A reply to concerns about the current design of the Temple of the Vedic Planetarium

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By Hari-sauri dasa

June 26, 2008

A number of concerns have been raised about the new design for the Mayapur Temple of the Vedic Planetarium. This have been collated by Janakirama dasa and were presented by Drutakarma prabhu on June 10 2008 to the first meeting of a committee formed to develop the exhibits that will be displayed in the planetarium section of the TVP. The main points were summarized thus:

1) We know that Srila Prabhupada made some brief remarks on one or two occasions about the TVP looking like the US Capitol. But we also know that on many occasions he was shown and approved designs of an Indian nature. We feel it is therefore necessary for the movement’s leadership to carefully consider which of the designs that Srila Prabhupada spoke about best fulfills his overall desires for the project.

2) We have some concerns that a Western design for the TVP, particularly one modeled after the US Capitol building, will not have the desired effect of attracting favorable worldwide attention to the Vedic cosmology, philosophy and culture that Srila Prabhupada wanted to present. Since the 1970s, world opinion about the United States has changed considerably for the worse. We feel an Indian-style temple will be more in harmony with the actual purposes that Srila Prabhupada envisioned for the project. An American-style design may inspire negative reactions from many categories of people (ranging from academics to ordinary people), for stylistic, cultural, political and other reasons.

3) We wish to be assured that the project will be designed in such a way as to take into account the traditional appearance of the dhama and environmental factors.

4) We want the planning of exhibits to keep pace with the actual level of scholarship that ISKCON has attained in the fields of Vedic cosmology.

The above points were accompanied by further comments by two other scholars as well as the following letter “signed by a number of ISKCON scholars on VAST” reading as follows:

Whereas a significant number of intelligent, educated members of ISKCON are not pleased with the Western design of the TVP;

Whereas these members feel that an Indian design would be more appropriate for ISKCON’s largest temple in its most sacred dhama, especially in terms of attracting visitors from all over the world, who will expect to see in India an Indian design; and

Whereas there are reasons for studying more carefully Srila Prabhupada’s instructions on this matter;
We propose that no construction on the TVP begin until the GBC has had time to hear critics of the current design give a presentation of their view that an Indian design would better fulfill Srila Prabhupada’s overall desires for the TVP.

——————————————————-

My reply:

The key to this debate, as has been noted above, is to understand what Srila Prabhupada himself wanted for the project. We all agree on this point and I shall attempt to present what the current TVP design and construction team has understood and concluded in this regard.

1) Janakirama prabhu states “We know that Srila Prabhupada made some brief remarks on one or two occasions about the TVP looking like the US Capitol. But we also know that on many occasions he was shown and approved designs of an Indian nature.”

This statement tends to minimize Srila Prabhupada’s own stated preference for the design [‘brief remarks’] while maximizing the idea of designs of an “Indian nature” [many occasions].

I was present in Mayapur with Srila Prabhupada in 1976 and 1977 when discussion of the TVP was gearing up and Srila Prabhupada was pushing the project quite strongly with Saurabha prabhu and the GBC. He gave many instructions on what was to go inside the building but in 1976 there was no real design for the outer structure as such.

There was one design in late 1971 which appears more like a pyramid than a traditional ‘Indian’ style dome [see photos below].

It was, as far as I know, drawn up by Ranchor prabhu in London, who had never been to India and had little or no concept of ‘Indian’ temple architecture. At any rate, it had little resemblance to ‘traditional Indian domes.’ That design was made before the idea of a planetarium came up and seems to have fell by the wayside as Srila Prabhupada’s ideas for the Mayapur temple developed. After that no design is apparent until 1977.

The earliest known date that Srila Prabhupada talked about a planetarium seems to be circa 1973 in a recorded conversation with his godbrother BR Sridhar Swami but no description of the building’s appearance was stated.

