A few days before his sixty-ninth birthday, Srila Prabhupada set out for America on 13th August 1965. He got a free ticket to travel to New York from the proprietor of Scindia Steamship Company, Smt. Sumatee Morarji. He was the only passenger on board that small weathered cargo ship named Jaladuta. In his possession were a suitcase, an umbrella, a supply of dry cereal, about seven dollar’s worth of Indian currency (approximately Rupees Forty) and several boxes of books. On the way, the Jaladuta docked in:
Colombo (August 17), Cochin (August 22), Port Sa'id (September 2) Boston Harbour (September 17) and New York on 19th September 1965.
The Jaladuta, under the command of Captain Arun Pandia, whose wife was also aboard, left at 9 A.M. on Friday, August 13, 1965. Srila Prabhupada sat in his stuffy cabin which rolled back and forth with the motion of the sea. He suffered from sea sickness, dizziness and vomiting. He also had two heart-attacks but survived by the mercy of Lord Krishna.
When the Jaladuta arrived in New York Harbor thrity-seven days later, Srila Prabhupada was utterly alone. He had come to America knowing no one, with absolutely no visible means of support, and with only the meager handful of possessions he had carried on board the ship. He had no money, no friends, no followers, not his youth, good health or even a clear idea of how he would accomplish his far-reaching objective to present the spiritual knowledge of the Vedas to the entire Western society.
Several years later, a disciple discovered the Jaladuta diary Srila Prabhupada had kept during his passage from India on the steamship Jaladuta. Inside was a poem, handwritten in Bengali, that Srila Prabhupada had written on board the ship just after it had arrived in Boston harbor. The poem beautifully captures Srila Prabhupada’s first impressions of Western civilization and reveals his heartfelt determination to change the consciousness of America.
Srila Prabhupada expressed his humble faith in Lord Sri Krishna and the special instruction of his spiritual master, who had instructed him to spread the teachings of Krishna consciousness throughout the English-speaking world.
My dear Lord Krishna… How will I make them understand this message of Krishna consciousness? I am very unfortunate, unqualified and the most fallen. Therefore, I am seeking Your benediction so that I can convince them, for I am powerless to do so on my own. I am sure that when this transcendental message penetrates their hearts, they will certainly feel engladdened and thus become liberated from all unhappy conditions of life.
This poem was written on September 18, 1965. Just twelve years later, on November 14, 1977 Srila Prabhupada passed away in Vrindavan, India, at the age of eighty-one. What did Srila Prabhupada accomplish during this brief period, having begun with nothing and at an age when most are ready to retire?
Major global events around the world
The global celebrations for ISKCON’s 50th anniversary will be flagged off by mega-events in India and America that will track Srila Prabhupada’s epic journey on the Jaladuta from Kolkata to Boston in 1965.
On August 13th, the day that Prabhupada boarded the Jaladuta, devotees in Kolkata where Prabhupada boarded the Jaladuta have planned a VIP event at Khidirpur Dock. This will be followed by a programme on August 14th at the Ravindra Sarovar auditorium for several key supporters, senior disciples of Prabhupada and thousands of congregation members. A national youth festival with delegates travelling from all over India will be held on August 15th at the prestigious Science City Auditorium. The culmination of the grand celebrations will see 25000 people attending a satsang and kirtan programme at the Netaji Indoor Stadium.
The Kolkata events will be followed by a programme organized by Bhaktivinode Swami in Cochin, South India. Prabhupada’s ship, the Jaladuta stopped at Cochin to load Srila Prabhupada’s Bhagavatam set before leaving for America. Devotees in Colombo in Sri Lanka have also planned a grand kirtan along Harbour Road with giant cut-outs of Prabhupada to celebrate the day the Jaladuta docked there.
To commemorate Prabhupada’s landing in Boston, devotees have planned major festivities from September 17 to 19th. The main event in Boston is planned to be held at the famous Fanniel Hall and will be attended by VVIPs, celebrities, senior ISKCON devotees and hundreds of other community members. Other events being planned for the weekend celebrations include a boat ride around Boston harbour and a kirtan procession at Boston pier.
What our centre will do
Depending on the resources available at our centre, we will organise a few of the points beneath as this will officially kick-start the 50th anniversary celebrations at our centre.
- VIP Event
Organise a special event with local VIPs (politicians, business leaders, faith representatives, civil servants and donors) in the temple or in a hired hall to celebrate the Jaladuta journey. This could be done on the actual day Prabhupada departed (13th August 1965) or the day Prabhupada arrived in Boston (17thSeptember 1965) or in any weekend near these dates that may suit your local needs.
You could include the following in the VIP event:
- Speeches by senior devotees on the significance of Srila Prabhupada’s journey and how he carried the message of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and the Bhagavad-gita on the orders of his spiritual master to deliver the whole world
- Speeches by dignitaries citing the relevance of Prabhupada’s message to modern times
- Plays about Srila Prabhupada
- Music and dance appropriate for the audience
- Presenting of 50th anniversary souvenirs to VIP guests (if available)
- Prasadam feast
- Youth festival
- Festival with special interactive programmes, lectures, debates, quiz contests, plays, team-building exercises, games and entertainment
- Invite local youth icons if possible
- Seminar or discussion on issues of topics of interest to your local youth
- Involve local government representatives who look after youth empowerment
- Partner with local youth organisations that can align to ISKCON
- Kirtan festival
- 24 hour kirtan festival with the best kirtaniyas in your area
- Publicise widely in the congregation, local media and other Hindu organisations around your centre
- Invite famous kirtaniyas or senior devotees where possible
- Have a wide range of musical instruments and invite various artistes where appropriate
- Maha Harinama
- Organise a maha-harinama procession with as many congregation devotees as possible
- Add some attractions to the harinama: deities carried on palanquins or small carts, devotees in costumes, bullock carts and other attractions where possible, banners of the 50th anniversary
- Optionally, have a festival at the beginning or the end, either in the temple or in a park or in a hired hall with some local VIPs and dignitaries. If a full-scale festival is not possible, try to organise a play or a dance or some form of entertainment at the end of the procession with lectures by senior devotees
- Maha Sunday programme
- On the Sunday nearest to a Jaladuta milestone, you can convert your Sunday programme into a Jaladuta programme
- Invite senior devotees to lecture about Prabhupada’s journey on the Jaladuta. This can be a series of lectures if appropriate, spread over a few days; or just on the single Sunday
- Enact a play centred around Prabhupada’s journey
- Sing ‘Markine bhagavad-dharma’ and other songs in the temple room or during the Sunday programme
- Readings of the Jaladuta Diary and reflections by senior devotees
- Posters of ISKCON 50 and announcements of major ISKCON 50 events around the world
- If you cannot do this on a Sunday, you could just convert the above into a special Jaladuta Realisations event
Jaya Srila Prabhupada!