Krishna Kitchens

From the earliest years the gathering has been attended by Krishna devotees. Most have been members of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) founded by Srila Bhaktivedanta Prabhupada, but some have not been affiliated with that organization. Many times they have been brought by Radhanath Swami from the new Vrindaban community near Moundsville, West Virginia, coming in a school bus lettered with “International Society for Cow Protection”. Other times they have come from an ashram in Seattle, led by a guru named Prithi. At the annual gatherings in West Virginia and Colorado in 2005 & 6, it was a collective effort of several ashrams. Their participation has dwindled in the 2010s; devotees still come, but the kitchens are not as large as they used to be.

They are usually clad in the same saffron robes that they wear in airports and when they were assisting in the serving of the prasadam dinner to the public in their ashrams, but one group from Arizona wears what are civvies in Rainbow terms. Their fare is curried vegetables and potatoes, yellow rice, sweet and picante fruit chutneys, chapatis which are like wheat flour tortillas fried in hot butter, and halvah, a slightly gelatinous mix of wheat flour and honey. From their experience serving in the city they have become practiced and efficient at serving long lines, and they have been lifesavers for many on the most populous days of the gathering.

A video of them at the 2005 West Virginia annual gathering can be viewed here.

Before and during the serving of the food they practice a form of group chanting called sankirtana. A leader sitting on the ground plays a harmonium, which is like small organ with black and white keys, powered by an accordion-like bellows on the back. He sings the Hare Krishna mantra over and over to any of a variety of Indian melodies, then the audience sings the mantra back to the same tune the leader has just sung. This is repeated over and over again, sometimes changing the tune but not the words. Another devotee might be playing a mridanga, an Indian drum like a conga but with a big head on one end and a little head the other. It is played sideways with both hands. But often you will hear the whole range of Rainbow drums, since the chanting is open to outside musicians.

The leader is most often a “he”, but the Arizona group sometimes has sisters leading. That group also uses guitars instead of the harmonium, and their melodies sound more like American jazz than Hindu traditional. The composite kitchen in Colorado was another place that sometimes had sisters at the harmonium.

The Arizona group often has devotees roaming the gathering with 5-gallon buckets asking, “Would you like some Krishna cookies?”. There is another devotee named Soaring Turkey who comes by himself to gatherings, sets up a tipi, and gives classes in quitting smoking.

September 14th, 2016 by John Anderson