Kaustubha das

In Loving Memory of Aindra Das

The first time I visited India was in 1989. My flight arrived at the Delhi Airport at some early hour and I took a precarious taxi ride through the morning fog to the holy town of Vrindavan. Upon arriving, I prostrated in the dust of Vraja and headed straight for the Krishna Balaram Temple. It was shortly after the daily scriptural discourse and the place was nearly empty. As I approached the foot of the alter a musician caught my attention. He was alone, sitting before the shrine of Sri Sri Radha Syamsundar. He appeared austere. It was cold and he was wrapped in a ragged wool shawl. His music was unlike anything I had heard before. The melody was stripped bare. A desolate voice accompanied only by a frail harmonium scale, slow and slightly off beat – crawling, barely dragging along. His song was the cry of a dying man. A man in the desert, drying up and desperate, crying for some water – just a small cup – just a drop. It was almost pitiful, but hauntingly beautiful – like nothing I’d heard before. It sounded so remorseful, so humble and completely sincere. It was the first time I heard a man desperately crying out to God.

The musician was Aindra das. An American who had given up his citizenship to settle in Vrindavan with an unbreakable, one pointed focus – to sing before Radha Syamsundar until the day he died. Aindra had complete conviction. Conviction that Vrindavan was no ordinary village – it was the highest spiritual abode. Conviction that kirtan was no ordinary music – it was the divine name, descended from above, non-different from Radha and Krishna. He had no interest to be anywhere else or do anything else. He was convinced that by sitting in that spot he could change the world through his song.

Aindra das lived in a room on the third floor of a school for boys, adjacent to the temple. His entire life was comprised of the practice of Krishna bhakti. He would read, discuss and contemplate the esoteric bhakti scriptures in that room, late into the night. He would perform the sacred bhakti rituals in that room with the utmost sincerity. At four in the morning, he would enter the temple to observe the mangala-arati, and then he would step into the temples sanctum-sanctorium to perform the service of alankara, dressing the divine forms of Radha Syamsundara. Although Aindra dressed himself practically in rags, his refined fashion sense was expressed through the exceptional artistic beauty of  his service to Radhe Shyam. Later he would take a little rest, then back to kirtan. Every evening he would sing in the temple to the delight of thousands.

Of course it was kirtan that Aindra was known for. How to describe it? It would often start gently – so delicate and soft.  As the subtleties of the melody became more apparent and everyone became more confident in responding, you could feel the kirtan grow. It might be slow, graceful and ornate, but you could begin to feel the power just beneath the surface. Soon, under his meticulous direction, the drum beat would grow. Aindra always had a team of fantastic drummers. They would travel across the world for the privilege not just to play for him, but to learn from him. Or more precisely, to try to somehow capture just a bit of his realization and love of kirtan. As the beat grew and his voice gained strength it would become clear that although the kirtan was slow, it was massive. It was an elephant struggling to stand, sluggish but powerful. Step by brawny step the elephant would push forward, growing in strength. This kirtan was a thing of beauty. You would feel your heart pulled along through so many emotions. Joy and pain, wonder and regret, all were sublime in his kirtan. They were so satisfying, nourishing, edifying to the experience of bhakti. Nightly, large, international groups of people would join together in song and become one – one group united in devotion. Smiles and tears, so many varieties of dance. It was always a joy to see large groups of Indian villagers enter the temple on pilgrimage and take such delight in his kirtan. He never failed to astonish them, this white-boy with such deep devotion, playing their folk music with more energy and skill then they had ever seen. The joy in the faces of the ladies as they raised their arms, and danced. The village men, smiling with their missing teeth, clapping their hands, throwing back their heads and crying out. And the kirtan would just keep growing. It was epic, heroic, relentless, all consuming. He would sing, then he would roar. The earth would shake, until finally – JAYA JAYA SRI RADHEEEEEEEEEEEEEE SHYAM!

Like almost everyone, musicians commonly desire fame or prestige. Their performances serve their egos. Not Aindra. He was completely committed. His sole purpose was to glorify Radha Syamsundar and engage the whole world along with him. Through devotion he received the blessing to uplift everyone in his presence. He became the most incredible musician, composer and singer I’ve ever heard. He showed by his example how one can become a vibrant manifestation of divine grace if one simple wants nothing else.