Further discussions with his disciples ensued. On November 7, 1975 the following discussion took place, whereby it is evident that no design had yet been settled upon:

Prabhupada: Yes. How one is going by cheating others, by stealing. So everything. You can display, what is called? That planetary system?
Indian man (1): Planetarium?
Prabhupada: Planetarium. According to planetarium.
Dr. Patel: They have got a big planetarium in Calcutta.
Prabhupada: Yes, they have got, but we have also got. So it is little difference. Just like we are calculating that the sun is the beginning of the planets, sun, then moon. Therefore we say “Sunday, Monday.” This is very quite reasonable. Tuesday.
Dr. Patel: And Tuesday is next word because Maìgala.
Prabhupada: Yes. And planet is 1,006,000 miles above, above. And Saturday, Saturn is the last. So now sun is calculated to be 93,000,000’s miles from earth, and if the moon is still further 1,600,000, then it becomes about fifteen hundred thousand miles. No. Fifteen million miles. So how they are going, in four days, fifteen million?
Dr. Patel: You ask me?
Prabhupada: Yes. (laughter)
Dr. Patel: Well, sir, there is no going and coming. All are what we are, wherever.
Prabhupada: No, no. That is another thing. That is another thing, that with their this sputnik, how they can go in four days fifteen millions miles?
Dr. Patel: You see, in the cosmos, the whole cosmos is as big… Modern scientists understand it by what we call the force of attraction and repulsion. When you go in between the two, there is no attraction, repulsion. Then you just have this and it goes on.
Prabhupada: No, no. Hare Krishna.
Bhagavata: So we should display the real planetary system…
Prabhupada: Yes.
Bhagavata: As it really exists.
Prabhupada: Yes.
Bhagavata: And then we can put underneath explanations in Bengali and English.
Prabhupada: Yes. Yes.
Dr. Patel: In Sanskrit and English because Sanskrit contains Bengali and Gujarati and all.
Prabhupada: Yes. That’s a good idea, good idea.
Dr. Patel: I go, sir.
Prabhupada: Hm? Time is up? Hare Krishna. [break] …many things to be displayed by these models, and we can utilize that.
Bhagavata: Like the pictures we have in the Bhagavatam and the Gita, then we can make them into doll displays, some of those pictures.
Prabhupada: But the idea was that in our big temple I wanted to display.
Bhagavata: Oh. You didn’t want a separate building.
Prabhupada: No. We wanted to display where is the Vaikuntha planet, where is the Goloka planet, where is this material world—in this way.
Bhagavata: So if that’s what you want, then we should not make a permanent structure? We should make some temporary structure like last year.
Prabhupada: That you decide yourself.
Bhagavata: So we should engage the local dollmakers in doing this.
Prabhupada: First of all you have your place; then make dolls. But dolls should not be exactly like this, in the same way. But when you make actually, then I will give you how the models should be made. Now, how to do, where to do, that, it is your business. You decide, some of yourself, and do the needful. You have not yet done any plan for the big temple?
Saurabha: I have been asking Jayapataka for about one year to please send me some plan of the land so that I can place all these buildings, because there is no…
Bhagavata: The blueprints are done. Jayapataka is revising them now. They are in Mayapur. He is reviewing all the blueprints. They are all done. And when they are finished… When he finishes reviewing them, then we’ll have them sent here immediately. I just sent them to Mayapur.
Saurabha: As soon as I get the plans, I will make immediately, finish everything. We can make a master plan for the whole situation.
Prabhupada: So ask him to send immediately site plan and begin.
Saurabha: Yes. …
[end quote]

From this conversation it is apparent that there was no existing design. Saurabha was waiting for plans of the land so that he could begin work on it.

Srila Prabhupada spent 2 months in Mayapur leading up to the 1976 Gaura Purnima festival. ISKCON Mayapur had bought more land and an application was submitted to the WB govt. for acquiring 350 acres for the project. Srila Prabhupada talked about a city of 50,000 devotees based on varnasrama principles. I personally sat in on most of the conversations which were held with the Mayapur co-directors Bhavananda and Jayapataka Swamis, and on morning walks with his senior disciples and secretaries–Hridayananda Goswami, Pusta Krishna Swami and Tamal Krishna Goswami. However a specific external design for the temple was not touted at that time. The only thing that was understood at that time was that there would be a large central dome which would house the planetarium and it would be 350 feet high.

Saurabh prabhu was ISKCON’s main temple ‘architect’ although he himself had no formal training in architecture and he readily admits he was only a designer. At the 1976 Gaura Purnima festival there was still no design but during 1976 he took up the project enthusiastically and spent many hours working on the concept of a city for 50,000 people centered by a temple incorporating a Vedic planetarium.

