New Talavan is a 1200-acre, spiritual and organic farming community in southern Mississippi near the Gulf Coast. We recently were hit by Hurricane Katrina, and this is our story. Text, photos and video links.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

The Lord Giveth and Taketh Away

Hurricane Katrina Approaching Land

"The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away." As I watch the mad scramble for insurance money and government aid in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, I am amazed by the transient condition of life in the material world. Lord Krsna describes in the Twelfth Chapter of Srimad Bhagavad-gita that He is pleased by the devotees who are undisturbed by loss and gain. At present, I am wondering how powerful is the illusory energy of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, as I observe evryone frantically trying to overcome their loss and damages. Let us not get lost in the madness of material pursuits. It is a jungle of false happiness and lamentation ready to pounce upon us at any moment. Better to live simply, accept the will of the Almighty, whether for loss or gain, and be always happy in Krsna Consciousness, loving devotional service to the Lord.

—Yogindra Vandana das

Monday, September 19, 2005

Thanks to all

Devotees distributing prasadam in Gulfport, MS

Today is the 21st day since Hurricane Katrina devastated the Louisiana and Mississippi coastline. At first God helped those who helped themselves, but gradually government and charity agencies crept in.

We want to thank those ISKCON and non-ISKCON people and organizations that heroically came to our aid. Special thanks is due to the devotees of ISKCON Alachua, Atlanta, Houston and Dallas, Food for Life International, especially Priyavrata Prabhu, Ananda Prabhu of Sterling Art, Shuddhajivana Prabhu and crew from New Jersey, the New Vrndavan crew, Ramakeli Prabhu, his son Krsna-Balaram and his dear wife Mother Gaura. There are many other local devotees and donors we need to thank, but especially Dvibhuja Prabhu who forged a path into the wilderness of the storm's destruction to distribute prasadam.

Thanks to all those who prayed and sympathized with our plight. May your taste for Krsna consciousness increase.

Yogindra das

Friday, September 16, 2005

Sri-Sri Radha Radha-Kanta Arrive In Dallas With Their Associates

Their Lordships being worshiped nicely in Dallas

by Lavangalatika devi dasi


Posted September 16, 2005

The horrible destruction brought on by Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and the surrounding area turned out to be a huge boon for the Dallas Hare Krishna Temple and devotees. Katrina visited these areas late Sunday night August 28 th, and early Monday morning August 29th. Initially, the damage in New Orleans was not as severe as what happened after the levee separating the city from Lake Pontchartrain broke Monday night, flooding 80% of the city with up to 20 feet of water.

The Dallas devotees had been in contact with the New Orleans devotees prior to Katrina wreaking her havoc there. A few families arrived in Dallas prior to the hurricane. The rest of the devotees in New Orleans felt they could brave out the storm and its consequences. The first reports that came from New Orleans initially were that the temple had not flooded, and the Deities and devotees were doing fine. However, on Tuesday morning, following the levee break, all phone and internet connections with New Orleans were lost. As the news reports rolled in about the worsening situation in New Orleans, the devotees in Dallas prayed hard for the safety and security of those who were suffering. With no way to communicate with the New Orleans devotees, everyone was in the dark. During this time, there were conflicting reports coming from different places. Some devotees staying at the nearby Mississippi farm said the New Orleans devotees were safe, sound and in no need of help.

Fortunately, at around 12 noon on Thursday, September 1st, by the sweet graces of Sri Sri Radha Kalachandji, one of the New Orleans devotees was able to get a call through to Dallas and describe their horrendous plight. Even though the temple building itself was spared the worst of the flooding, with no running water or electricity, the growing stench, and no way out of the city, the situation for the Deities and the devotees at the temple had become unbearable.

On Thursday evening, temple authorities had already called for a meeting to discuss how the Dallas devotees could help the victims from the places hit by Katrina. Daily there were hundreds of evacuees pouring into Dallas, escaping the horrors there. However, the devotees' offers of assistance to the large institutions helping the evacuees had been turned down. They were told, "don't call us, we'll call you," but no call came. So, instead the meeting focused on how a rescue mission could be mounted, with devotees physically going to the aid of the 14 Deities and 19 devotees who were stranded at the temple in New Orleans.

