Bhakti Fest founder Sridhar Silberfein vividly recalls standing on the stage at Woodstock next to Swami Satchidananda before half a million or so flower children in August 1969.
Barely 19 at the time, but deeply involved in chanting and yoga, he had been charged with bringing “an element of spirituality” to the festival by Woodstock producers Michael Lang and Artie Kornfeld . Silberfein immediately turned to his guru Satchidananda, the founder of Integral Yoga, and they flew together by helicopter to Yasgur’s farm to deliver the opening invocation that set the festival — and the “Woodstock generation” — in motion. Swami famously called music ”the celestial sound that controls the whole universe” and led the crowd in chanting Om Shanti.
“At that moment, while I was standing there looking out at that sea of people, the seed for Bhakti Fest was planted,” he told The Bhakti Beat. In 2008, 40 years later, the vision of a Woodstock-esque gathering completely devoted to kirtan and yoga came back to Silberfein, and he set forth to nurture the seed into life. He likes to think of Bhakti Fest as a “spiritual Woodstock” — minus the drugs, sex and alcohol — a place for people to go and immerse themselves in the bhav for three or four days straight and “dive deeper into the self.”
Shakti Fest Dives Deep Into Ma
This weekend the fruits of Silberfein’s labor are ripening into Shakti Fest, the first of three big gatherings this year under the Bhakti Fest umbrella. Shakti Fest, billed as a “more intimate” version of the 24-hours-a-day-for-3-days-straight bhakti blow-out that happens in September, is built around the theme of, well, shakti…a celebration of the divine mother. (It falls on Mother’s Day weekend, after all, and what self-respecting bhakta would pass up that kind of chance to get everyone singing ecstatic Jai Ma chants for hours on end?)
So, who’s chanting at Shakti Fest? Who’s not chanting would be an easier answer! Bhakti Fest’s spring fling is sort of a little sister to September in the same way that Omega’s Spring Chant is a little sister to Ecstatic Chant weekend in the fall. As such, it lacks the really big names that headline the September Fest (like Krishna Das, Deva Premal, Dave Stringer). But, seriously, with a line-up like this, who’s going to feel like they’re missing something?
If you can’t be in the bhav at Joshua Tree this weekend, you can still follow the flow by staying tuned to The Bhakti Beat’s ongoing coverage on Facebook, Twitter, and right where you are now. We’ll be posting updates daily, talking with artists and producers, and posting more from our earlier interview with Sridhar. Get the bhav, wherever you are!
Pranams to Sridhar for an incredible gift to our community, and to the world. These festivals remind us powerfully to live more fully Neem Karoli Baba’s message: “Love everyone. Serve everyone. Remember God.” Thank you, BhaktiFest, for your love, service and divine remembrance!