During 1976 Srila Prabhupada spoke frequently about the Mayapur planetarium. He was in Washington DC for the bi-centennial celebrations. On July 4 the devotees took him on a tour of the city and afterwards we sat with him for some time on a lawn at the end of the Mall, looking towards the Capitol building waiting for the fireworks display. Srila Prabhupada seems to have been meditating on the Capitol building dome and liked what he saw because on July 6, he called in Yadubara prabhu and his wife Vishakha and asked them to take photos of the Capitol Building:

Prabhupada: … I wanted both of you to take various detailed photographs of that Capitol.
Yadubara: The Capitol Building. For what purpose, Srila Prabhupada?
Prabhupada: We shall have picture, planetarium in Mayapura. (aside:) That’s better. [break] …spiritual world, material world, and so on, so on. Planetary…, succession of the planetary systems, everything. A building like that.
Yadubara: That would be a separate building from the temple?
Prabhupada: Yes. We are acquiring 350 acres of land for life for constructing a small township…
Yadubara: I think we…
Prabhupada: …to attract people from all the world to see the planetarium.
Svarupa Damodara: Is this near the temple?
Prabhupada: Yes. Planetarium name, actually it will be temple. But all round, things will be… Anyway.
Yadubara: I know before the idea was to have it inside the main temple.
Prabhupada: Hm?
Yadubara: As you walked up the outside of the, or the inside of the main temple, inside that dome, they would have it on the walls. But that would… That original plan was to have it inside the main temple.
Prabhupada: Yes. You take all details, inside, outside. That will be nice.
Svarupa Damodara: Can you take inside? Is it allowed?
Yadubara: Yes, I think so.
[end quote]

Yadubara reported back two days later and Srila Prabhupada instructed him to make three copies of all the photos he took, one set for himself, one for Saurabha and one for the Mayapur management. Srila Prabhupada therefore did more than make ‘a few brief remarks’– he studied the exterior of the building, had photos taken, and had them sent to his men in India.

The following month he met with George Harrison and informed him of his plans:

July 26, 1976, London
Prabhupada: … We are just attempting a big planetarium in Mayapur. We have asked government to acquire land, 350 acres. That is negotiation going on. We shall give a Vedic planetarium.
George Harrison: Is that the one you were talking about? With all the…
Prabhupada: In the Fifth Canto.
Gurudasa: The planetarium will be 350 feet high and show the cosmology of the spiritual world.
Prabhupada: The construction will be like your Washington capital, like that.
George Harrison: A big dome.
Prabhupada: Yes. Estimated eight crores of rupees.
[end]

Thus Srila Prabhupada several times expressed his desire to have the TVP modelled after the Capitol building.

However, in Mayapur just prior to the 1977 Gaura Purnima festival Saurabha prabhu presented Srila Prabhupada with simple plans for a varnasrama city. He had designed a TVP with 108 domes around its main dome. There is no information as to whether Saurabha ever received the photos from Yadubara so we don’t know whether he didn’t know about Srila Prabhupada’s idea, or he just ignored it. At any rate, Srila Prabhupada allowed Saurabha to make a model of his own design and this was displayed on a pedestal just outside the Lotus building:

This is the only known alternative design for the TVP apart from the one depicted in the photos from 1971. This hardly complies with the above statement “many occasions he was shown and approved designs of an Indian nature.”

So where does this leave us?

We can say that Srila Prabhupada did not insist on the Capitol dome and left it to his disciples to decide what to do. It’s clear that he knew he wasn’t going to be around long enough to see the project built and he was therefore giving his disciples licence to go with their own design. This is a valid argument. As he said in the November 1975 discussion:

Bhagavata: So if that’s what you want, then we should not make a permanent structure? We should make some temporary structure like last year.
Prabhupada: That you decide yourself.
Bhagavata: So we should engage the local doll makers in doing this.
Prabhupada: First of all you have your place; then make dolls. But dolls should not be exactly like this, in the same way. But when you make actually, then I will give you how the models should be made. Now, how to do, where to do, that, it is your business. You decide, some of yourself, and do the needful. You have not yet done any plan for the big temple?
[end]

Thus when Saurabha came up with his own design, Srila Prabhupada went with that.

It gets down the fact that Srila Prabhupada had his stated preference and Saurabha had his. If it is a question of preferences, why not accept Srila Prabhupada’s own preference–the Capitol dome? He did after all state it several times in 1976 that he wanted his TVP to look like that. Why should we not accept Srila Prabhupada’s desire as paramount above our own?

