7 years ago today, the world lost one of its greatest kirtan pioneers. Some of you are aware of Kirtan, the call and response singing of the Hare Krishna mantra that Gaudiya Vaishnavas are famous for. Sripad Aindra Baba’s kirtans have been a lifeline for me since before I was born. My mother sat in his kirtans in the early 90s in Vrindavan and happily reports that I would kick on beat. I grew up falling asleep to his kirtans, Vrindavan Mellows a staple in our home. When my faith has been challenged, his kirtans are the only things that soothe my aching soul. For so many of us, Aindra Baba gave us nam ruchi – a taste for the name. No matter what our social standing, our faith level, our personal circumstances, our broken hearts or crumbling conviction, a single interaction with his purity of chanting and adoption of beautiful melodies drew us all back in. I was lucky to have an incredibly personal encounter with him at age 5 and at my low points, it is a memory of that moment that can often propel me forward. I would dream of sitting at his 6pm slot, every opportunity I had to return to Vrindavan. My 12th birthday is a favorite; I spent it relishing his kirtan, sweaty and blissful. The way he dressed his Radhe Shyam and adored Them filled us all with a longing to have that relationship with God. During my study abroad trip to India, I hoped to hear his Damodarastakam live. I still remember the fateful call in 2010, a friend alerting me that he was no more. My childhood dreams seemed smashed at that moment; as ridiculous as it sounds, I had always wanted to play mridanga in one of his kirtans.
Luckily, we have a corpus of his Kirtan recordings and a legacy of new kirtaniyas who have picked up his mission of creating a resurgence of the Yuga dharma or the mission for this time – Hari Nama sankirtana, Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare. Today I am grateful for all that he gave – both said and unsaid. They say saints never leave us, forever preserved in their mission and instructions. With Aindra baba, I feel his presence every day.