About 25 devotees attended the meeting, and there was a robust discussion about exactly how to mount the mission. There were questions about safety and security, necessary approval(s) for moving the Deities, the feasibility of the undertaking, and the resources that were required to carry out such a mission. The meeting started at 7:00 p.m. in the temple room, and by 3:00 a.m. the next morning, all the supplies had been gathered, and the details planned out. Dharma Prabhu had worked tirelessly through the night and obtained many of the items needed for the trip. Seven devotees were chosen to take part in the SWAT-type rescue mission. They were asked to take rest before they began their heroic journey.

At 11:00 a.m., Friday, September 2nd, the seven-member force, comprised of Baladeva Vidyabhushana, Daruka, Divyaratna, Bhakta Jose, Bhakta Kesava, Ramachandra and Bhakta Tavish Prabhus departed from the Hare Krishna Temple in Dallas in a 15-seater rental van, dontated by Sunil Patel, and an 18-wheeler truck. Along with them, they carried three letters of introduction: one from the Internal Revenue Service to certify the temple's non-profit status, one from the Temple President , and the other from the Food for Life Director. These letters, along with a copy of Back to Godhead Magazine featuring many photographs of Deities being worshipped, were brought along to help show the authenticity of the mission to the authorities. The truck was loaded with cardboard boxes, cushion blankets and two large rolled sheets of plastic bubble wrap, donated by Yudhisthira Prabhu, to pack the Deities for safe transport. The devotees carried several two-way walkie talkies in each vehicle. Because they were prepared to wait for up to one week if necessary in order to wait for the window of opportunity to reach the Deities and devotees, the truck was also loaded up with ample supplies of bottled water donated by Laxmi Priya Prabhu, as well as dry food, vegetables, propane tanks, burners, pots and spoons.

Road signs as far as 400 miles from New Orleans were warning travelers not to enter the city. The situation was that no one was being allowed in except the military and other official personnel. Within the city, many were past the point of desperation. The residents of New Orleans were frustrated, angry, helpless, breaking down with hopelessness, and were ready to do anything to get out of there. Undoubtedly, this was a very dangerous mission at best. The devotees had even considered taking their own guns, just in case. People were shooting at each other, looting was happening in the streets, there were reports of rape, and other "lawless" activities as the victims of Katrina experienced abandonment and felt uncared for by the authorities. "I had received as many as 10 calls from senior devotees around America warning me to call off the mission, because it was too risky and impractical," said Nityananda dasa, the local Temple President . However, after the devotees in New Orleans had expressed their severe suffering circumstances there, the devotees in Dallas felt there was no other choice, despite the risks. Instead of not trying at all, they thought to at least make an honest attempt to do the right thing.

At approximately 1:00 a.m. on Saturday, September 3rd, the rescue team arrived at the New Orleans city limits. To get there, they had passed through as many as 40 checkpoints. "Somehow, by the grace of the Lord, they let us through," said Daruka Prabhu, who had very kindly availed his Tri-State Express 18-wheeler truck for this mission. Seeing the truck, the authorities felt they were bringing relief supplies and let them in. They did have relief supplies, but not enough sufficient to deal with the massive need in New Orleans. They then drove for another 30 to 40 miles to the next checkpoint where they were told to wait until morning, as it was too dangerous to go into the city at that time.

The devotees saw many people standing by the roadside and freeways desperately trying to wave down vehicles to get out of the city. They were trying to get help, and essential items for their distressed families and their health needs. It was mind boggling, pitiable and unbearable scenery. People were roaming the streets like mad men wanting to get out. Daruka and Ramachandra Prabhus could not bear the sight and gave away their personal blankets, pillows, and other items to the some of the distressed and stayed awake the whole night.

At daybreak, tens of buses started to arrive to pick up the people sitting on the highways and freeways to take them to shelters arranged by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. "We were the only ones traveling on the highway towards the city center. Every other vehicle was traveling outbound," said Daruka Prabhu.