Let’s look at some other aspects of this argument:

2) The American Connection

Srila Prabhupada traveled extensively in India. He must have viewed practically every type of dome and temple design in his 70 years before coming to the west. He certainly knew what Indian religious architecture looked like better than any of us. Yet he picked the WDC Capitol dome as the one he wanted. It wasn’t whimsical or sentimental. He was making a deliberate choice.

It is useful to look at Srila Prabhupada’s mood and ambitions for the Mayapur project. He was proud of his American connection. This was expressed several times to us in 1976:

Room Conversation — January 19, 1976, Mayapur
Prabhupada: [talking about a pamphlet one of his godbrothers had issued] This pamphlet, I don’t think it has got any value.
Tamala Krishna: It has no value, Prabhupada. What we should do is build this temple. If we just build this temple… This is my point. Let us build this temple immediately. Once this temple is built, everything is finished. All the glow worms are completely extinguished. There will be nothing left. They can do anything they want, and nothing will matter. If they have a 350-foot building with escalators, with huge compounds, then everything is ended.
Prabhupada: So do like that, like America.
Bhavananda: He can come here and stand outside and scream, “I am the acaryadeva.” Just like in America so many people are saying, “I am Napoleon.” No one…
Prabhupada: That everyone says. That is not…
Bhavananda: We have to build this temple because…
Prabhupada: So make something like American which is wonderful for the world. So you are Americans. You must do something.
Tamala Krishna: If we build this temple with escalators and the people go in the temple and they go up the escalator…
Harikesa: They’ll never come back.

And again:

Morning Walk — February 21, 1976, Mayapura
Acyutananda: [speaking about the local Gaudiya mathas] And if they think their matha will deteriorate, then Prabhupada has offered…
Prabhupada: Yes.
Acyutananda: …to maintain the temples.
Prabhupada: Yes. Let their men work. Whatever expenditure is required, we shall give. There is no disturbance. Money is power. That we have got.
Acyutananda: Yes.
Prabhupada: By the grace of…
Acyutananda: Hridayananda Maharaja mentioned that before you went to America, Indians were not interested. And now you have come back with money, so they are willing to hear.
Prabhupada: Money is the strength all over, all over the world. America is prestigious—why? They have got money. So we, I have got American disciples. Why shall I not have money? If America, a guru of the Americans remains poor, it is contradictory.
Acyutananda: Yes.
Prabhupada: It cannot be.

Morning Walk — March 9, 1976, Mayapur
Prabhupada: …if there is water. And if there is lowland, the whole water will go to the lowland. And that means you have two or three canals, there will be no more flood.
Tamala Krishna: So you need the land to make the canals.
Prabhupada: That’s it.
Tamala Krishna: Emergency yajna.
Prabhupada: Yes. You convince him like that.
Yasodanandana: This is very clever.
Prabhupada: And factually we have to do that in order to check the flood. Make scheme like Europeans and Americans. Why you are thinking in terms of Indian plan?
Tamala Krishna: He’s been here a long time, Prabhupada. (laughter) He’s thinking like a…
Prabhupada: But I am born here. I have no Indian plan. My plans are all American.
Yasodanandana: Jaya Prabhupada!
Guru-krpa: Your plans are Krishna’s plans, Prabhupada.
Prabhupada: Hm? Yes. I planned that “I must go to America.” Yes. That was the reason. Otherwise, generally they go to London. I did not go to London.
Tamala Krishna: We were talking about that.
Prabhupada: Eh?
Tamala Krishna: We were just talking about that last night, that generally someone in Indian would think, “Let me go to London,” but you thought, “Let me go to…”
Prabhupada: No. I was simply dreaming, “How to go to New York?” Actually I thought.
Tamala Krishna: The biggest.
Prabhupada: Yes. I was scheming, “Whether I shall go this way, through Tokyo, Japan, or that way? Which way is cheaper?” That was my plan. And I was targeting to New York always. Sometimes I was dreaming that I have come to New York. Hare Krishna.

From these quotes we can see that Srila Prabhupada was proud of the international nature of his ISKCON society and he wanted that displayed through the architecture of the TVP–“Make something American.”

