ISKCON 50: Four Day Celebration is a Success


Photos: Murali Santhana, Concert pictures by Thejas & Gita Jayanti pictures by Geetha Ravula

HOUSTON: ISKCON 50, the 50th anniversary of the founding of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness in New York City in 1966 by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada [1896-1977], was celebrated in Houston over four consecutive days, beginning with a formal gala on Thursday, December 8 at the society’s state-of-the art neo-Vedic temple on West 34th Street. The Houston festivities were part of the second major “ISKCON 50” celebration held in the U.S. in 2016, following a Washington, D.C. gala in November which was addressed by Tulsi Gabbard, America’s first Hindu Congresswoman, along with political and interfaith leaders in the nation’s capital.


The Houston gala attracted more than 340 guests from government, business, education, medicine, interfaith/religious organizations, media, and entertainment as well as visiting ISKCON leaders. Featured speakers included Dr Ravi Gupta, Director of Religious Studies at Utah State University (after being home-schooled by Krishna conscious parents, he graduated from Boise State as a teenager and became one of the youngest students to ever receive a PhD at Oxford University). Dr. Helen Ebaugh, who has taught World Religions at the University of Houston for forty years, praised ISKCON’s participation in local interfaith dialogue, and Judge R.K. Sandill of Harris County’s 127th District Court—the first district court judge in Texas of South Asian descent—commended ISKCON’s cultural and spiritual contributions in places he has lived, including Toronto, London and Houston.


Also speaking were Malati Devi, a leading senior woman disciple of Srila Prabhupada who pioneered ISKCON in London and Ohio; Sesha Das, acting chairman of ISKCON’S Governing Body Commission; Joshua Greene, author of Swami in a Strange Land, a new biography on Swami Prabhupada; Huber Hutchin Robinson, General Secretary of NIOS (North American Institute for Oriental and Occidental Studies); and a representative for Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, a longtime supporter of ISKCON-Houston.


Judge Ravi Sandill



Malati Devi

Special guests also included Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg; Pat Hallisey, Mayor of League City and his wife Janice; Dr. Catherine O’Brien, vice chancellor of San Jacinto College; David Williams, Principal at Seabrook Intermediate School; Matt Khan of Interfaith Ministries of Greater Houston, who remarked, “The hospitality was exceptional and I learned a great deal about the history of ISKCON.” Also attending were Rev. Gena Davis of Houston’s grace Episcopal Church, a certified yoga teacher who incorporates yoga in her ministry; Rev. David Carter of the Unitarian Church of Wichita, Kansas; representatives of the Focolare community; board members of Houston’s Rothko Chapel; and Dr. Zahra Jamal, Associate Director of the Boniuk Institute for Religious Tolerance at Rice University. Representatives of Hindu organizations included those from BAPS, Voice of Sanatan Hinduism, Hindus of Greater Houston, ICC, the Hindu Heritage Foundation, Ashtalaksmi Temple, Sri Sita Ram Foundation, Mahatma Gandhi Library, Banke Bihari Pariwar, the Indo American Political Group and the Youth Leadership Development Program (YLDP). The gala also featured art and devotional music (kirtan) by local artists and a unique ice sculpture and rangoli (colored powder) depiction of the ISKCON logo.


Certificate presentation by the representative for Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee and Manasi Ganga



Anuttama Prabhu with the ISKCON logo Ice Sculpure

On Friday, December 9, a special musical tribute to the famous musician, George Harrison, was presented as part two of ISKCON 50. Joshua Greene, author also of the biography, Here Comes The Sun: The Spiritual and Musical Journey of George Harrison and acoustic guitarist/vocalist, Godfrey Townsend—who has performed with rock greats including John Entwistle, bassist of The Who; Jack Bruce, bassist and vocalist of Cream; Dave Mason, guitar/vocalist of Traffic; and Alan Parsons Project—presented 90 minutes of fascinating audio/visual clips from George’s childhood through his musical and spiritual journey, and that, along with the superb music, earned them a standing ovation. Besides George Harrison’s love of India, the sitar, Ravi Shankar and his studying meditation in Rishikesh, George met ISKCON’s founder-acarya Srila Prabhupada, chanted the Hare Krishna mantra, put spirituality into his songs, donated $19,000 for the printing of Krshna: the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and he also donated the property that is now the site of Bhaktivedanta Manor, ISKCON’s largest temple in Europe.


Godfrey Townsend




On Saturday, December 10, Gita Jayanti—the appearance of the Bhagavad-gita—was honored as the third part of the ISKCON 50. Srimad Bhagavad-Gita is India’s timeless classic which inspired Mahatma Gandhi, and is also known as the book that caused a non-violent revolution that rocked the world! Saturday marked the actual day that Lord Krishna spoke Bhagavad-gita to His great friend and disciple—Arjuna. Co-sponsors of the auspicious event were Ashirwad a blessing-A Lifestyle Vedic School, the Mahatma Gandhi Library of Houston and Voice of Sanatan Hinduism. A Bhagavad-gita doll display by Amani Krishnaswami, featuring Krishna’s universal form, the dice match and battlefield of Kurukshetra was presented. All 18 chapters were read—700 shlokas—over four hours, and a fire sacrifice or yajna was performed. Chapter summaries were provided by ISKCON’s His Holiness Bhakti Sundar Goswami and His Grace Radhika Raman Das (Dr. Ravi Gupta). A children’s competition—“Gita Fest”—was held, with kids participating from ‘Ashirwad a blessing,’ the Ashtalakshmi temple, Goswami Academy, ISKCON Sunday School and many kids from the Houston area. Bhakti Sundar Goswami, Sesa Das, Radhika Raman Das and Mrs. Geetha Ravula served as the judges. 25 kids participated in three categories, with three winners in each category. Each child received a participants’ certificate. In the evening HH Hanumat Presaka Swami and Sesa Das discussed the essence of the Bhagavad-gita and its application in daily life. ISKCON’s Vrinda Boodram coordinated the event, which also featured kirtan by members of the ISKCON youth traveling bus party.


Gita Jayanti Judging


iskcon-in-9Sunday, December 11, day four of ISKCON 50’s celebration—a tribute to Srila Prabhupada—featured talks by His Holiness Bhakti Sundar Goswami and His Holiness Hanumat Presaka Goswami and ended with a special dance, slide show & contemporary rendition of Markine Bhagavat Dharma, Srila Prabhupada’s poem on board the boat – the Jaladuta, performed by second generation ISKCON youths, Swathi Murali, Ramdas Shingdia and Gaura Klein. Everyone understood Srila Prabhupada’s importance to ISKCON and the world.

ISKCON of Houston
1320 West 34th Street, Houston, TX 77018