Back in 2009, when devotees in Radhadesh, Belgium held a small kirtan weekend with Sivarama Swami and Madhava, just 100 people attended. It was a similarly intimate group the next year, when festival coordinator Manu Magnin, then 19 years old, took over the organizing and invited his second generation friends.
Then things skyrocketed. By 2011, 300 people were attending, and by 2013, around 600. Now Radhadesh Mellows is one of the biggest kirtan festivals in the world. This year the event, from January 23rd to 27th, drew a record 1,400 devotees from fifty countries, and from every continent. A further 100,000 tuned into the livestream online.
On Thursday, as everyone arrived, kirtan went on in the Radhadesh temple room until 9:15pm, featuring a beautiful lamplit darshan of Sri Sri Radha Gopinath and an inaugural address by Sacinandana Swami, setting the mood.
For the next three days, fourteen straight hours of kirtan ran from 10am all the way until about midnight in the community’s yoga hall.
“What’s unique is that we still use the same venue for 1,400 that we used when we were just 100,” says Manu. “So we can only host up to 300 people at a time, and it’s so packed that you can’t see any floor, with people queuing outside to get in. What that means is that there are no dead moments, no better shifts. The energy remains very powerful throughout, because anyone who’s there is there to chant!”