According to the suggestion of our scholars the building should “take into account the traditional appearance of the dhama.”
What exactly is the traditional appearance? Mud or bamboo huts and straw roofs? We already have that with Srila Prabhupada’s bhajan kutir where he personally lived in the early days of ISKCON Mayapur. Its certainly not what he wanted. As soon as he could he built the Lotus building, which doesn’t resemble any other building in the entire district.

The fact is that he was not interested in ‘Indian’ architecture for the Mayapur project. Mayapur was already replete with several temples built by his godbrothers following in the same style that was adopted by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura. Srila Prabhupada did not want to follow their lead. He wanted something clearly distinguishable from those who had never preached outside of India.

Now one of the arguments is that America has become unpopular due to its political dealings and foreign intervention policies. The argument says: “Since the 1970s, world opinion about the United States has changed considerably for the worse. We feel an Indian-style temple will be more in harmony with the actual purposes that Srila Prabhupada envisioned for the project. An American-style design may inspire negative reactions from many categories of people (ranging from academics to ordinary people), for stylistic, cultural, political and other reasons.”

We beg to say that if we want to seriously cite Srila Prabhupada and be in harmony with him, we should understand that he was proud of his American connection. His money, which he saw as Krishna’s blessing, was coming from there and he wasn’t shy to advertize his connection even in the face of suspicion from the media and politicians.

Apparently the author of these comments is not aware that American foreign policies and politics were easily as unpopular during Srila Prabhupada’s time as they are now. Is the war in Iraq any more unpopular than the war in Vietnam? But Srila Prabhupada was not concerned.

In 1974-77 politicians in India were railing against ISKCON’s American connection:

June 22 1975 Los Angeles
Prabhupada: Yes. This is very kind of you, but there have been so many attempts to cut down this movement, but they are cheated. They could not do so.
Dr. Gerson: May I try to help?
Prabhupada: Yes, that is your real business. In India also, they are still making so much propaganda. They are making propaganda that “These American devotees, they are CIA.” (laughter) This propaganda is very strong in India, making the people against these American boys who are preaching. So this is going on. They financed one film, “Hare Krishna.” That is spite against us. But still, those who are sincere, they are praising, “Yes, this is a real.”

Even Srila Prabhupada’s own godbrothers thought he must be getting money from the CIA:

Morning Walk — August 6, 1975, Detroit
Harikesa: That’s why the government thinks that we are being supported. In India they think we are being supported by the…
Prabhupada: CIA.
Harikesa: Yes. Because we have so many nice things. Where else could we…
Brahmananda: They think it is the mercy of the CIA.
Prabhupada: My Godbrother says-Tirtha Maharaja—that American government has given me two crores of rupees. They are supposed to be spiritually advanced, and they are so rascal. And he is the head of Caitanya Matha. Krishna said, yoga-knemam vahamy aham: [Bg. 9.22] “I take the responsibility of his expenditure.” Krishna says, and they are preaching Krishna consciousness, and they are thinking, “American government is doing, not Krishna.” Such fools and rascals, they are head of…, a spiritual head. Karmis, jnanis—everyone is envious of our… And they are trying to speculate how to admit: “Where he gets money? Where he gets money?”

But Srila Prabhupada had ready answers to counter the false impressions and propaganda:

August 3, 1976, New Mayapur (French farm)
Prabhupada: The whole world is becoming CIA. (laughter) We can say, that “All right, the Americans have sent their CIA, but why the Germans business there? They are also CIA?” And where is… Soon the Russians also will join, the Polish also will join, everyone will join.
Bhagavan: Africans.
Prabhupada: Yes.
Harikesa: They can’t say the Russians are CIA. (laughs)
Prabhupada: No. We have got potency to force everyone to join. The Russians have already imperceptibly joined—they have praised my books. That is imperceptible, what is called?

Room Conversation About Mayapura Construction — August 19, 1976, Hyderabad
Prabhupada: … America has got money but blind. And India has got culture but lame. So let us combine. Then things will be done very nice. Andha-paìgu-nyaya. Just like I am the same man. I was finding difficulty to start this mission in India, very, very difficult. With great hardship I published three books. But as soon as I went America, the andha-paìgu-nyaya became successful. So this is the position. So instead of becoming envious from political… We have nothing to do with… To the Americans unnecessarily thinking that “CIA, CIA…” Let American money and India’s culture combine together, and the whole world will be benefitted. America has got enough money; they can spend. Either they give me as the price of my book or anything, money is there like anything. India has got culture. So Indian culture, Vedic culture, Bhagavad-gita culture, pushed through American money, the whole world will be benefitted. Convince them. It is not the question of India, America, here… It is a cultural movement for the benefit of the whole world. Pathivite ache yata nagaradi-grama. It is cultural movement.”

