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THE SANKIRTAN MOVEMENT & WOMEN
Happy Janastami - Krishna's Appearance Day
On Janastami the Hindu world celebrates the Appearance Day of Lord Krishna, the 8th and most complete incarnation of Vishnu. Vishnu is part of the Hindu Trinity of Brahma/Saraswati-Vrishnu/Lakshmi-Shiva/Shakti. Vishnu is the sustaining, preserving aspect of God. Krishna is called the Savior of Humanity. Jesus has this same title and Christianity also has a Trinity similar to the one in Hinduism.
Krishna appeared first in a jail cell in Mathura, India. He performed many miracles, defeated the evil Kamsa and was the charioteer in the Kurukshetra War as described in the Mahabharata and the Bhagavad-Gita. In the Gita Krishna shares the concepts of yoga which existed for thousands of years in other texts. Krishna compiles all the concepts of yoga in one setting with Ajuna on the battlefield of Kurukshetra. Ajuna was the general of the army and his greatest disciple.
The Gita has influenced many great writers, thinkers, social activists like Emerson, Thoreau, Mahatma Gandhi, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, ecological activists and members of the women's movement. Much of the social change in society has happened because of the influence of the Gita.
Five hundred years ago Lord Chaitanya and Nityananda appeared in Bengal, India and started the Sankirtan Movement. Chaitanya is considered by many to be an incarnation of Radha-Krishna in one form. Nityananda is considered to be the incarnation of Balaram, the brother of Krishna. At that time they spread the chanting of the holy name by holding kirtans in various places.
It is believed that by chanting the holy name you are worshiping God in this age of Kali Yuga. Kirtan is more than chanting, however. By chanting you become God conscious and reach a state of mind where you give loving service to God and to humanity. It motivates you to render service to the poor, the greatest service you can give as a devotee. You begin to render service and support to other devotees on the path.
Many of the devotees of Chaitanya were women who helped spread the movement. Jahnava Mata, one of the two wives of Lord Nityananda, held sankirtans when he and his associates in the movement left the Earth plane. She became a teacher, organizer and cook in the movement. Jahnava was instrumental in sustaining and spreading the movement to many devotees in India. Vishnupriya Devi, wife of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, worshiped a deity of Chaitanya and this murti was placed in the Nabadvipa Temple after her death at the age of 92. So she was also instrumental in keeping the Sankirtan Movement alive and well after her husband's departure from the Earth. The movement was maintained and promoted by many female devotees. At most kirtans food is served. Many of the women cooked food at these kirtans, but also taught the philosophy to others and kept the movement alive for future generations.
The movement spread to the West through the efforts of Swami Srila Prabhupada in the 1960's when he came to the United States. In these modern times many females helped to spread the movement in Minneapolis and worldwide.
Every two weeks or so there is a Krishna Kirtan at the Unitarian Society in Minneapolis. A variety of people chant, teach and lead japa at the kirtan. Virajita Singh is one of the women who leads japa meditation and chants from time to time. Sometimes she hosts a kirtan with her husband at their home in Minneapolis.
Another well known kirtan leader in Minneapolis area is Pascale LaPoint who chants along with her harmonium at various yoga studios in Minneapolis and the United States. She has an outstanding voice. Her group is called the Kirtan Path.
Susan Shehata, a member of Sitara and Kalyani, owns One Yoga Studio in South Minneapolis. She is another well known kirtan leader at various yoga studios besides her own. Kirtans can be done in people's private homes and she is involved with some of those kirtans in homes.
Cindy Larson plays the violin and sings in the Wild Moon Bhaktas, another well known kirtan group in the MInneapolis area. She is part of a group which combines tambura, tabla, accordion, violin, tabla, acoustic guitar, bells and other percussion with kirtan and spiritual poetry.
At MHDS Vishnu Mandir, Rajkumari Devi Sukhdeo is their kirtan leader along with her assistant, Geeta Banasar. Known as Devi, she plays the harmonium. Her daughter, Vina, sings at the mandir, also. Geeta has sung at the mandir for a very long time and is also a gifted singer.
These women are in the Minneapolis area. All over the world women lead kirtans and will continue to spread the Sankirtan Movement in all its various forms to all corners of the globe. Happy Janastami! Have a great time at kirtans!
JAI SHRI KIRTANS! JAI SHRI MUSIC! JAI SHRI KRISHNA!