An introduction to the life and work of Ananta Govinda
Ananta Govinda is a visionary musician, author, photographer, and multimedia producer. Being a practitioner of Vedic sciences and bhakti-yoga for over 25 years, his work always blends tasteful artistic expression with eternal human values. Calling himself a handyman at the temple of the Sacred Universe, Ananta’s talents are versatile and well-rounded.
Growing up in the USSR – from the banks of the Volga to the underground rock scene
Born and raised in communist Russia, Ananta enjoyed his childhood on the banks of the mighty Volga River. Spending summers outdoors and living on the many islands in the river, he learned to appreciate the divine in nature. From early on, his parents taught him the value of music and art. They also encouraged him to attend a music academy for piano and music theory for seven years. “I remember how hard it was as a teenager to leave my friends after school to practice for piano exams. But that experience taught me to appreciate the world of music and nourish my imagination. My teacher was crazy about Bach, and from her, I learned about harmony and the devotional aspect of his music.”
In Soviet Russia, all music needed to be approved by the state. However, Ananta still found ways to experiment, learning how to tinker with musical equipment. He assembled his first multi-track recorder and synthesizer when he was in 8th grade. Creating experimental rock and ambient music, he was quickly noticed by the local scene and joined his first underground band. Rehearsing in basements, Ananta witnessed the birth of “official” rock music in Russia and was instrumental in organizing his city’s first rock-festival in 1987. Selected for his academic achievements, he received an opportunity to continue his education on the other side of the Berlin Wall. Consequently, Ananta traveled to Western Europe, spending time in France and Switzerland.
Roaming the land of ‘Brave and Free’ – from California to the Rainbow Gathering
Being bilingual from childhood, Ananta felt like he belonged to an English speaking culture. Therefore, he journeyed to the “land of the free” to pursue his dream of becoming a multimedia artist. Arriving in California, Ananta felt blessed breathing in the salty ocean breeze mixed with the sweet smell of eucalyptus and palm trees. He enrolled in a two-year college program in LA and lived the Hollywood lifestyle, visiting many music events and studios.
After two years, an opportunity invited him to move to New York. So, Ananta packed his belongings into a van and ventured cross-country to the Big Apple. “Driving across the continent was a life-changing experience, as I saturated my mind with the landscapes inhabited by Native Americans and witnessed by the first European settlers.” En route, he visited his first Rainbow Gathering in the Missouri National Forest, which felt like being on another planet. “I was very inspired by people joining and creating art and music together, completely free from boundaries and preconceptions about each other, it was magical!”
Life in New York – outlaw raves and undercover studies at NYU
New York was very different from sunny California, and he got sucked into the hustle of a big metropolis. Suddenly, life became an array of fast-paced faces and places. While working a side hustle in Soho’s trendy jazz coffee bar Kavehaz, Ananta was writing his first novel. He was also active in the “outlaw” rave scene of the 90s, as a musician and an event organizer.
His strong desire to learn more about music and film production brought him to the hallways of NYU. However, as he could not afford it, he would sneak into the classrooms hungry for knowledge. “I really wanted to learn filmmaking and music, so I thought college was the perfect place to start. But I could not afford the international fees for students. Despite this, I would just come and sit in the first class of the semester, looking like I belonged there. Eventually, the professor would just think that they made a mistake and would add me to his register,” he remembers.
Exploring spirituality – from a rooftop in Brooklyn to discovering the Bhagavad-Gita
Being exposed to so many lifestyles and living in a Jewish neighborhood in Williamsburg, Ananta started questioning his spiritual heritage and ventured into biblical studies. “I was moved by the example of Jesus and other saints, but couldn’t connect his message to the modern church.” Looking for something more spiritual, rather than religious, he studied the Koran with friends in the New York hip-hop scene. “We would sit on the rooftop of my apartment observing the Manhattan skyline, smoke joints and talk Old Testament stories, then play music to the dismay of our neighbors!”
But then one day on Brighton Beach, he stumbled into a street vendor and picked up The Bhagavad-Gita As It Is, the most well-known book on Eastern wisdom and practical philosophy. “This book was banned in Russia, so I wanted to discover why it was so dangerous to the totalitarian state. As I dove into the ancient Sanskrit texts things started opening up in a different light. Amazed by the depth and consistency of this book, I could not put it down.”