Srila Prabhupada’s way to deal with any negative propaganda was to write to friendly politicians for support and also use the press to counter the false claims:

Press Conference — December 16, 1976, Hyderabad
Guest (9): Recently a political party also has alleged that ISKCON temples have become abode of the CIA agents.
Prabhupada: Yes.
Guest (9): What do you say for it?
Prabhupada: We are detecting who is irreligious. That’s all. That is our business.
Guest (3): They are detecting who is irreligious.
Prabhupada: He is going on in the name of religion, but he does not know what is religion. So that we are detecting. You can say like that. This is our business.
Guest (3): It was an allegation by an important…
Prabhupada: It is allegation. And they are so fools that the Americans, they have come here to become Vaisnava and starvation and they have become religious. They have no food there, and they have come to me and they have no dress, they have… And this boy is English boy. He is giving me massage as if he’s a poor man’s son. This is… Is he poor man’s son? Why he is giving massage? We are Indian, poor Indian. He is not in need of money. He even buys his own cloth. The other day I was chastising him, “Why you are purchasing? You take.” “No, I have got money.” Just see. This is their position.
Dr. Ramachandra: May we take leave?
Prabhupada: Hare Krishna. Yes. (Hindi—jokes about CIA) (laughter)
Dr. Ramachandra: This is wild allegation.
Prabhupada: It is no reason. (Hindi) As if they have no money to go to the hotel.
Dr. Ramachandra: In India everything is after CIA now.
Prabhupada: And in Parliament it has been denied. Rather, Home Member said that “We have no information that they are CIA.” Parliament challenged, “What steps you are going to take?” And “No step. There is no information.” They are afraid of the American government because of this Bangladesh affair. And otherwise government appreciates this movement. But because the Americans are there they think, “Some may do something,” in this way. Yes. But there is no such chance. They are all devotees. They have nothing to do…
Dr. Ramachandra: This is a purely religious movement.
Prabhupada: That is right. They have nothing to do with politics. And if they found any politics, they can hang me. I shall go.”

The point here is that Srila Prabhupada didn’t care for critics. He had his own program which he didn’t change despite sometimes be subjected to negative propaganda. His movement is transcendental and as he noted above, those who see the real thing will understand that it is neither American nor Indian, it is meant for everyone around the world.

3) Apart from this, the design is not exactly exclusively American. Here is a photo of another similar dome:

Looks familiar? This is St. Paul’s Cathedral in London.

Or check this one out:

This is the Vatican. And if we study domes around the world, especially in Europe (where do we think the Capitol building design came from?) there are many that resemble the one being planned for Mayapur.

There was another dome Srila Prabhupada liked, the Victoria Memorial in Kolkata. This is a combination of European and Mughal architecture. It is one of the most famous landmarks in India. On a walk circe 1974 Srila Prabhupada told his disciples, including the two Mayapur co-directors that he want a dome like that.

And on another occasion he even suggested that we should apply to take it over and make it into a temple:

Room Conversation About Mayapura Construction — August 19, 1976, Hyderabad
Prabhupada: Why not take the Victoria Memorial? What is, they are doing?
Jayapataka: I have never gone inside. I heard it is simply old English armor and some swords.
Prabhupada: Yes, I have seen.
Gargamuni: And the marble is turning black.
Prabhupada: Because they don’t…
Gargamuni: They don’t clean it.
Jayapataka: How they can afford to maintain such a building?
Prabhupada: Krishna will maintain. We can utilize it properly.
Jayapataka: And we’ll have British pujaris. For the glory of Queen Victoria.
Prabhupada: Victoria. Let them send. Tell them that we shall bring. Victoria has… Let them send to worship Victoria with prasadam of Caitanya Mahaprabhu. That is real Victoria Memorial.

So if we really want to understand the mood and intention of Srila Prabhupada we cannot escape the fact that he liked European/American architecture and thought it just suitable to his purpose in advertizing his international society around the world.

