Crowds of revelers in Dublin, Ireland enthusiastically joined devotees in dancing and chanting the Holy Name to ring in 2020 this New Year’s Eve.
The exhilarating experience has been a tradition for ISKCON Ireland for over three decades, and is well known to the Dublin public.
Started by enthusiastic younger devotees in the early days who wanted to bring the maha-mantra to large crowds, it saw record numbers of devotees participate during the late Tribhuvanatha Prabhu’s tenure in Ireland. For the past fifteen years, another powerfully inspired servant of the Holy Name, Manu Das, has headed up the chanting.
“Both of them have a unique way of capturing the Irish love of music and transfusing it into their kirtan in such a way that the whole crowd gets involved,” says Harinama-goer and kirtan event organizer Supriya Dasi.
This year saw the baton passed to the next generation, as Manu’s son Jayananda and daughter Sita were among those leading the chanting.
Devotees began by pumping themselves up and purifying their consciousness with three-and-a-half hours of kirtan at the ISKCON Dublin Krishna Temple, from 6:30pm to 10pm. An extension of their usual Tuesday night kirtan, it was led by many youth and other devotees including Jayananda, Sita, Pavani, Agatha, Orla, Pushpa, and young Dhruva.
Twenty-five to thirty-five devotees, of diverse nationalities and ages, then headed out onto the streets of Dublin for a Maha Harinama led by Jayananda, Sita, Rosie, and Maha Jvala Das.
Running from 10:30pm till 1:00am, the chanting party started outside the temple on Middle Abbey Street, in Dublin City Centre, and proceeded down Dame Street to Temple Bar, a famous hub of Dublin nightlife which was packed with partygoers.
“As usual, many good spirited people joined the dancing,” says Supriya. “Irish people live to sing and dance, and what could be better for this than the melodic maha-mantra? Many of the onlookers knew the devotees already and could be heard shouting ‘Hare Krishna.’ Some who had met us in previous years joined the Harinama right from the beginning.”
From Temple Bar, the devotees made their way up to Christ Church Cathedral, where people were gathered to count down to the New Year at midnight. Pausing for the countdown, devotees hugged and shook hands, wishing everyone a happy New Year.
They then fired up the kirtan again and headed back to Temple Bar, where they were met with a rapturous welcome.
“It was mental!” says Supriya. “Once people saw Maha Jvala coming in his white dhoti, they started shouting ‘Hare Krishna!’ again. We could barely get through.”
One girl could be overheard saying, “It’s great, the words are really simple! It’s just ‘Hare Krishna,’ ” as she sang and danced along.
When the kirtan was finally reluctantly concluded at 1:00am, many onlookers and participants shouted for more, not wanting to part with the Holy Name.
“There is a word now used in many countries - craic or crack – which is derived from the Gaelic phrase ‘ceoil agus craic,’meaning ‘music and fun,’” says Supriya’s mother Anandamaya Dasi, a senior devotee in ISKCON Ireland. “The Irish are great lovers of music and dance, and are naturally high spirited. They can appreciate people expressing themselves and their faith in this way.”
She adds: “Curious and fun loving by nature, the Irish are not so fundamental about religion now and have opened up to new cultures and traditions. They value diversity and of course join in the celebratory chants. This allows them to take what they can from it, chant in a joyful mood and start their journey back to Krishna, back to Godhead.
Such Harinama Sankirtana on New Year’s Eve and other occasions is, of course, beneficial to devotees too.
“The benefit for the devotees is engaging in active preaching, the life soul of Srila Prabhupada’s mission,” says Anandamaya. “It keeps the profile for the temple high in people’s minds and promotes both the temple and Govinda’s restaurant. It is also an important way for devotees to come together and get each other’s association. By keeping sankirtana central to all we do, we start a new year in prime focus - sharing kirtan, preaching, and love of Krishna.”
Outside of New Year’s Eve, kirtan is also becoming a major focus of ISKCON Dublin’s outreach. The temple, along with sanga groups and the new Mantra Lounge project has worked hard to build an appreciation of kirtan amongst the public. Second generation devotees in particular are now heavily involved in promoting events like Kirtan Dublin, Kirtan Mela Dublin, Govindadvipa Mellows and Kirtan Ireland. Dublin Temple also holds regular programs, with the Tuesday evening Kirtan being especially popular.
Meanwhile, New Year’s Eve Harinama isn’t going anywhere.
“It’s a tradition that we hope will continue for decades to come,” Supriya says.