By Sabhapati Dasa – Australian Bus Sri Sri Gaura Nitai Travelling Sankirtan Party
Early June 1974 our old reliable Bedford bus reached the Northern Queensland city of Townsville, 850 miles north of Brisbane.
Townsville was a conservative red neck town, and was home to the biggest army barracks in Australia. Ironically at that time there were also a lot of hippies hanging around visiting the tropical Magnetic Island, and passing through on their way to the hippy enclaves around Cairns another 250 miles to the North.
With a population of over 100,000 it was one of Australia’s larger regional towns. As we traveled from town to town, we would distribute BTG s all week and put on a Sunday feast program. Often attracting hundreds of people.
Travelling with our Beautiful Gaura Nitai deities and performing 4 offerings and arotiks every day, their Merciful Lordships showered their blessings upon thousands of people.
We hit the streets on Monday morning. Myself, Gaura Mandala Bhumi, Krtagama (USA) and Somendranath distributed BTG,s and invitations to the Sunday feast. We held all of our programs in some public park or on some beach Esplanade. Towsville had a magnificent esplanade so we were to hold the program there. Not once in 18 months did we ever get official permission to hold a program in a public place. Besides we were Lord Chaitanyas Sankirtan men, fully under his protection. And didn’t need some official permission.
Bhutanath and Narayana took care of the deities and prasadam. Also going out and plastering the town with posters advertising the Sunday feast.
Over the whole week we sold 3000 BTG,s and gave out so many invitations.
By the end of the week so many people (mainly hippies) told us they were coming to the feast, so we were expecting a large crowd.
On the Sunday, as usual Narayana , Bhutanatha and Gaura Mandala Bhumi set up all the gas cookers and pots on the grass next to the Esplanade. And began to prepare the feast. I was confident that we would get a big crowd so told the cooks to prepare more than usual.
Near the advertised time, we brought their lordships from the bus altar and placed them on the outdoor palanquin altar, giving all the guests the opportunity to have their darshan.
But something was going astray. I was expecting a large crowd ,and no one had turned up.
So Gaura Mandala Bhumi started the kirtan and we would just do our normal program.
Ever so slowly some guests began to arrive, after half an hour there were probably about 50 guests.
As usual we stopped the kirtan and I gave a short talk. Slowly, the crowd was growing.
Gaura Mandala Bhumi and myself would always put on a short play, usually the "Boatman".
By now there were probably 150 guests, so after the play we held another kirtan and many of the hippies joined in. We would always show them the Swami step and everyone would quickly catch on. By the end of the kirtan the crowd had grown considerably.
Now it was time to serve the feast. Bhutanath and Narayana were expert cooks and the feasts were always fabulous. The Hare Krishnas were famous amongst the Australian hippy community for serving delicious prasadam.
After 2 hours the crowd was still increasing, and everyone was enjoying the program. The prasadam was starting to run out, so I asked the 3 cooks to cook more and they expertly prepared more rice, subji, dhal and halvah. No one was going to miss out.
With a crowd of over 500, I told the boys that we would do another program. So we had another kirtan, another talk, another play, another kirtan and finally we served out all the prasadam. This was our most successful program so far.
As night time came, thoroughly exhausted we cleaned up all the area.
Narayana was expert at cooking sweet rice and as we lay around so contented with our program being so successful, he brought out the delicious mango sweet rice which he had stashed. We all became intoxicated with Sri Sri Gaura Nitais unfathomable mercy and collapsed in ecstasy.
The perfect ending to a perfect day.