Saturday 5th September Hare Krishna Land, Phoenix was full of people. Krishna Janmasthami, the incarnation day of the Lord Krishna was being celebrated. Thousands of people thronged to the Land to celebrate this annual event each in their own way. They worshipped at the temple, strolled round the various stalls to buy tokens, gifts, books, sweets, attended the shows, dramatic enactments, listened to discourses and partook of the prasad – the holy food.
The thick compact crowd in thousands was remarkably serene as they waded in and out the Hare Krishna Land. The time spent going through the prayer room in the temple, walking around the stalls, and collecting prasad was around 3 hours. Everyone gave the impression the period time went in a wink. They asserted that this religion is a fundamental aspect of their lives and any period of time spent at the Land was not an inconvenience. It was more than an obligation to be present there on that particular day. It was an inner call… be it only to stand and admire the gamut of festive events, the people murmuring hymns, clapping hands, praying, etc.
In normal times people undergoing such a course would get annoyed and rowdy but this was not the case with the crowd at Krishna Land that night. The queue lines for prayer-Darshan or prasad collection were very long yet people waited for their turn. One devotee told me that the more he had to wait the better as he was spending glorious moments at the Hare Krishna Land. There was evidently something special happening. Each one was in a different state of mind, there was harmony, ‘entraide’ (mutual help) as if on entering the premises the devotees went through a miraculous change collectively.
Emile Durkhein, sociologist, who carried out numerous studies on crowd behaviour describes this phenomenon as ‘collective effervescence’. He was convinced that this type of crowd with a unity of purpose has a positive impact on the well-being of the individual person. There is a form of energy echoed by thoughts, each person gives the other strength, surrenders individual identity and starts considering himself blended with the crowd as opposed to being one entity in the crowd. The crowd takes care of their well-being, and alters their state of mind positively. People leave the place in a better state of health than when they arrived. Many say that the time spent at Krishna Land was time lived celestially, both their mind and body becoming healthier.
One old person on his way home carrying bags full of prasad, sweets and tokens confided to me that he never misses this event at Hare Krishna Land. It was fulfilling and he was going home satisfied to have been of the grand party. Call it Collective Effervescence or Divine Showers, it happens every year by Lord Krishna’s grace.
- Published in print edition on 11 September 2015