Spiritual practitioners go through their ups and downs. We struggle to find footing, a place where we can grow. Aindra’s practice was solid and fixed. Year after year, I could always count on him being there, doing what he always did – what he only did – kirtan, kirtan, kirtan. When I would sit on that checkered marble floor, Aindra on my left, Prabhupada’s samadhi behind him, Radha Syamsundar on my right, the sun going down over the temple courtyard, without fail I would say to myself, “There is absolutely no better spot to be on the face of this Earth than right here, and there is absolutely no better engagement than this, right now”. The exquisite melodies. Night after night. Everyone submerged. Those times were so incredibly precious. The beauty, the love – we were sitting in the presence of God.

Aindra prabhu, you have changed the world through your song. So many follow in your footsteps from all the corners of the globe. It’s hard to believe that we won’t see you again.   There was no one like you. Sitting near you before Radha Shyamsudar and singing my heart out with all the Vaishnavas have been some of the finest moments of my life. You will be missed beyond what my words can express. Thank you so much from the bottom of my heart for all that you gave us. Till the day I die you will remain a tremendous inspiration.

ALL GLORIES TO AINDRA PRABHU!

Kaustubha das

Related Post: Kirtan Podcast 2: Aindra Das



16 Responses to “In Loving Memory of Aindra Das”

  1. Dear Kaustubha, thank you for writing this. I loved your description. So exactly to the point. Our hearts pain. A tremendous lost.

    I also fondly remember the glorious day I happened upon Aindra’s epochal kirtans. I was totally astounded and mesmerized by their breathtaking grandeur and sheer intensity of devotion. That fateful day was an absolute turning point in my spiritual journey and my life would never be the same. His beautiful, moving kirtans have formed the cornerstone of my spiritual life for more than a decade. Not a day goes by when I don’t listen, sing and dance along to his sweet kirtans. Yes, Aindra’s music never fails to fulfill our need for inspiration in our devotional life. I will treasure and honor his precious legacy till the day I die, and then carry it over to the next, to celebrate and live it in all eternity in the divine realm hereafter. There aren’t that many people I can say that I love and feel deeply grateful to with all my heart and soul, and more. Aindra Prabhu is one of them.

  2. The last time we spoke was on Sri Krsna Janmastami 2006 he was on his way to Bihari Lal’s shop and he called out me from a from a short distance saying Gopinath keep in touch. at that time i didnt know that it would be the last time I would see him, because we go back all the way to New york temple on Schermerhornstreet . It was also the last time I met with Dadu and Vibhu Caitanya. All Glories Aindra Prabhu and the 24hrs Kirtan KBM

  3. I cried reading this. Nothing else.

  4. Thank you for this dear Kaustubha prabhu.

    I believe it was 2007 March when I first time visited Aindra prabhu´s room in Krishna Balarama mandir with our Sundara Thakura prabhu. We were there for purchasing some of his cd´s. Aindra started to preach the importance of Harinama.
    “Here in Vrndavana people come to the temple, we can chant here, but you guys have to go out, in west they are not willing to come to the temple, you must go out to chant. Once a week is not enough, why not to go out every day?…it´s very powerful preaching when people see that devotees are happily chanting the holy name…”

    What would be better way to please Aindra prabhu than increasing our dedication to, and distributing of Harinama?

    Let´s us all take into our hearts this simple but sublime formula for success: going out into the streets to chant as often as possible.

    Sri Aindra prabhu ki jaya!!!

    Your servant Muniraja dasa

  5. Thank you Kaustubha Prabhuji. Your words echo my heart. I think that anyone who has gone to Vrndavana in the past 25 years will attest that Vrndavana and Aindra’s kirtana are synonymous. Over the years and visits, I get the closest to Vraja by just sitting in KB mandir chanting in his kirtana before Radhe-Shyama, Krsna-Balarama and Gaura-Nitai. No need to go anywhere else. Now when we play his kirtana from afar, we are transferred directly to Vraja… He will always be dear to our hearts.

  6. Beautifully written. A wonderful tribute, to an indescribable devotee. Aindra Prabhu has touched so many devotees, and today is such a sad day with the realization that Krsna-Balarama Mandir will not have him there every night.

  7. Stunning, Kaustubha Prabhu. Stunning.

  8. All glories to Shri Shri Radha Madhav! All Glories to Srila Prabhupada! All glories to Shri Aindra Dasa prabhu!

    Thank you for the wonderful tribute Kaustubha prabhu. For those of us who did not get association of such an exalted servant of the lord, this has brought inspiration, hope and determination to carry forward in Krishna’s loving service!

    HARI BOL!

