By Bharat Chandra Dasa
I remember, in my first few days in ISKCON, I had asked someone about how mrdangas were made and where were they made. Clearly, I was not satisfied with the answer and always thought, one fine day, I will get into the details. Surely enough, I now know, our performance of sankirtan all over the world is tainted with the blood of slaughter!
DIGESTING THE FACT:
Navadwip to Mayapur via boat crossing Ganga is a beautiful short trip. My recent shift to serve at dham was filled with these beautiful scenes until I came across something ghastly! Beautiful Cows and Bulls were transferred in the same boat in one such trip I took in broad daylight. A bit amazed, I asked the neighbour sitting next to me, as to where the cows were being taken? The neighbour replied naively, “for slaughter”! I asked where? He replied – “near yogapitha”!By now, my mouth was wide open and heart beating strongly. I exclaimed -“Oh Krishna, how can this be allowed in dham!”. The neighbour replied -“Huh! how do you think your mrdanga is made?”
Next, my enquiry with the Mrdanga manufacturers got it confirmed. It is a huge export business! There is a huge demand for mrdangas all over the world, be it due to ISKCON or others, the cows are slaughtered mercilessly so that we get mrdangas to play! All this in the dham! And now, it is happening right in Vrindavan too for the same reason! These mrdanga makers are doing a booming business throughout the year and there is a huge, huge supply-demand gap!
SIN IN THE NAME OF RELIGION:
SRILA PRABHUPADA: If one is sinful, how can he say he is religious? Do you think a sinful man can be truly religious? Yet this is going on. In the name of religion, people are committing sins. I mean to say, this sinful killing of animals, especially cows, is the main cause of humanity’s current degradation… Veda-nisidhya-karya kare veda-mukhya mane. As Lord Caitanya said, “People are acting against every religious principle, but advertising themselves, That am religious. I believe in religion.'” These non-sensical things are going on. A Christian is going against the basic Christian principle; nonetheless, he is proud of being a Christian.
HAUSER: Do you use leather?
SRILA PRABHUPADA: Generally we avoid it, since at the present time people are obtaining it by sending the animals to the slaughterhouse.
HAUSER: So you don’t allow it?
SRILA PRABHUPADA: We don’t use it. For instance, none of our shoes are made of leather. Today there are so many substitutes, various plastics and other things. And every one of them is nice. But leather, in itself, it is not prohibited, because you can get it after the animal has died a natural death. Yes. In India, those who are flesh-eaters wait until after a cow has died, and then they come and clear away the carcass. Then they eat the flesh and save the bones and horns and hooves and take off the skin to make shoes, and so forth. Since they get all their supplies for nothing, they can easily make their living. The main idea is, sooner or later the animal will die. So let us wait for that time. Why should we kill a living animal?
HAUSER: Do you use leather in your drums?
SRILA PRABHUPADA: Yes, after the cow has died a natural death, that leather can be used.
HAUSER: So you have leather drums?
SRILA PRABHUPADA: Yes, that has been the way of making drums for thousands of years. But that leather is collected only after the animal has died a natural death. Not by killing. So our principle is mercy. Mercy. We never needlessly kill or torment any living being. The Lord is the all-merciful, and now, in this human form, we can revive our relationship with Him. After traveling through untold millions of lower forms, now we can revive our old relationship with the all-merciful. Yes. But only if we become merciful.
HAUSER: Thank you very much.
SRILA PRABHUPADA: Hare Krsna.
Room Conversation, Stockholm, Sept 1973, “Sin in the name of religion”, Published in BTG
Animal killing in the name of yajna (sacrifice) was going on and I understand is going on now too. This time, in the name of sankirtan yajna. Lord Buddha appeared precisely to stop this sin in the name of religion.
PRABHUPADA: Yes. About Lord Buddha is also mentioned in the sastra that Lord Buddha will appear in Gaya Pradesh, in the province of Gaya, and his business will be to cheat the atheists…He promulgated this philosophy, ahimsa, when there was the unnecessary killing of animals. According to Vedas, an animal can be killed in sacrifice. That also to give a new life. But people misinterpreted and they began to kill animals like anything with the evidence of…, “In the Vedas animal killing is sanctioned.” So Lord Buddha appeared, just being compassionate to the poor animals. Sadaya-hrdaya-darsita-pasu-ghatam. Sadaya. He became very compassionate, that “All these poor animals are being killed unnecessarily.” So he promulgated a new type of religion –ahimsa paramo dharmah. “Don’t commit violence. If I pinch your body, you feel pain. You should not pinch others.”That is his religion. So, but, he… Because others, they will argue, “Oh, in the Vedas…” As I told you, that Vedas is the evidence, so “Here is…Animal killing is ordered. How you are stopping it?” Therefore he said, “I don’t care for your Vedas.”
