By Madhava Smullen

Gaura Mandali, a new Kirtan Academy for children – with plans to introduce adult classes soon – has launched in the New Raman Reti ISKCON community in Alachua, Florida.

The project’s director and, so far, sole teacher Thakura Das, grew up in a setting perfect for meditating on the Holy Names, and had a strong attraction to kirtan from early on.

Born and raised on the Nova Gokula farm in Brazil, simple living and high thinking was the norm for Thakura.

“My dad was the cowherd man at Nova Gokula for thirty years,” he says. “I grew up in a house made of clay and cow dung, like in India. We didn’t have electricity until I was seven. But I felt lucky to be raised like that, in a community of devotees.

“Ever since I was little, I had a really strong attraction to the mridanga – so much so that my parents would have to hide it from me because I was too small and would have broken it. That’s where my love for kirtan began.”

Learning by ear until the age of eighteen, it was a visit to Alachua, and the experience of Wednesday night bhajans with the talented gurukulis there, that inspired him to get serious and study with a teacher. Learning his first mridanga mantras from a book by famed teacher Bablu Das, he continued his education with Visvambhar Sheth of the Mayapuris, Radha-Govindapal Das, and Vrindavan Das of the Vrindavan 24 Hour Kirtan.


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