I n 2019, kirtan is readily available anywhere in the world. Kirtan is daily performed in temples and on the streets across the globe. Every year, more kirtan events are held, some drawing hundreds of thousands. Kirtan recordings and albums are available online at any time. Even so-called mainstream culture in the Western world is embracing kirtan as a form of meditation in the music and yoga scene.
Kirtan is now available for all. But it wasn’t always like this. Before the 15th century, the chanting of God’s own holy names was a sacred activity reserved for the highest of ecclesiastic society in the inner sanctums of temples.
Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, who appeared in West Bengal, India, in 1486, inaugurated a revolution when He took the chanting of Krishna’s holy names to the streets.
Lord Caitanya predicted:
prthivite ache yata nagaradi grama
sarvatra pracara haibe mora nama
“In every town and village, the chanting of My name will be heard.” (Caitanya-bhagavata, Antya 4.126)
Not only would kirtan be chanted by those other than caste brahmanas, but it would be chanted in every town and village of the world. And this is so: the public chanting of the holy names is now practiced all over the world.
Sridhama Mayapur is the place where the sankirtana movement, the movement of public and congregational chanting of the Lord’s names, began. It is considered to be the spiritual capital of the world.
Not long ago, Mayapur was little other than a collection of rice fields in a remote area of West Bengal. At that time, the great saint Bhaktivinoda Thakura expressed the following desire: “When will that day come when the fair-skinned foreigners will come to Sri Mayapur-dhama and join with the Bengali Vaisnavas to chant Jaya Sacinandana, Jaya Sacinandana? When will that day come?”
That day has arrived. In Sridhama Mayapur, the birthplace of the worldwide sankirtana movement, the Lord’s holy names are now chanted daily by people from over 60 countries of the world.
It is only appropriate that one of the world’s largest kirtan events takes place every year in Sridhama Mayapur. ISKCON Mayapur’s annual Gaura-purnima festival has been celebrated every year since 1972, drawing thousands of visitors from around the globe. In 2012, an annual Kirtan Mela was added to the Gaura-purnima festivities. For four days, for ten hours a day, followers of Lord Caitanya from around the world join together to chant the holy names of the Lord congregationally.
This year was the eighth annual Mayapur Kirtan Mela. Thousands of devotees crowded the Sri Mayapur Candrodaya Mandir and raised their arms and their voices in front of the most merciful Deities of Sri Sri Panca-tattva. Kirtan leaders included HH Lokanath Swami, HH Radhanath Swami, HH BB Govinda Swami, HH Niranjana Swami, and many others.
“The Krishna consciousness movement has established its center in Mayapur, the birth site of Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, to give men the great opportunity to go there and perform a constant festival of sankirtan-yajna.” (Srila Prabhupada, Srimad-Bhagavatam 5.19.24 Purport)