Room conversation, April 7, 1972, Melbourne
WHY ARE YOU KILLING YOUR OWN FATHER AND MOTHER?
Sankirtan is the most sacred form of connecting to all-merciful. But, that is possible only if we become merciful to our own father and mother.
500 years back Chand Kazi stopped Lord Chaitanya’s party doing sankirtana, broke their mrdangas and threatened them. When Lord Chaitanya with his disobedience movement met with Chand Kazi, the Lord first asked Chand Kazi, why are you killing your own father and mother?
“Now, Caitanya Mahaprabhu, first of all, inquired that the Muhammadan magistrate… They established their relation as the uncle and nephew. Caitanya Mahaprabhu became the nephew, and the Kazi, the magistrate, he became the uncle. So Caitanya Mahaprabhu addressed the uncle, “My dear uncle, why you are killing your father and mother?” So the uncle replied, “What is that? I am killing our father and mother?” “Yes. Because the cow is your mother. She gives milk. And the bull, he helps you in the agricultural fields. He produces grain. So just like father and mother—mother supplies milk and father brings grain—so they are your father and mother. How you are killing your father and mother?”
Lecture, New York, Aug 9, 1966
Now, the scenes have changed. Chand Kazi’s followers shall ask us – “Why are YOU killing your own father and mother so that you can do your sankirtan?” Looks like they have all the good reason to stop us this time!
CASE FOR AHIMSA MRDANGA:
PUSTA KRSNA: What we’ve been doing with the dead cows is burying them, there’s no…, everything’s wasted. Srila Prabhupada is proposing that why not the butcher take, we give free, he simply returns us the skin of the cow, and with the cowhide, we properly tan it, we can make mrdanga heads for the khol, and shoes, straps, whatever may be needed. The idea being that in the Western countries especially, people are accustomed to eating animals, animal flesh. So we have no objection.
PRABHUPADA: If you want to eat, let the father and mother die, then eat.(laughter) Who has an objection?
PUSTA KRSNA: It’s so reasonable.
PRABHUPADA: Oh, yes. Because a class of men will demand to eat the flesh. You cannot stop it. So we are giving free: you eat. And from the economic point of view, we require the skin for our mrdanga making. So give us the skin. That’s all.
June 29, 1976, New Vrindavan, Room conversation
Two students Bhakta Sujal and Bhakta Laxmipati from Mayapur have started a project called – “Ahimsa Mrdanga” for the pleasure of Srila Prabhupada. Their business is a very successful one today. Little did we realise, at that time, that their attendance at the Varnasrama College course at Sahyadri Krishna Balaram Ksetra could become so potent.
In discussion with Bhakta Sujal, I understood that in fact it is not very difficult to establish Ahimsa Mrdanga units wherever we have goshala. We can even manufacture mrdangas in every state, maybe every district by tying up with farmers or goshalas. One person can be emlployed to flay the skin of a naturally dead cow and tan them. Few persons can be employed to make mrdangas. This simple model can change the scene and pave way for cow protection.
Such courses must be established. Srila Prabhupada wanted that we must get into ahimsa mrdanga making.
“There is no need of sending the artisan to U.S.A. better send our disciples from here and learn the art there. In this connection manufacturing, the mrdanga shells, as well as the skin work on it, is very essential. If possible our men may learn how to make karatalas also. At Navadvipa, there are many artisans for this purpose. The summary is that our men must learn these four things: doll making,mrdanga making, karatala making and if possible making saris.”
Letter to Jayapataka, Bhavananda – Los Angeles, May 9, 1973
LET’S STOP DISRESPECT AND IRRESPONSIBILITY!
It’s a market-based economy! The consumer is the king! In our conditioning to “use and throw” things, mrdangas are no less.
In a small centre that I stayed in South India, I saw, we shifted to new mrdanga almost every six months. Some got damaged while being transported from Mayapur and then were discarded. Many got damaged due to negligence in their maintenance or rough handling. Few got eaten by rats where we stored them. The karma of every cow that was slaughtered for those mrdangas which were underused or misused or abused definitely shall hover us.
Each mrdanga that we handle, a cow has sacrificed her life for it. We must stop using himsa mrdanga and on the other side, whatever is being used now, must be used with great care and attention.
Srila Prabhupada himself exemplified the care and respect he offered this expansion of Lord Balaram.
“A few weeks later the first mrdanga (a long clay drum with a playing head on each end) arrived in San Francisco from India. When I went up to Srila Prabhupada’s apartment and informed him, his eyes opened wide, and in an excited voice, he told me to go down quickly and open the crate. I took the elevator, got out on the ground floor, and was walking toward the front door when Srila Prabhupada appeared. So eager was he to see the mrdanga that he had taken the stairway and had beaten the elevator. He asked us to open the crate, he tore off a piece of the saffron cloth he was wearing, and, leaving only the playing heads exposed, he wrapped the drum with the cloth. Then he said, “This must never come off,” and he began giving detailed instructions on how to play and care for the instrument.”
