2nd Tribal convention held in Mayapur
26th of March 2015, saw the inauguration of ISKCON Mayapur’s second annual tribal convention called, ‘The festival of Gau, Ganga, Gita’. This three day convention hosted 600 members from 10 different tribal groups belonging to six Indian states. Some of the tribes that participated were Chakma (Tripura), Chenchus( Orissa), Khasis (Assam), Kuki (Manipur), Mikirs (Assam), Mundas( Bihar, Orissa, West Bengal). HH. Jayapataka Swami (ISKCON’s governing commissioner and Mayapur co director), HH. Bhakti Purushottama Swami (the director of ISKCON Tribal care initiative and coordinator of the event), as well as Sridham Govinda Das (chief coordinator of the tribal care department in ISKCON) warmly greeted several VIPs governing the areas of lush forest homes of the tribal people.
His Excellency Mr. Padmanabha Balakrishna Acharya (the Governor of Assam, Nagaland, Tripura) was the chief guest of the convention. Mr. Balakrishna Acharya played an instrumental role by assisting Srila Prabhupada in the early days of the movement. Also present were, Mr. Sudarshan Bhagat (Minister of state for Rural development, Govt. of India), Mr. Ujjala Viswasa (State Minister for technical education, Govt. of West Bengal), Col. Deoshehe Y. Sema (Ex. minister of Nagaland), Mr. Singha Roy (Sikhya ratna) and Mr. Vikash Bhatacharya (Additional public prosecutor).
A special program was designed so that the tribal visitors could get a taste of sadhana and temple life, as well as aspects of the Gaudia Vaisnava culture and practices. The program began early in the morning at 4.30 with Mangal arati. This was followed by an outdoor program from 5.30 to 8.30 am ending with breakfast prasad. On 27th morning, the program was held on the bank of Ganges and it was attended by the governor and rural minister. The beautiful and auspicious ceremony of Ganga puja was performed, followed by a dance, katha on the glories of Ganga and some discussion on how to keep all rivers clean. On 28th morning, the program was done at the goshala. The importance of cows and cow protection was presented by Dr. Sahadev Das from Andhra Pradesh.
Noon program, which included a seminar and a power point presentation was held every day at Gita Bhavan. There was also an introduction of each tribal group and its people. The tribal people shared their fascinating experiences of living the simple forest village life. On 27th, there was an indoor program at Gita bhavan from 10 am until 1 pm. This included seminars and meeting of top leaders.
Every evening, a stage program was held at Srila Prabhupada’s park in front of the Lotus building. This included many different traditional dances and performances by both the tribal guests as well as ISKCON devotees. In addition to above, there was a trip to Srila Prabhupada’s Samadhi on 27th evening while on 28th evening, there was a visit to Yog pitha. There was also Gita parayana during which devotees together recited verses from Bhagavat Gita. A highlight of the event was the gift distribution to tribal people. Each family personally received a special gift bag from HH. Jayapataka Swami and there a prize of various gifts and funding for the group selected as best performance.
H.H. Jayapataka Swami clearly reminded that the tribal people are very dear to the Lord. In Vrindavan lila, the tribal people use to take the dust of Krsna’s lotus feet and put it all over their body. Also, Lord Jagannath as Nila Madhava used to accept the offering of tribal (sabar) King Biswabasu. So, H.H. Jayapataka Swami reminded that by serving tribal people, we satisfy Lord Krishna. Invited as chief guest and as guest of honour, HH. Bhakti Purusottam Maharaj described how all the speakers encouraged the tribal people, as well as his team by their heart touching words. The tribal people commented that although the government has made some attempt through its outreach programs yet there is nothing like the Krsna focussed, genuine approach of ISKCON devotees.
The overall event turned out to be a big success in establishing relationships between Mayapur devotees and tribal visitors. They found the event to be a unique experience with an educational twist. Perhaps unknown to some, tribal people by nature are very pious and soft hearted. Protected by their simple lifestyle, they are able to take to Krsna consciousness very easily. Our preachers have already made way into the hearts and minds of the tribal people, and many of them have become sweet and sincere devotees. Now with some new inspiration from sadhu sanga and Mahaprabhu’s mercy, they can enthusiastically take what they have learnt home with them, and continue to deepen their practice and share with others.
From now, the aim of the project is to provide a complete Vedic support package of spiritual, emotional, health, educational and social care. Maharaj and his team want to counsel, uplift and encourage the tribal people as well as create facilities. Some of the objectives of the initiative are:
1. To worship the Lord in their house
2. To study holy scriptures like Srimad Bhagavatam and Bhagavad Gita
3. To chant the holy name of Lord Krsna
4. To build prayer hall in every village
5. To attend spiritual discourse
1. Setting up a regular health camp
2. Bringing sick people to city for better treatment
3. Establishing first aid health centres
4. Conducting seminars for health care awareness
1. Academic education
2. Moral education
3. Character building
4. Vocational training
6. Supplying study materials
7.Sponsoring students for higher education in Vrindavan and Mayapur
8. Opening schools
1. Better process for cow protection and agriculture
2. Awareness on the matter of cleanliness
3. Self-help groups
Bhakti Purushottama Maharaja and his team intend to venture out into Assam and Tripura immediately. Accompanied by some well-wishers from Dubai, they intend to visit various places, and from there plan on how to proceed with the project. Assam & Nagaland governor also expressed his desire to utilise his power in Prabhupada’s mission towards tribal people. Maharaj has big plans on developing the tribal care initiative and helping the tribal people, who have been forgotten and neglected as a result of the expanding materialistic culture in India and the popularity of passionate city life.
To know more about ISKCON’s tribal care initiative and contributing to it, please visit: http://iskcontribalcare.com/