At this time, the devotees entered the city guided by Divyaratna Prabhu, who was a taxi driver in New Orleans. Bhakta Tavish, who was from New Orleans , also helped the devotees navigate their way to the temple. The two vehicles kept in constant radio communication with one another. On their way to the temple, they were turned away from some checkpoints, so they took alternate routes. In addition, at times they would go down one road only to be stopped by fallen trees, then take another route only to find a similar situation. With the help of these two knowledgeable persons, the devotees were able to zig-zag their way across the city. Without their help, it would have been practically impossible to reach the temple.

Daruka Prabhu bravely drove his vehicle through the debris, brushing against broken and hanging branches from top and sides. They encountered flooded roads as they neared the temple area. As the truck gradually entered deeper and deeper waters, Daruka Prabhu radioed the van behind not to come any further. The floodwaters were too high for the 15-seater van to make it all the way to the temple, so it was parked approximately one mile away. Ramachandra Prabhu guarded the van and ended up waiting in the vehicle for four hours while the rest of the devotees climbed into the truck to reach the temple and rescue the Deities and the devotees.

When the truck arrived at the temple, and the devotees began loading up the 18-wheeler, some military personnel arrived at the scene wanting to assist some person with health problems. They advised them that they would commandeer the devotee's truck unless they found the keys to a van that was parked nearby. The military officers broke into the house where the van was parked, and luckily, found the keys. During the entire rescue effort, military choppers were constantly circling and even hovering above the devotees, policing the movement of all people and vehicles throughout the city. In the meantime, the devotees frantically loaded up the truck with Their Lordships, Their paraphernalia, the devotees and their meager belongings. They left the scene as quickly as they could, fearing they would lose the 18-wheeler if they stayed a moment longer.

Some Dallas devotees, especially Kunja Bihari Prabhu, had kept in constant touch with the rescue team, ready to do the needful. At about 7:15 a.m., Saturday, September 3rd, Sweta Manjari Prabhu, Daruka Prabhu's wife, came into the temple room and advised the devotees that the mission had been successful and everyone was headed back to Dallas. Obviously, she, the mother of 3 young children, was very relieved. The devotees were extremely happy to hear the great news. The rescue team called later to say that all of the Deities and devotees were famished and looked forward to a sumptuous feast of hot prasadam upon arrival. The Dallas devotees, led by Manjuali Prabhu, then proceeded to prepare the feast for their arrival. Mathuranatha and Bhakta Ross Prabhus helped with the preparation of accommodations for the guests.

The rescue team arrived into Dallas at 11:30 p.m. that night. They were greeted by an enthusiastic kirtan party of about 30 when they pulled up on Gurley Avenue. There was an exuberant festival atmosphere. Devotees were singing and dancing on the street in great anticipation. The 15-seater van and another smaller van pulled up first. Everyone happily greeted the devotees, grateful that everyone was safe.

When the rear doors of the 18-wheeler truck opened, devotees ecstatically jumped on to commence unloading the paraphernalia of the Deities and the devotees. Soon, the portion where the Deities were was reached. First, Srila Prabhupada came off the truck, seated regally on his vyasasana. Now, all of the devotees were wild with ecstacy. Then came Lord Nityananda with His upraised arms in a wonderful dancing pose, soon followed by Lord Caitanaya casting His most magnanimous glance on everyone there. Everyone began reveling in the joyfulness. The mood kept rising with the arrival of Their Lordships Sri Sri Jagannatha Baladeva and Subhadra Maharani. The emotions reached fever-pitch when Sri Radha Kanta and Srimati Radharani gave Their merciful audience. All the Deities were fully dressed, ready for giving Darshan to the eager devotees awaiting Their arrival. The devotees' ecstatic emotions increased even more when the small Radha Radha Kanta, Gaura Nitai and Srila Prabhupada Deities were unpacked from Their carrying cases.

