Sri Sri Guru Gaurangau Jayatah

The First Weekend in Russia

by Vrindavanesvari Devi Dasi
Writing from the Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math, St. Petersburg, on the 20th World Tour
of His Divine Grace Srila Bhakti Sundar Govinda Dev-Goswami Maharaj

With two pages of accompanying pictures:

'Sankirttan on Lenin's Doorstep' and 'Public Programme with Ramayana Play'

Two hours chanting in the streets

Hundreds of devotees filled the streets of downtown St. Petersburg on Sunday, jubilantly chanting the Hare Krishna Mahamantra. The broad sidewalks overflowed with participants, and passers-by were sucked into the dancing crowd.

A group of sannyasis led the Harinam party: Sripad Acharyya Maharaj, Sripad Ashram Maharaj, Sripad Siddhanti Maharaj, Sripad Paramahamsa Maharaj, Sripad Avadhut Maharaj, and Sripad Trivikram Maharaj. After two hours of walking by majestic buildings, through vast plazas and over one bridge, the party made its way to the underground metro to catch a train to the public program organized by Sripad Avadhut Maharaj.

Metro to the Ramayana

The evening program began with a drama of the Ramayana, depicting the pastime after Lord Rama rescued Sita Devi from Ravana. Thinking she was tainted after being with Ravana for four years, Lord Rama banished his wife to the forest, where she gave birth to two sons. When they were ten years old, the children went to the kingdom and discovered that Lord Rama was their father. They challenged him to a battle, but Sita Devi intercepted, pleading for peace and reuniting her family.

The production was presented professionally with elaborate costumes and makeup. Rama and Laxman wore red velvet vests lined with sparkling gold fringe and Hanuman sported a very realistic tail and monkey nose. A silver tiara crowned Sita’s head, while beads hung down her forehead and long fake eyelashes accented her expressive face.

Monkey narrators

All of the actors spoke with strong voices and almost melodramatic intensity. The two children that played Sita’s sons also acted as narrators in monkey costumes. They bounced, spun and trod across the stage with impressive gestures, artfully impersonating the many characters. Their body language made their Russian lines understandable to the English-speaking members of the audience.

The set was simply designed with hanging madras’s and curtains, and the ‘stage’ was the elegant black-and-white checkerboard floor of the former ISKCON temple in which the program took place. A broad range of music assisted the storytelling process: Indian vocals against a techno rhythm, upbeat Russian folk music, solemn classical music, and Latin dance music with a catchy Spanish guitar melody. The audience, along with Srila Gurudev, clapped to the beat of this tune at the end of the performance.

“My love, affection and honor to you all.”

Srila Gurudev warmly greeted and embraced the actors, telling them, "I am astonished and extremely happy to see this drama of Rama’s character. I cannot understand the language but I can see the play and your divine mood."

He addressed the audience of over 300: "The whole of India is enlightened by the divine pastimes of Ramachandra, who is the Supreme Personality of Godhead appearing in Treta-yuga. Sripad Avadhut Maharaj has so enthusiastically presented the culture and religious activity of India. I give many thanks to you all for your interest in this drama. I am so happy to see everyone join; my love, affection and honor to you all."

With two pages of accompanying pictures:
'Sankirttan on Lenin's Doorstep'
and 'Public Programme with Ramayana Play'

What's New? - World Tour Information

Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math, Nabadwip: