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La Festival of Chariots Celebrates 30th Anniversary

by Greg Heffernan, India Post News Service

Posted August 8, 2006

VENICE, CA: With everything from live theatrical dramas to booths offering curd steaks or books in Spanish about the Hare Krishna Movement, the International Society for Krishna Consciousness of Southern California celebrated its 30th anniversary of revelry along one of the most famous beaches of the United States last Sunday, July 30.

Forty years ago in 1966 the founder and spiritual master of the Hare Krishna Movement, AC Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, had come to the US with less than five dollars in Indian rupees to fulfill the mission of his spiritual master-that of sharing the knowledge of the Vedas and the deep spiritual culture of India with the English speaking world. After almost a year of great difficulty, Srila Prabhupada was able to rent a modest store which he converted into a temple and even introduced the celebration for the Festival of Chariots to San Francisco, California 3000 miles away.

Starting with that one makeshift temple in New York, The Hare Krishna Movement became wildly popular among America's 1960s youth culture. Srila Prabhupada founded the movement on four basic Hare Krishna regulative principles-no sex outside of marriage, no intoxication, no eating of meat and no gambling. In this way Srila Prabhupada told news reporters he was making "hippies into happies."

Nassum Dudakia and his sister Kunti, who hail from Orange County, were celebrating the festival in Venice. They told India Post that they originally grew up with the Hare Krishna Movement in New York. "My mother was from Haiti and my father was from Gujarat and they met in the 'big apple," commented Nassum. "We've been coming every year here since 1991," he said. Nassum's sister, Kunti, who is a student at UCLA, said she really liked the fact the Hare Krishna Movement accepts people regardless of their faith. "There is no color line here," she said candidly. Adding that problems in the world often stem from how out of touch we are with our bodies and souls. Lauren Randolf, who is dating Nassum, and accompanied brother and sister to the festival shared her sensitivity to other religions. "I was raised Christian and now that I'm dating Nassum I'm learning you have to respect other faiths. A lot of my friends have different religious backgrounds and this seems to be something we all need to learn."

Reni Biswas, from Culver City, and a student at Marymount High School in LA, told us she's been coming to the festival since she was five years old and she's been performing Oessi style dance with ODC (Odyssey Dance Circle) at the festival for nearly as long. "I just love all the interesting people down here in Venice who come and explore this festival," she said. "It really changes their stereotypes of our religion and what it's all about."

Despite his advanced age, America's Hare Krishna Movement founder, Srila Prabhupada, circled the globe 14 times on lecture tours that took him to six continents. Before he died on Nov 14, 1977 he had seen ISKCON (International Society of Krishna Consciousness) grow to a worldwide confederation of more than 100 ashrams, schools, temples, institutes and farm communities. He also inspired the construction of several large international culture centers in India. However probably Srila Prabhupada's most significant contribution was his numerous books, more than 50 volumes of authoritative translation and summary studies of the religious classics of India which have been translated into 80 languages.

Whether it's Srila Prabhupada's books, the "free feast," or the gift shops selling incense and Indian fashion, everyone loves the ISKCON day at the beach.

Article in India Post

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