The Deities were taken to Srila Prabhupada's quarters, and stood in front of Srila Prabhupada. Srimati Radharani was placed directly in front of Srila Prabhupada. One of Her pujaris mentioned that when Srimati Radharani was in New Orleans, She had a stern look on Her face. However, standing in front of Srila Prabhupada in his quarters, much to her amazement, She broke into a distinct smile.

Everyone said that the Deities all looked so very beautiful and happy. The devotees in Dallas felt unlimitedly fortunate and blessed to have the darshan of Their Lordships.

There was much discussion as to exactly where the Deities would be happiest. There were four alternatives. Finally, the personal servants of the Deities decided that They would be most pleased staying with Srila Prabhupada in his quarters. The majority of the devotees in Dallas had felt exactly the same way. A beautiful marble altar has now been built to accommodate the Deities in Srila Prabhupada's quarters.

Lastly, the devotees were asked how they felt serving the devotees and Deities this way. They said it was great adventure. They added that devotees should not always stay in their comfort zones but accept new adventures in Krishna consciousness, as it is very exciting and pleasing to the heart. The Deities and devotees are expected to stay in Dallas for about 6 months.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Sraddhadeva Manu Prabhu's Story

New Orleans ISKCON Temple

by Sampradaya Sun reporter

Sraddhadev Manu dasa, one of the New Orleans temple devotees recently rescued from the devastation of New Orleans, tells his story. He described the circumstances faced by the devotees and Deities there, and the brave rescue team from ISKCON's Dallas temple who ventured forth to evacuate them.

Sraddhadev Manu dasa talked about the fierce hurricane that battered the city of New Orleans, followed by the floodwaters that destroyed much of the city. Somehow or other, by Krsna's mercy, the New Orleans temple was miraculously spared damage by either wind or water. The was no structural damage to the building's exterior, only minor damage to the grounds that can be repaired with maintenance landscaping.

Inside the temple, hurricane Katrina stranded 16 resident devotees along with 3 guests from New Jersey, who had come for the Janmastami celebrations. Katrina hit on the morning of Monday, August 28th. By Tuesday, floodwaters brought the city to a grinding halt.

Over the course of seven days, until their rescue on September 3rd, the 19 residents of the New Orleans mandir were fortunate to have an adequate supply of foodstuffs and water. While they had no electricity, gas, or running water, they were in cell phone communication with the outside world.

By September 3rd, the group had run out of water, and had to make a trip out into the city environs to get water for drinking and bathing. Later that day, the rescue squad from Dallas arrived to end their ordeal.

Several times over the course of the week the temple was visited by both military and police personnel, who came to advise the group to immediately evacuate the premises. The devotees and guests, however, were dedicated to remaining by the sides of the Deities, who continued to receive a relatively normal program of daily worship.

Finally the group was contacted by Nityananada dasa, the Temple President of Dallas, came extended an invitation for the Deities and devotees to come to Dallas, and the urged the devotees to accept. The New Orleans devotees agreed, and a group of seven Dallas devotees began the difficult trip into New Orleans, with Daruka prabhu driving a semi-truck. 16 seats were provided for the devotees, along with room for the Deities, who were transported back to Dallas in the truck.

As later mentioned by Mata Sri, 'Their Lordships had rescued themselves -- what else could explain the way the Dallas devotees got through all the military and police blockades to rescue the stricken devotees and the Deities, bringing them safely to Dallas? This is truly one of the Lords Pastimes.' We can also see this as an extension of the pastimes of the pure devotee, Srila Prabhupada, whose servants carry on the mission of the Sampradaya Acarya.

Sraddhadev Manu dasa went to great lengths to describe the bravery of the Dallas rescue team, and the kind-hearted and sweet devotional mood of all the Dallas yatra devotees, who stayed up very late awaiting the arrival of Sri Sri Radha Radha-Kanta, Sri Sri Gaura Nitai, and Lord Jagannath and Company.

The trip into New Orleans, and back out of the city, was certainly dangerous and difficult. A great deal of robbery, violence and mayhem was going on in the city. The party found it challenging to get to the temple because so many roads were inaccessible. They also met with roadblocks, and had to explain to military and police that they were going into the city to rescue the temple residents.