  9. I have hated the institution; I have denounced my fallen gurus; I have decried the holy name;
    I have deliberately broken my vows in anger to ‘prove’ that contemporary belief in karma is a simplistic superstition; I have spent thousands of dollars and years speaking with a therapist to untangle my thinking from the institutional modes of thought, the racism, the sexism, the homophobia; I have pursued an education and qualifications and successfully defended my criticisms of the ‘modernist’ underpinnings of Bhaktivinode’s mission; I have many times fantasized of setting my srimad bhagavatam set ablaze, and envisioned myself casting my mala into a river; I have avoided devotees when I see them in public.

    Despite all this, on hearing of Aindra Prabhu’s passing I have recalled hearing his Vrndavan Mellows for the first time and thinking, “this is what Vrndavan sounds like”; I have recalled sitting on that dusty floor in front of Radhe-Shyam uttering the names. Why does my heart break to hear of his death, and why do my senses feel as though the atmosphere of raman-reti is infecting them once again? To be sure, it can be little more tha some shadow sentiment. But, why do I find myself suddenly uttering the holy names and lamenting the lack of sadhu-sanga in my life. Aindra Prabhu, what seed have you planted in our hearts that even though we may try so furiously the holy name keeps resonating in the depths of our souls? You are irreplaceable.

    My only consolation in spiritual life has been that whatever offenses I have committed I can join the 24-hour kirtan in Vrndavan when all else fails and I am old and nobody loves me.
    Now that you are gone what will become of me?

  10. Hare Krsna Kaustubha Prabhu,
    Dandavats. AGTSP.

    Thanks a ton for your heart touching offering. The sentiments mentioned can arise only in a heart which is grateful and have recieved a glimpse of the Suddha Naam….Aindra Prabhu was a legend and will remain so in whole Vaishnava Community till his kirtans resound. I had good fortune to visit his rooms some hours after the news broke… It was such an emotionally wrenching scene to be there. ISKCON kirtans will never be the same now especially at Krsna Balaram Mandir. Your mercy that i could render some menial service in your final sojourn back to the eternal pastimes of your beloved Sri Sri Radhe Shyam….Grateful to you Aindra Prabhu for allowing me to relish Holy Name under your shelter. All glories to you !!!!

    As you perform your wonderful and exotic kirtans for the Divine Couple we on this planet will keep yearning for your association till the time by your causeless mercy we can again associate with you and chant Hare Krsna….but till that time its.. Jai Jai Sriiiiiiiiiiiiiii Radheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee Shyam !!!!

  11. Aindra das is a pure devotee………

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=umjnoFMKyUA

    So my husband called me 8:00p Fri, (16th morning in India already), moments before harinama and told me that just as he reached his office in New Delhi, he got a phone call from bramacari asram in Vrndavan to come quick, Aindra had passed. We were both shocked, cried a bit.

    He was carrying positioned at Aindra’s feet for some of the procession, put him in the Yamuna. … chanting Radhey !!!!!!!!!

    He was very sad also to see the condition of Krsna’s Vraj, Vrndavan is not the same, and it is all rubble.

    What are we going to do about this??? Now Aindra Prabhu was such an electrifying and magnetic force in KB Temple, this is a major event in our community, isn’t it? I have been continuously listening to Aindra’s kirtan, and I’ve been attached to hearing his loving exchange. I have so many hours recordings of his joyful sounding voice, heavenly harmonium praising Their glories every single day… so much love…..

    I LOVE Aindra, Before going to India, Sita gave me so many recordings from Kartik 2005, 2006, 2007 and I became addicted to hearing his bhakti…..I faithfully listen to Aindra’s kirtans every day, for hours. When I met my husband he was playing with Aindra in kirtan in Mayapur Dham, right in front of Panca Tattva. My life is influenced immensely by this man. Love Aindra Prabhu. We will miss u sooo much.

    Years ago someone once misled me, telling me Aindra hates women, so I was bit afraid of him at first.

    First couple days after my arrival in Vrndavan, Aindra saw me in temple and put some maha prasada in my hand and just walked away. Later, i told my bramacari friend, who is dear friend of Aindra, that I was sad someone told me he did not like women, because he seems totally opposite, and i don’t believe that rumor. Our conversation led to life on other planets, and UFO sighting topic, I told him I had always seen strange UFOs in America but none in India yet, and he later was telling Aindra about this crazy girl (me) and my crazy stories. Aindra told him that he wanted to meet me, because of this, and i laughed surprised, thinking, “This is what is going to lead me to Aindra? LOL not some lovely lila, or bhajan, something about Krsna,…… spaceships and aliens?!!? really ? ?!!” I was so blessed happy and nervous to meet him and he arranged for us to meet June 14, 2009 near the stairs at KB Mandir after morning class.

