July 3

I got into WDC in the late afternoon. It was hot, 93 degs. We have 14 acres in Potomac, the most expensive real estate in WDC. Srila Prabhupada had a memorable visit here for a week in 1976 during the American bi-centennial celebrations which I have recorded in TD 3.  

Srila Prabhupada WDC visit 1976

There are huge houses all over the place. Its very prestigious, but it is a problem for us because you can’t build a community close by. No devotee can afford to stay here, you have to be a millionaire to live in this district.

I am staying in a room in the brahmacari asrama. At least I have it to myself. The real austerity is the common bathroom because there are a lot of teenage boys here for the Rathayatra, so it got pretty muchi in there this morning. I guess I have gotten soft after so many years in grhastha life. I like my privacy and an attached bath. The asrama style is a bit of an austerity now.

After I arrived I went for a darshan and the Deities looked beautiful. Then I realized that my wife Sitala makes all Their clothing sets. She’s been overseeing the making of Deity outfits for over 30 years and is probably the most experienced deity outfit maker in ISKCON.

The devotees were busy preparing for the July 4 annual parade. For the last 15 years, rather than have our own Rathayatra parade, we take part in the city’s annual celebration. Thus I had the evening to myself, which was welcome.July 4 America’s big day. This morning I did my puja early and while I was waiting for a ride out to the parade starting point, I bumped into Puspavan prabhu, an early disciple of Srila Prabhupada. We met for the first time in Mayapur a few years back. We got talking, he invited me to travel to the parade with him via his house and I gladly accepted.I was surprised and delighted to hear that Citralekha, Upendra’s wife, is staying with them since last year. We go back a long way. Upendra and Bali Mardan were the first devotees to go to Australia in 1969. I joined the Sydney temple in February 1972 and Upendra was there with Citralekha, who was pregnant with their first child, Saumya.

Upendra of course, was Srila Prabhupada’s personal servant both in 1967 and again in 1975, and again for the last eight months of his earthly lila. Upendra left his body a few years back in Australia on New Govardhan farm, surrounded by chanting devotees and staring at a picture of Srila Prabhupada and the Deities.

I hadn’t seen Citralekha since June 1977 in Vrindavan so we had a nice reunion. Saumya is now 35 and has a nice wife and baby daughter and is doing well. Citralekha rang him up while we were on the way to the parade and he gladly remembered me. He was fired up about coming to India in the near future. He is into Krsna consciousness, at least in spirit.

Citralekha also has two daughters in their 20s. She seems pretty happy, working for Rukmini and Anuttama in their shop in WDC and also doing her own Amazon herb business.

The parade was amazing. We were the very last of nearly 120 floats, marching bands and other entries which wound its way down all the main streets around the Mall.  People were waving and smiling as we went past.

Gauravani lead most of the kirtan.


A couple hundred devotees pulled the single ratha with Srila Prabhupada and Sri Sri Jagannatha, Baladev and Subhadra on it. I pulled the rope for part of the way ’till I felt my knee starting to go (geez, am I really that old?) and then I just walked along with the kirtan party and Bhakti Marg Maharaja, who for a change was just there for the bliss and not involved with any of the stage programs.  

Bhakti Marg Swami Anuttama took charge of our group, keeping us all in line and directing the ratha.


 He lamented a bit that we were always at the end. He had applied previously for a position further up the procession but was refused. I told him not to worry though. In parades like this people remember the first and the last – everything inbetween is forgotten.

It seemed like at least 100,000 people or more lined the route, specifically to see the floats, so it was even better than NY rathayatra where people just happened to be on 5th Ave. when we went past. 

 huge crowds on both sides saw the rathayatra


There were lots of marching bands:


(once they got going that is).

And some floats were really ‘floats’:


The parade took about an hour and half once we got started. Because of the heat the St. John’s Ambulance were giving out free bottles of water to the marchers, and at the end of the route there was a neat little open ended tent that you could walk through and get sprayed with a fine mist to cool off.

Then we walked back to the Mall where the Festival of India booths were set up. More amazing stuff. We had good area of at least one acre to ourselves, right down the end in front of the Capitol Building.

  festival site

Thousands of people went through during the afternoon, many stopping at the main stage to hear the beautiful kirtans, watch the dances and various performances by the youth group that travel with Manu’s buses. They are so talented. For hours on end they kept up a high standard of entertainment, delighting people with their expertise in playing mrdanga, kartals and various other instruments and with their kirtans.