Foreword by H.H.Mukunda Maharaj, Science of Self Realization
PRABHUPADA: Formerly, when I was in Radha-Damodara temple, there was a khol manufacturer here. Is he here still? He supplied me khol very nice, very big. This khol was taken to Germany or…
AKSAYANANDA: Yes. I think he’s just a repairman though.
PRABHUPADA: Whatever he may be. Yes. We must have very good khol. You have no good khol.
AKSAYANANDA: I had one under repair. I had two under repair with him. But he takes a long time. I am waiting now for repair.
PRABHUPADA: So you can call him.
AKSAYANANDA: Okay. You’d like to meet him?
PRABHUPADA: Yes. If the same man, then I can ask him to prepare some khol.
AKSAYANANDA: Ours get damaged.
HARI-SAURI: The shells or…?
AKSAYANANDA: They break them so easily. They cannot control them. The shell, the skin, anything, always break.
HARI-SAURI: You should make some padded covers for them.
PRABHUPADA: Who is doing that? Everyone is irresponsible.
AKSAYANANDA: Even with that, they break.
HARI-SAURI: But at least it helps the chances they’ll survive.
PRABHUPADA: The one thing is that they neglect that rings. That ring and the strap, if it is… That will never do. As soon as they khol, some rope, bas.
HARI-SAURI: Usually what breaks is that little leather loop, you know, the small loop on each end. That’s what usually breaks. If you want to…
PRABHUPADA: No, if you make it nicely with chain.
AKSAYANANDA: I have made it even nicely with a cord, with a ring, and the proper straps. But they put it like this and like this and they bang it the wrong way. This is my problem. I can’t stop it, no matter what we do.
HARI-SAURI: You just bring them out for arati and then have somebody take them back and they won’t get broken. Hamsaduta was doing that with his mrdangas.
AKSAYANANDA:I was also doing that.
HARI-SAURI: The mrdangas are in there all day long. Any karmi that comes in, they beat the drum and mess around. The little kids go in and they do the same thing. I’ve seen them. You should take them out of the temple. Let them be there for kirtana and then take them away and store them in your room. There’s no kartalas now either because everybody steals them.
PRABHUPADA: These two rooms can be used for keeping.
AKSAYANANDA:Kartalas are locked away every time and the drums were done…That was done until they were broken.
HARI-SAURI: Or you can just put them in that tourist room. Or in the pujari room.
AKSAYANANDA: Yeah, I’ll arrange for that.
PRABHUPADA: Everything depends on organized management. Give some…
Room Conversation, Nov 4, 1976, Vrindavana
FULFILLING SRILA PRABHUPADA’S ORDER:
Purifying our performance of sankirtana from violence is very much a need that we need to realise. Srila Prabhupada calls it success!
SRILA PRABHUPADA: There is… And who is making khol?
SRILA PRABHUPADA: Khol, khol.
BHARADVAJA: Oh, khol. Isana. Isana dasa.
SRILA PRABHUPADA: He’s doing nice?
BHARADVAJA: Yes. They are producing many, and they are very, very strong.
SRILA PRABHUPADA: Eh?
BHARADVAJA: They are very strong, and they sound good.
SATADHANYA: They say that you can throw them on the floor and they will not break.
BHARADVAJA: Made for Kali-yuga.
SRILA PRABHUPADA: How many khols he has already prepared?
BHARADVAJA: I don’t know exactly, but I think it was close to about two hundred when I left.
SRILA PRABHUPADA: Where he is making?
BHARADVAJA: Well, they are having most of the part done outside by outside people, professionals, and Isana is assembling, and he’s working very hard.
SRILA PRABHUPADA: It is plastic?
BHARADVAJA: Yes, Completely, everything. And it can be tuned also on the spot. There is a key, and with this key you can tune it up. The heads never break, but if they happen to break they can be immediately replaced within… They can get extra heads and it takes about two minutes to change, to put a new head on.
SRILA PRABHUPADA: Hm!
BHARADVAJA: So Isana has worked very hard to fulfill your order, SrilaPrabhupada.
SRILA PRABHUPADA: Now he’s successful.
Let us organize “ahimsa mrdanga” project to please Srila Prabhupada and become successful!
tathai tathai bajalo khol, ghana ghana tahe jhajera rol,preme dhala dhala sonara anga, carane nupura baje
The mrdangas resounded “tathai, tathai,” the cymbals chimed in time, and Lord Gauranga’s foot bells jingled as His golden form trembled slightly in ecstatic love of God.