n galz were busy lookin' cool, greeting visitors, going through preparations for next event, in between goofing around on Kulie jokes that were not all comprehensible for my non Kuli education.
Well organized, remarkably good attendance, tons of prasad, backed up by maha prasad add-ons as always, fabulous fashion show with modern-ethno, Indo-Russian-Western style designer clothing and make up (by Rasa Haladini, Nimaika, Natasha and others), live music concert (Nikolai Demidov, Ananda, Tulasi Das and many others) and well represented classical Indian and Russian dance performances, wonderfully interesting seminars on family life and various spiritual aspects important to and for the future husbands and wives in making by Bhakti Vigyan Goswami, Dr. Tarsunov and other authoritative figures, fabulous fire show with professional artists performing fire dances, the Kulie Discotheque and much much more. I made new acquaintances, friends and felt very much part of the spirit in which it was being celebrated.
The visibly old run down Soviet era pioneer venue structure had now come alive with a new exuberant spirit of friendship, spiritual insight and multifaceted fresh talents - all working hand in hand in the spirit of Krsna Consciousness. Frankly speaking, I've stopped attending most youth festivals that have strong possibilities of groups of young people ending up in drunken brawls etc..
Attending a Kuli festival, one can easily feel the same young excitement, without the aggression or any other negative elements in it. This makes it so much more special and needed in todays society and often makes one wonder - why can't we have similar norms as practiced in Krsna Consciousness in a normal modern society?
Though never studied in a 'gurukul', I myself attended an English Public school as a student in New Delhi that did start its day with morning assembly and prayers from the Vedas and Bible with the school singing to live music (about 3000 students) at 7 am and had a whole publication unit churning out philosophical and spiritual literature, (that included its own personal interview with Srila Prabhupada). We also had a subject called Culture Course that gave us interesting real stories from spiritual India with morals. Visiting schools here made me think of the dire necessity of introducing some kind of spiritual culture into primary Russian schools and general modern schooling system.
In my opinion, the KuliMela showed a healthy spiritually conscious youth and its role in todays modern society. Most importantly, it showed to the youth - by the youth (inspired by able Gurus), that good living and happiness is not just something to be found in books idealizing it. It is real.
The event was a grand success. We want more of it. Let every school become a Gurukul and every youth festival - a KuliMela. Well done!
Radhadesh Kulimela will take place July 31st to August 3rd 2008 La Reunion & Mela will take place before LA Rathayatra 2009
45 minute video journal of the Moscow event