And free distribution of a delicious pasta prasadam went on all afternoon. The queue was never less than 20 meters long for the entire afternoon. I saw thousands of people who would never have dreamed of coming to Hare Krsna temple, sitting eating a large plate of prasadam, listening to the kirtans.

Another devotee I hadn’t seen for a long time was Priyavrata prabhu, who joined the Sydney temple in the late 80s. I was in the temple there for a couple of years from 1988-1990 so we know each other quite well. He has a brother and a sister who are also devotees as well. He is the director for Food For Life International. Nice guy, and doing an important service.

Other old friends attending were Vishakha, the famous BTG/BBT photographer and author, who was in town to escape the frozen wastes of Canada to help here daughter who is expecting her first baby.

Vishakha and Chitralekha: 

Vishakha and Citralekha

And I met another old friend from my San Diego days. Used to be Bhakta Dave in those days. Now he’s Devaprastha:

Devaprastha and Puspavan: 

Devaprastha and Puspavan

I camped out for a while with Malati, she had a small set up advertising New Vrindavana and selling small books and large jars of pure NV ghee.


I have rarely met any devotee who works as hard as she does. She’s definitely an inspiration on many levels. She organized my whole American tour for me, so I have to put my gratitude on record here. Thanks Malati and koti dandavats! I only sold one of my books but I was glad to be able to sit down after the parade and just take in all the wonderful sights and the preaching.

It rained late in the afternoon so that put something of a damper on things, but there is always a huge fireworks display in the evening, after 9 PM. People stay around waiting for that and so the devotees also remain.

Speaking of which, I had some clear realizations about Srila Prabhupada’s visit to the Mall on this same day in 1976 (from TD3): 

“We drove around the White House. Our plan was to have a group photo taken with Srila Prabhupada outside the front to use in BTG, but we were not allowed to stop. We went next to the large park in front of Capitol Hill. There, an estimated one and a half to two million people were assembled for the grand fireworks display scheduled for 9:00 p.m.
“Parking was impossible in the main precincts of the Mall but at the far end, furthest away from Capitol Hill, we saw an open spot at the side of the Lincoln Memorial. We stopped and sat with Prabhupada on the grass for a while, with people all around in an expectant and cheerful mood. The entire Mall lay before us, seemingly jammed with spectators. We had a light kirtana, using only the karatalas, and waited expectantly for the explosive display. Srila Prabhupada said that in Vedic times also there were fireworks on big celebration days.”

I was always thinking that Srila Prabhupada was simply sitting there, waiting for the fireworks. Now with this visit I had a sudden realization. While he was waiting to see the fireworks display he was contemplating another sight which he requested Yadubara and Vishakha to come back and photograph two days later: 

July 6, 1976 – TD3 

“Srila Prabhupada met with Yadubara dasa and his wife, Visakha dasi, along with Svarupa Damodara, Rupanuga and Brsakapi prabhus at about four thirty. Yadubara and Visakha are expert photographers and Prabhupada gave them a special assignment. “I wanted both of you to take various detailed photographs of that Capitol.”
“The Capitol Building.” Yadubara nodded. “For what purpose, Srila Prabhupada?”
“We shall have a planetarium in Mayapur,” Prabhupada told him. “To show spiritual world, material world, and so on succession of the planetary systems, everything. A building like that. We are acquiring three hundred and fifty acres of land for constructing a small township to attract people from all the world to see the planetarium. … You take all details, inside, outside. That will be nice.”

Here’s what inspired his vision for Mayapur as he sat at the end of the Mall:

 Capitol Building

I was pretty tired so I came back to the temple by about 8.30 PM. And now I am writing my report, its 9.45 PM and I am going to hit the sack.

Saturday July 5

Very quiet day. I did a small home program in the evening at the apartment home of one of our Indian devotees, Nanda Kumar Krsna prabhu. About 20 people came, it was a nice intimate gathering and I sold a few books also.

One interesting thing about the Potomac area is wild deer which roam all over the place. The whole area consists of forest and large mansions, each on several acres of land. When the developers moved in, the deer stayed and they just wander freely, often around the houses to feed off the lawns. When we drove back to the temple a couple of deer were grazing on our front lawn.

Just down the road from the temple there is a large golf course and a major PGA tournament is going on, so the place is packed up with cars in that area. The weather broke yesterday, now its much cooler and its raining.

All in all it was a worth while visit. If you ever get the chance, visit WDC on July 4, you’ll enjoy it.

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