This year’s Prabhupada Festival in Los Angeles, running over the Memorial Day Weekend of May 25thand 26th, will feature the theme “Cooking for Srila Prabhupada.” Senior devotees will share memories of personally serving Srila Prabhupada as his cooks, and will perform cooking demos based on his instructions.
Started in 1992, the Prabhupada Festival has been running for twenty-seven years, with the aim of celebrating everything the ISKCON Founder-Acharya has given to the world, hearing stories about him, and bonding his family of disciples and grand disciples. For fifteen years it was organized by Devala Das.
This year Muktacarita Das, who grew up at the Los Angeles New Dwarka temple, is organizing the festival along with his wife Prema Vrsti Dasi and a seventy-five per cent next generation crew.
“I started helping out with kitchen management at the temple in 2005,” he says. “I love using the skills I’ve learned in the business world in Prabhupada’s service.”
1,500 to 2,000 people are expected at the festival over the two days, when the largely devotee-owned Watseka Ave alongside the temple will be turned into a sort of block party, with colorful tents and stalls, and lanterns strung everywhere.
While most participants will be devotees, Muktacarita hopes that a percentage this year and in the coming years will be local Southern Californians outside of the ISKCON community.
“There are over 10 million people in L.A. county, and if the Prabhupada Festival can attract even 1% of these souls, then that will be a huge success,” he says. “We want to present Srila Prabhupada as the greatest humanitarian, whose books helped people’s wellbeing so much and showed them how to approach the problems of life. We hope festival guests will get attracted that way, and then dig deeper.”
After the morning program and breakfast prasadam on Saturday, Srila Prabhupada’s personal cooks Arundhati Dasi, Srutirupa Dasi, Palika Dasi, Kishori Dasi, Srutakirti Das, Harikesa Das, and Kausalya Dasi will share their memories of cooking for Srila Prabhupada, along with instructions and guidance in the art that they received from him.
After lunch, at least 100 devotees are expected to be shuttled to a maha-harinama at Venice Beach and Santa Monica, where many tourists from around the world will hear the Holy Names.
“Remembering Srila Prabhupada is great, but we also want to put his instructions into practice,” says Muktacarita.
In the evening, festivalgoers will gather in front of a projector on the temple lawn for a “Movies Under the Stars” experience, enjoying hot tea and popcorn as they watch the Hare Krishna! film about Srila Prabhupada’s life and achievements.
Meanwhile on Sunday, Prabhupada’s cooks will put on an outdoor cooking demo, showing how to make parathas and subji along with other preparations Prabhupada-style.
Narrations of Prabhupada pastimes, likely extending beyond the cooking theme, will continue for several hours during the day.
Later, there will be a Rathayatra festival down the temple street, with a small Rathayatra cart carrying a devotee’s personal Jagannath Deities and the Srila Prabhupada murti from the temple.
Next there will be a boat festival, simulating the Vrindavana boat festival, in a large inflated pool on the temple lawn, which will be beautifully decorated with flowers and festoons. As ecstatic kirtan goes on, pujaris will pull small Deities of Radha Krishna on a teak boat on the water.
Finally, the day, and the Prabhupada festival, will end with prasadam and kirtan, which will go on late into the night.
“I hope everyone leaves encouraged, inspired and enthusiastic about ISKCON’s founder, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Praphupada,” says Muktacarita.
“Everyone in this world has to look up to someone,” he adds. “We all do that, whether it’s a sports star, musician, or successful businessperson. But all those people will eventually let you down. I have found, though, that Srila Prabhupada will never let you down. He always has your best interests in mind. I feel that if you want to put your faith in someone, he is the right person – and I just want to share that realization with everyone.”