    Aindra says he saw some UFOs over Vrndavan and we shared two intense stories; he spoke in an animated manner, but seriously.

    He was totally cool, full of bhakti, no, FULL of Krsna PREMA so nice,peaceful, and shining like a moon… I thanked him deeply for sharing his love for Krsna, further, asking “where are you from? why you came to Vrndavan? ;telling him with tears in my eyes, I explained that I was sad to leave in exactly one month, to USA. He said DONT GO! i said i have to take care of some business, family and government paperwork, then after couple years I definitely must to return. He told me come back, as quickly as possible, and said he came to Vrndavan, and never left, only has gone to Delhi to work on publishing his book, and he does not like to go at all, then he comes straight home to Vrndavan. He said he will only go to Mayapur Dham for Abhishek during Gaura Purnima, because The Dhams are indifferent, and he has to be with Radharani in Vrndavan. He said someone told him to go to Bombay and he said ” NOOOO WAY, I want to chant the holy name and leave my body in Vrndavan. ”

    So his desire is fulfilled. but so much wish he would have passed peacefully, not such a tragic situation. I m not even worthy to have had his darshan every day for so many months consecutively. He used to wait eagerly for Srimati Radharani’s Sri Syamasundara to give all of us darshan every morning at the same time as I was there,during SB class. While waiting peacefully in class, they re- open the curtains for a quiet short arati and i just could never control myself, running thru the ropes separating the visitor’s darshan line from the devotee class congregation. So fortunate, beyond words, every single day in Vrndavan from Feb 6 to July 16, with the exception of traveling for festivals, the chance for my eyes to see Sri Sri Radha Syamasundara, and see Aindra having their darshan. He loves Radha and Krsna soooo much, and you can just feel it like ooozing from his every pore. You can love Krsna more by just Aindra’s sweet association. He is a supreme devotee. at least. He, like Prabhupada, definitely practices what he preaches. May the sweet, blissful, ever loving sound of his kirtan resound in the marble, in the altars, in the trees, in the footsteps of every devotee, every breath of every living force in Vraj.. Aindra Prabhu ki jaya!!! :) ? we are happy only that Aindra you are with Krsna in Goloka Vrndavan.

  12. Your great sound of your soul will go on and on fulfilling your mission – here and there! No worry about your journey – leaving back so much love and devotion! Hare Krsna!
    Bhavabhavani d.d.

  13. I am not a member of ISCKON (pointing it out just to tell you that I am aware all vaisnav world lost a dear dear devotee; otherwise who cares obut such stupid irrelevances).

    My heart is broken by this loss, and I went before my Radhe Syam picture I have in my room and just wished for him all the best either in Nitya Lila or in some other service to Sri Gauranga in this world. I can just say for 15 years Aindra prabhus kirtans were with me, inspiring me so many times, and I hope they remain with me till my death. Prabhu I hope someday I can sit with you in the dust of Vraj, engaged in never ending bhajan.

    Jay Sri Radhe Syam!

  14. Yes.Absolutely true .I stayed in Vrndavan between 1995 and 1999.I had was fortunate to hear from Aindra during that time discuss very esoteric aspects of the Vaisnava Philosopy.Krishna Balaram temple will not be the same again .He will be sadly missed.Radhe Syam

  15. I have only recently come to know of Aindra Dasji after he was gone from this earth, and I mourn with you all, and I mourn that I never got to sit with him and chant with him. What a pure devotee; as much as I love to sing kirtan, his devotion is a beacon to me. You can hear in his chanting, his ecstatic love and yearning to be with his Radha Krishna Divine Couple.I feel so lost as I am about to return to India and cannot sit wit him there and sing with him in ecstatic kirtan, but perhaps I can go to Vrindaban and enjoy his essence there, along with my Beloved Krishna.I hope the 24 hour kirtan will continue. Aindra Das now has his heart’s deepest desire fulfilled.I have much love in my heart for him.

  16. In December 1977, on a dark late evening in front of the Krishna Balaram Mandir in front of a mud hut a devotee was singing and he asked if my wife and I wanted to replace him for a while. We were not Iskcon-devotees. Searchers. Only recently, if I’m right, I discovered that we have been a small link in an unbroken chain of kirtan. Now that I read this very sad news about Aindra Dasji (what a linK-rishna), I experience a mixture of emotions and the past few days I listen a lot to my collection of old Krishna-records and to kirtan I can find on the web. What to say? What to sing!!

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