Throughout the entire period in New Orleans, Bir Krishna dasa Goswami stayed in close phone contact, constantly expressing his concern for the well being of the Deities and devotees. According to Sraddhadev Manu dasa, Bir Krishna dasa Goswami phoned the devotees every hour, all the way through the ordeal, constantly inquiring after everyone's welfare, impervious to the loss of sleep.

Their Lordships and the devotees arrived at Dallas temple near midnight, and all the resident devotees there we awake, carrying on an ecstatic kirtan to welcome the Deities. At midnight they performed a glorious arotik, offering all personalities from the New Orleans yatra prasadam, comfortable facility, and the loving association of the Vaisnavas. We are sure that a blissful and transcendental welcome was also extended by Sri Sri Radha-Kalachandaji to all the residents of the New Orleans yatra.

All 16 of the devotees currently remain at Dallas, and will stay there until Saturday, when Bir Krishna dasa Goswami is scheduled to arrive for a visit. Afterwards, some of the devotees, particularly the grhastas, will move on to other places, where they will stay until the New Orleans temple can reopen.

The Deities and pujaris will also stay at Dallas mandir, where the devotees are now making them a new altar. For the time being, they are residing in Srila Prabhupada's room.

In the humble mood of Lord Krsna's servants, the New Orleans devotees say they are in need of nothing for their personal comfort. They are content to perform the austerities required until they're back at the temple in New Orleans. In the meantime, they request that donations be made towards fixing up the temple grounds, and generally re-stocking the temple with consumable supplies that will allow it to re-open, hopefully in the very near future.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

A Message from Japan

Dvija Hari Prabhu's House at New Talavan

Hello devotees in New Talavan,

My name is Kazz Okamoto, writing from Japan. I am Mayumi's younger brother. Mayumi left her body in April while living in your community.

I visited Mississippi with my brother & sister-in-law, their grandson, and my niece, to bring some of her ashes back to Japan. You devotees of Hare Krishna were all very nice to us. Talking to us, telling us about our sister Mayumi, showing sympathy to us and feeding us with very delicious Hare Krishna meals, which Mayumi and Jim used to cook while they were in Japan. Thank you very much for the kindness you extended to us.

It breaks my heart to watch on CNN the scenes of the devastation that Katrina left in the Gulf states in the USA, especially in New Orleans. It's beyond belief that one hurricane could cause such devastation.

I was also worried about your temple in Carriere while the hurricane was moving up north.

I called Mr. Murata, the head monk of the Tokyo Temple of Hare Krishna, for information about the temple and the community. And he forwarded the message that you had posted on your web site. I got access to the site, and to my great relief, I learned that your temple and community survived the attack pretty much unscathed except for damage to some buildings.

With the community cut off from the surrounding areas, and the food and other stuff running low, I know it will be a great challenge to just survive. I pray with you for things to get back to normal as quick as possible.

Hare Krishna,
Kazz Okamoto

Monday, September 05, 2005

A Daring Rescue

Daruka and Ramachandra who headed up the daring rescue

In the dark flooded city of New Orleans, Daruka with his swat squad of devotees headed by Keshava, stormed into the temple to save the day. Daruka owns a long distance trucking company and drove one of his Peterbuilt eighteen wheelers and Ramachandra drove a van with a few devotees to assist in saving the New Orleans temple.

Daruka said they had some close calls in New Orleans, but knew Krishna would protect them. Keshava rode shotgun and was armed. They went through a few check points. The water was about 2-1/2 to 3 feet and sometimes deeper. They had to drive through about 25 blocks of water to reach the temple.

Outside the temple there was about 4 feet of water and it stank. There were guys with automatic weapons walking around. Daruka is a little over 6 feet tall, has a dark south Indian complexion and is from Fiji. In his Peterbuilt tractor trailer he looked like a big tough black guy. He said the scariest moment call was from the police who wanted to commandeer his truck but found another truck to use instead.

From the New Orleans temple he picked up all the Deities—Radha Radhakanta, Nityananda and Lord Caitanya, Jagannatha, Subhadra and Balarama, and about 6 smaller Deities that were on the altar. He also brought to Dallas the Srila Prabhupada murti and a dozen devotees. He never would have driven his truck through such deep water but this was his loving service to Krishna.

