By Lucy Barton
At first, Wheatley Park School looked like any other school building would do on a Sunday morning. Silent, almost lonely, as it awaited the return of its throngs of children and staff to repopulate it come Monday. But this Sunday, it would be witness to the longest continuous kirtan ever held publicly within the county of Oxfordshire. As we walked through the double doors of the main entrance, we were struck by the transformation that had overcome the school hall.
The walls were hung with richly coloured tapestries and the air was filling with the sweet smell of incense. But the crowning glory of the decorations was the beautiful altar, where Kirtan Krishna stood, flanked by beautifully arranged floral displays and illuminated by tea-light candles. It was certainly a spiritually uplifting environment. The floor, making optimal use of the school’s resources, was spread with blue gym mats, which made surprisingly comfortable seating; and the hall was arranged with the musicians seated in the centre encircled by the respondent chanters.
|Lucy, the author of this piece, relaxing at home|
The kirtans began with a melodious invocation by Ranchor Prime, a familiar voice of the Oxford kirtans. Many more of our favourite visiting kirtaniyas (kirtan leaders) were present, such as the sisters Jahnavi and Tulasi, and some new faces, such as Amala Harinam, a very well-reputed travelling kirtan leader. The mood was both meditative and dynamic; the kirtans would start gently, and then gradually mount to frenzied tempos, spurring everyone to clap their hands, and some of the more energetic to dance. The rhythm was augmented by the widely distributed kartal-cymbals and shakers, and the melodies embellished by the beautiful playing of Nadiya Mani and the other flautists.
The kirtans were continuous, but water, strawberries and yoghurt, and a sumptuous vegetarian lunch were provided for chanters who needed replenishment. It was an enlivening and uplifting occasion for all; perhaps the most impressive aspect was that, even on such a large scale, one hundred and fifty people through the day, the kirtan managed to preserve the same atmosphere of sanctuary and focus that is so unique to the Oxford kirtans. It is a real tribute to all those who were involved in the preparation of this event and to all the participants.
|Suitable for all age groups...|