This event had been taking place every two years, and we had been hoping that HH Jaya Pataka Swami would be able to participate this year, but unfortunately he could not be amongst us in his physical form, since his bad health had prompted him to decide for a surgery of a liver- and kidney transplantation. I had met Maharaja at the Kolkata airport - I flew to Dhaka and he was on the way to Chennai to prepare for the surgery. I had happily taken advantage of the opportunity to exchange some words with him and also offer him a copy of my book, expressing that we would pray for his quick recovery and protection during the evening kirtans at our Convention at Rup Sanatan Tirtha.
We had the good fortune of welcoming HH Lokanath Maharaja as the chief guest speaker and kirtaniya, who is very popular in Bangladesh. His evening kirtans were simply wonderful! At some point even HH Bhakti Purusottama Maharaja couldn't control himself and started dancing, which is rarely to be seen - it indeed means a lot! We also welcomed Akinchana Krishna Prabhu as kirtaniya (who often travels with BB Govinda Maharaja), and HH Bhakti Purusottama Maharaja, Gauranga Prema Maharaja and several other Maharajas who participated in the safari: Bhakti Nrsimha Swami from Africa, Bhakti Nityananda Swami from Mayapur and Amiya Vilasa Swami from Bombay.
This year we were once again deeply contemplating what kind of gift we could offer to our honorable guests to complete the loving exchange. They had flooded our hearts with the pure chanting of the holy name and wonderful Krishna katha - the highest gift in the three worlds, and out of deep gratitude we wanted to reciprocate and offer something in return: something typical Bangladeshi, and at the same time something useful and practical - not just a gift which would simply serve as a formality.
Of course, nothing beats the Bangladeshi gamchas - they are known to be the very best! Once a devotee has started using Bangladeshi gamchas, he would not want to use any other gamcha in the world! So we offered everybody such menial gift - in all humility. Since Krishna promises He would accept a simple gift of a leaf, fruit, flower and water if offered with love and devotion, we felt assured that surely our gift would also be accepted by these great souls! Since HH Lokanath Maharaja already received the same gift two years ago, I cheekily suggested to trade his old gamcha for the new one, since we would all be happy for the maha gamcha.....
But this was not everything - we thought of another typical Bangladeshi item: something of almost ancient, traditional technology which is becoming lost and forgotten in these modern days and thus even hard to find. It is called "sitolpati" - a cooling mat made from a certain kind of natural grass, which is placed ontop of the bed and meant to cool the body during the night in the hot season. All previous acaryas and great personalities like Narottama Das Thakur and Jagannath Misra would have surely used such a mat to get relief during the hot summer nights, before electric fans and AC were invented. Just see - nature indeed provides everything! And keeping our body cool, we will surely also keep a cool head - something which every sannyasi needs in these crazy times of Kali Yuga....!
By offering such practical gifts we were hoping to conquer a little corner within the hearts of our honorable guests, so they may remember us here in Bangladesh while taking their bath and taking rest, and thus will hopefully shower their mercy upon us again in the near future.
As usual, the prasadam for our respected guests was out of this world! The lunch consisted of around thirty preparations - each one being so uniquely different in its flavor and consistency. Here in Bangladesh we can understand Prabhupada's statement, that "Bengalis are the only people in the world who know how to eat....!"
Our international safari group thoroughly enjoyed attending the festival, and they received their first insights into the culture of Vaishnava hospitality. I conducted a three-hour program with them on the topic of spiritual culture, sharing personal realizations and insights of the transformation I had received here over the past 18 years. I introduced my book on spiritual culture being Krishna's divine system - I had taken some copies with me, which were eagerly received.
On the 12th of March I traveled on to Khulna after offering the morning class......
Your servant, Devaki dd