Back in Dallas Daruka smiled laughed and shrugged off his lifesaving rescue. Below is a picture of the New Orleans Deities in the Dallas temple being worshipped in Prabhupada's quarters.

I will never be the same

Dear devotees,

I am amazed at the events of the past few days.

First: The Lord is so wonderful in his arrangements. We all, thru the grace of Dasanudas Prabhu, are able to communicate with each other with the group though we have literally been flung into the wind. Being separated by hundreds of miles and state lines and we are all still a community. SriSri Radha-RadhaKanta will pull us all back together again, of this I am sure.

Second: As Mata Sri mentioned their Lordships at Sankirtan Dham have rescued themselves, what else can explain the way the Dallas Devotees got thru all the military and police blockades to rescue the stricken devotees and the Dieties and bring them to Dallas. The devotees in Houston were talking about this today, it is truly one of the Lords Pastimes.

I am in Houston where the Devotees at the Houston Temple (it is a beautiful temple!) are pouring thier hearts out to us. I received so many wonderful blessings from them (plus the ecstatic Prasad). I have a nice place to stay near Rice University provided by my Brother, And I am OK.

I met a devotee here in Houston who expressed concern about Ajamila Prabhu. Does anyone know where he and his wife are? This Devotee is Sarvabauma Das and he can be contacted at if anyone knows about Ajamila or is in touch with him please send Sarvabhauma an email.

I can't get in touch with Kapardini, she is in Alachua and very concerned about Kirtada and the children. I talked to her this morning when she called me here. I feel bad for her, I wish there was something I could do to help but I don't know what happened to Kirtada. If anyone is in contact with her tell her not to try to go back to Picayune yet looking for her daughter because the situation there is still bad. I have emailed her but got no response and can't call her. She should try the Red Cross or try contacting FEMA or the MS State Police to try to locate Kirtada. I have described to her the location she was at in Ozona, but there is no address available.
I am so glad to hear that so many of us are safe and sound. I was asked about Jogendra Prabhu also, Is he still at the farm? I know Dasanudas is (right?).

I have really been shaken to the core by this storm. I came very close to being killed by my own foolishness. I was in the carport, huddling between my car and the wall, when a tornado struck my neighbors house, tearing off his roof and throwing it towards me. The roof crashed in the field about 100 ft from me while the twister screamed past my house ripping up all the trees, It passed within about 30 ft from me (I was somewhat protected being in the carport). If I had been exposed to the wind I would not be here, if it had been 30 ft to the west I would have been "gone with the wind". I have never been so scared in my life, I was shaking very badly after that as I hunkered down in the center of my house on the floor, crying out "hare Krishna hare Krishna Krishna Krishna hare hare hare rama hare rama hare hare" convinced I was about to die. That was the eyewall that passed over. Then all of a sudden it all stopped and the eye passed over us. I felt The Lord had spared my useless life and I crawled out to see the devastation.

I will never be the same.

Talavan das

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Thank you

Dear Devotees and Friends,

Hare Krsna! Thanks for the prayers, love and practical assistance.

As far as helping hungry people in the devastated Gulf Coast area, devotees from New Talavan and temples in Dallas, Houston, New Vrndavan (our farm community near Moundsville, West Virginia), Washington DC, and Alachua, Florida certainly beat President Bush to the punch. We are already sending teams to the stricken Gulf Coast towns of Waveland, Biloxi and Gulfport to distribute prasadam: sanctified vegetarian food offered to Krsna—God—with love and devotion. Needless to say, our small efforts have been received with gratitude by the storm-tossed residents.

However, after great emotional pleading from local area officials, the Federal government is beginning to make its presence felt in this area. It will take a long time for complete recovery, but the agencies are finally working.

As far as ISKCON in the local area, our book distribution may decrease for the time being, but prasadam distribution is certainly on the increase.

Signing off for now,

Yogindra das
Temple president,
ISKCON New Talavan