By Madhava Smullen
Last weekend devotees celebrated the 50th anniversary of Srila Prabhupada’s 1971 vist to Gainesville, Florida, as well as his 125th birth anniversary with a three-day festival. The event, which ran from July 29th to 31st, included speeches from pioneer devotees as well as appreciative words from the Mayor of Gainesville and the President of the University of Florida.
On July 29th, the day on which Srila Prabhupada gave his arrival address at the UF Plaza of the Americas, the program began at 6:45am with kirtan on an outdoor stage at the Plaza, graced with the presence of Srila Prabhupada’s murti. Pioneers Hridayananda Das Goswami, Amarendra Das, Bir Krishna Goswami and Dharma Das – as well as Ananga Manjari Dasi, who wasn’t able to attend but sent her written words – then shared the history of the renowned Krishna Lunch Program and of Prabhupada’s visit.
As recounted in the book “Gargamoney: Serving Srila Prabhupada 1966–1977,” Gargamuni Das first went to Gainesville in 1971, and distributed the classic ISKCON sweet Simply Wonderfuls at the Plaza of the Americas while chanting Hare Krishna. He introduced several people to Krishna consciousness, including Amarendra Das. Soon, the two were serving prasadam to 70 people daily from Amarendra’s house.