Radhadesh Kulimela to Focus on Service and Honoring Prabhupada

By: Madhava Smullen - 6.4 2018

Kulimela 2008 in Radhadesh, ten years ago

As ISKCON’s second and third generations progress in their lives and Krishna consciousness, their signature festival, Kulimela, is also growing and developing in new ways with every event.

This summer’s Kulimela 2018, to be held in Radhadesh, Belgium, is the tenth anniversary of the first Radhesh Mela, and the eleventh overall Kulimela since 2006. Others have been held in France, Germany, Russia, Siberia, Australia, New Zealand, and, in the U.S., Los Angeles, Alachua, and New Vrindaban.

“When we asked everyone what was the most fun for them at all the different festivals, the most common answer was ‘making friends while doing service together,’” says Sita Bell-Magnin, one of six co-organizers for the Radhadesh Mela. “So we decided to make this an inspirational festival about serving together, and bringing that experience back to your community.”

Kulis will also explore their connection with ISKCON’s Founder-Acharya – the festival’s motto is “Honoring Srila Prabhupada.”

300 to 500 kulis from Europe, the U.S., and India are expected to attend the event, which will run from July 24thto 29ththis year. Among them will be the first devotee teenagers from the Balkans, one of the younger ISKCON communities in the world. 

“They haven’t been so connected to the rest of the Kuli world so far, so it will be really nice to have them,” says Sita.

The Kulimela will start with icebreakers and feature a variety of workshops throughout each day. The Bhaktivedanta Players will teach drama, Gaura Vani will lead a kirtan immersion workshop, and there will be sessions on art, dance, healing therapies, and martial arts.

There will also be an art gallery, run by Drdha Vrata Gorrick from Radhadesh’s Museum of Sacred Art, in which Mela participants will be able to show their work.

Meanwhile in keeping with the theme of “Honoring Srila Prabhupada,” Prabhupada disciples like Bhutabhavana Das, Jayabhadra Das, and Nikunja Vilasini Dasi will share memories and realizations about their guru. Others, such as Kadamba Kanana Swami, have been invited and may be added to the roster later.

In addition, Yadubara and Visakha’s film “Hare Krishna! The Mantra, The Movement and the Swami Who Started it All,” will be screened.

“I think we all feel a strong connection to Prabhupada more than we do to maybe anything else in Krishna consciousness,” says Sita. “He really inspires us. So we hope to deepen that connection.”

Other activities will include forest walks and gardening with local Radhadesh devotees, as well as a big football tournament with a team for each country. There will also be a very inclusive sports day with classic games like the egg (potato) and spoon race, and the three-legged race.

“We feel that sports really help people to have fun and make new friends,” Sita says.

Many kulis are now parents, so for the third generation there will be a kids camp, with a bouncy castle, painting, cupcake decorating, and a forest school in which they’ll do crafts in nature.

Evenings during the Kulimela will be packed with spiritual entertainment such as kirtan performers Gaura Vani and The Kirtaniyas, singer Ananda Monet, award-winning dance group The Samadhi Dance Company, and legendary theater group The Bhaktivedanta Players. Other, as yet unconfirmed acts may include comedians, ballet dancers, magicians, and stunt performers.

“We also really want to encourage a lot of the younger, less well-known performers and kirtaniyas – if you have a talent, please, feel confident to come forward,” Sita says.

The final two days, July 28thand 29th, will see the Kulimela merge with the annual Radhadesh Summer Festival, a thirty-year staple. On this weekend, the community will open itself up to the public from small towns all over Belgium, and 1,500 to 2,000 people are expected. 

Kulis will participate, helping to serve the visitors with market stall prasadam distribution, performances, all-day kirtan, book distribution and more.

“We hope that the Mela will be a great opportunity, especially for the younger kulis, to meet likeminded people from all over the world, and connect a little deeper with our common goal – serving Srila Prabhupada and Lord Krishna,” says Sita.