Anuttama: 1975 was the first year that everyone practically who was a devotee for some time got to go to India. They had an initial first festival in ’74, and it was more or less the senior devotees, leaders, temple presidents; but ’75 was open to everyone. All the devotees went together on the same plane, leaving out of New York. We all sat together. The middle section was all devotees, New York devotees and the other cities nearby. During the flight, we would have kirtan because we loved kirtan. The devotees would get in the aisles of the plane and we’d be jumping and chanting, and the plane would start to move back and forth. And the captain had to make an announcement, “Please take your seats, you’re disturbing the plane.” Prasadam was provided by the temple. We all brought packaged prasadam. When we stopped in London, the London devotees all met us at the airport and brought us more prasadam. And this was Radha-Londonisvara prasadam, and that was very special because most of us had never been to Europe before. Then we arrived in Calcutta and I remember them saying that this was the first 747 to land in Calcutta Dum Dum Airport, and it was half full of devotees. It was an Air India flight because I remember on the inside of the plane they had the depictions of the Rasa-lila as the decorations on the walls, Krishna and the gopis, and the stewardesses all wore saris. Everything was new, everything was fresh. We were all very happy because we were in the holy land and everything was transcendental. The Ganges was there, the birthplace of Caitanya Mahaprabhu, the center of ISKCON. Prabhupada’s desire was to have Mayapur as the world headquarters. And to be with all the senior devotees, all the sannyasis, to be with Srila Prabhupada. Most of us had come from smaller temples. A lot of temples were 10, 15 devotees. I was in New York, we had a lot of devotees, but a lot of temples were small. So to be with this many devotees was very special. And nonstop classes with Prabhupada, going to special holy places, bathing in the Ganges, reading the Caitanya-caritamrta for the first time, this was like a trip to the spiritual world. It was something very special.
During the day, we would go on parikramas. Achyutananda Swami was leading the parikrama in each place and explaining about the importance of all of the holy places in Mayapur, and we would all come down Bhaktisiddhanta Road to the various spots and temples. For most of us, this was our first visit to India, certainly my first visit. I remember some devotees telling me, “This is the dust that Lord Caitanya walked on! This is cintamani, this is nondifferent from the spiritual world,” and that realization was unique to all of us. Prabhupada was always the center of the festival. We all came to India to see Prabhupada. Prabhupada wanted us all to come to Mayapur every year. He felt that it was very important for us as this was the birthplace of the Hare Krishna movement. The managers were very concerned that we didn’t spend too much time in India because they wanted us to come back and do sankirtan and run the temples and to preach in the West. The idea was to come to India and to get recharged and enlivened and go back and preach in the West.