The kirtan movement was inaugurated in Mayapur, which lies along the banks of the Ganga in West Bengal, India. This special place is very close to our heart. My brother Bali and I studied and lived in the ashram there, Vish lived there with his family, and Vrinda was four the first time her parents brought her all the way from Sweden. Even now when we go to Mayapur, there is a feeling of having gone back in time, five-hundred years ago, to the time when Caitanya Mahaprabhu danced in kirtan through the villages. The story of how kirtan started is one we relate to quite a bit. Initially, the kirtan movement started surreptitiously. The doors were open only to Caitanya’s intimate associates who gathered together blissfully singing the night through. They dove deep into the essence of the holy names. This was the secret “nocturnal school of kirtan.” Eventually, Caitanya, full of compassion for the lost souls in the world, brought kirtan out into the streets of Mayapur and eventually all of India. Everyone was encouraged to join in this kirtan, which caused quite a revolution in the caste-divided India.
We love the history of kirtan because we’ve been singing at home and in our temples for many years before the idea of becoming kirtan-musicians even crossed our minds. Unknowingly, we’ve spent all our life doing kirtan, preparing in a sense to do what Mahaprabhu did, go out into the world and share this singing, this dancing, this happiness!
We were also quite inspired early on by the Manipuri drummers from Manipur, who have a well-developed style of dancing and seemingly flying with their drums. Once we had our mridunga-techniques down, we spontaneously began dancing with our drums, and the name “Mayapuris” manifested from this joint love of the mridunga-dance and the place Mayapur.