Ancient wisdom and the Vedic scriptures – ashram life in West Virginia
“Like some maze game, the Bhagavad Gita and Vedic wisdom were putting everything back together; there were no loopholes, everything was solid and consistent,” he explained. In 1997 he moved from New York to the quiet state of West Virginia so that he could settle down on a farm community that was built around studies of Vedic scriptures. “Simple living and high thinking” was the motto. Ananta enjoyed the ashram lifestyle, organic gardening, and learning meditation and the ancient wisdom of bhakti-yoga from actual practitioners.
While there, Ananta remodeled an abandoned school building into a top-notch recording studio and bought his first Mac. This was because digital production had just become a reality in the music business. His first album, Reality Check, amalgamated the snowy winters of West Virginia with his studies of the Mahabharata and Upanishads. In 2001, feeling strongly connected to the devotional tradition of bhakti-yoga, Ananta asked for a spiritual initiation from Radhanath Swami, an author, and teacher of Vaishnava lineage. He offered Ananta his name—Ananta Govinda—which means “servant of the Unlimited One.”
Spiritual music – from the Warped Tour to ecstatic dance in San Francisco
Also in 2001, Ananta released his second self-produced album, Nuclear Angel, which was distributed on the Warped Tour, “I was doing the whole 60 city concert tour for three summers.” In those summer travels, he sold over 30,000 copies of his CDs!
Feeling more solid in his spiritual life, Ananta decided to get back into music studies. Inspired by the example and personal advice of noted Kirtanwalla Jai Uttal, Ananta headed back to California. This time to study vocals and Indian ragas at the Ali Akbar School of Music in Marin County.
In Northern California, Ananta quickly became a staple of the spiritual music scene. He worked as a producer of devotional events, including Kirtan Lounge and the epic Ecstatic Dance 906 San Francisco. Concurrently, he worked with Google Talks, helping bring Krishna Das, Karsh Kale, and others to speak on their campus.
Launching the Vedic Renaissance – through literature, records, and art
Ananta settled in San Francisco and currently lives with his family and works out of Marin County. He has brought many music and media projects to fruition under the name of Vedic Renaissance Productions. These include an extensive library of more than 30 audio and books on Vedic thoughts and sciences, travel almanacs on Indian sadhus, 108 Blessings of a Babaji, an ebook and a guide to the Cosmology of Tanka, plus other mindfulness-oriented projects. In 2016, he produced three brilliant YouTube videos that amassed over a million views and accompanied his masterful third album, Morning Rising. And in 2017, he produced the Kirtan Lounge original albums Nectar of Devotion and Precious Jewels.
For that project, Ananta organized a memorable show at Los Angeles’ Vortex Dome. In 2019, Ananta co-founded Wisdome.la, a multimedia immersive park in the heart of the Downtown Los Angeles Arts District, working with artists such as Android Jones and others. Ananta is currently experimenting with creating healing music using Dolby Atmos, an immersive audio mixing experience that pushes artists’ creative boundaries. Ananta and the team are looking forward to welcoming crowds back in 2021 to enjoy ground-breaking art and audio performances. These will include a special show themed around his new album and book, Mirror of Desire.
Mirror of Desire – a groundbreaking album and fantasy trilogy
Responding to the current times led to his new project, an epic album and fantasy novel, Mirror of Desire. “I truly believe that rediscovering our common heritage will help us overcome the tendency to divide and see each other on opposite sides of life.” In the allegorical storyline of the Mirror of Desire trilogy, white and black wizards compete for access to the mysterious land of the Pyramid. He adds, “I wanted to show those two colors are the range of the spectrum, indeed they cannot exist without each other.” Mirror of Desire, the album was released on August 28, 2020, and hit 150,000 streams in its first month. Mirror of Desire book followed in November 2020 and trended as the # 1 Amazon Bestseller in the categories of Science Fiction, Religious Studies – Philosophy, New Age Dreams, and Spiritual Warfare.
Look out too for the Mirror of Desire immersive art and audio experience coming soon in 360-degree domes!