As for the American connection, you cannot avoid it. Ambarish prabhu comes from one of the oldest money lines in America. What could be more American than the Fords?

We should also note that while American politics have never been popular, American culture has taken over the world. Indians are mad after it, and even more so since 1992 after the communist regimes collapsed and the Indian government open their doors to free trade.

We humbly suggest that devotees should be less hung up on being American and more enthused about being members of Lord Caitanya’s transcendental movement.

3) Environmental concerns

The design and construction team have consulted with our engineers, plumbing contractors, lighting engineers and others how to make the building as ‘green’ as possible. This is very much a concern that in 20 years time we not look like dinosaurs from a previous era of flagrant disregard for nature and the environment.

Samba dasa has been assigned by the Mayapur GBCs to revise the master plan and incorporate as many energy efficient systems as possible. Saranam dasi was invited to come to Mayapur to help plan energy conservation and alternative energy strategies and although this is in its infancy at the moment there is a real intent to become a model of environmental friendliness.

We should at the same time remember that Srila Prabhupada wanted a small city to be built in Mayapur so there will be no question that Mayapur will remain a rural backwater with paddy fields etc. We can and do desire however to keep as much of Mayapur’s natural opulence as possible with parks and gardens and inoffensive waste disposal.

I hope this helps to put some things in perspective and show that what is currently being planned is just according to Srila Prabhupada’s desire and instructions. If by solid evidence rather than sentiment and innuendo it can be shown that Srila Prabhupada wanted something else, I am sure the Mayapur GBCs will be happy to look at it.

As it is, Ambarish and his team are confident that their plans are on the right track. The land is there, the Deities are waiting, and now the money is available. This is the first time in ISKCON’s history that all the necessary factors have fallen into place, and it behooves us to lend our support to this last great unfulfilled project for the pleasure of Srila Prabhupada.

Your humble servant,
Hari-sauri dasa

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1 ccd

It is interesting to see a little bit of the history of the design of the temple in Mayapur. There were so many designs and so many ideas. Its is nice to see that they are debated and discussed. After all it will portray the movement for many years to come. It is just an odd opinion that Prabhupada liked western Georgian architecture, hardly the fact. He would also consider Govindaji mandir in Vrindavana to be wonderful architectural achievement. Its a beautiful combination of Western typology and Indian craftsmanship. He would also instruct his disciples to build temples ‘in Vrindavana style’ or ‘to be like Radha Damodara’ temple in Vrindavana, that where his idea for the Krishna Balarama mandir was born. He trusted his architect, Surabhi, and he liked his designs. If you put it up for the vote, you will see devotees also prefer this Vrindavana and Bombay temple styles to the Holywood imitation of the upscale Victoria memorial. Put it up for a opinion poll and you will see.

Comment posted by ccd on July 7th, 2008
2 Unregistered

Srila Bhaktivinode Thakur states in his Nabadwip dham Mahatmya that all the holy dhamas in kali yuga are becoming “gupta” or hidden and that only Sri Mayapur will alone remain visible to the fallen conditioned souls.

So, how is the dham to remain visible?

Under Srila Prabhupadas umbrella everything is BIG and outstanding so therefore as a trancendentalist, Prabhupada is empowered to embrace everything wether it be so called vedic or american just to attract people.

Srila Prabhupada authorised Vishnujana Maharaj to use western melodies to accompany the Mahamantra so that this too could attract people.

One devotee said a while ago that Prabhupada never said that everything should be vedic, but on the other hand, Sri Nandanandana Prabhu has a book called “proof of vedic cultures global existance”, therefore it is likely that American and European architectural design derives some of its inspiration from the original vedic?

Nonetheless, Sri Mayapur is the most merciful abode of Lord Gauranga and His initimate associates therefore mercy accomodates everyone and in this spirit the Mayapur project is the most important one of all Iskcons projects and instead of whining and finding apparent faults, devotees should get on board somehow or another and help fullfil this most great desire of Srila Prabhupadas.

Every temple and leader should now be encouraging its devotees to assist somehow or at least by imbibing the consciousness that this project is now imminent and sending wellwishes and sharing information.

Speaking of which, can someone please inform us when exactly construction will begin?

Thanks for sharing with us Hari Sauri prabhu!
ys
Hari dasa

Comment posted by hari.nv on July 8th, 2008
3 Unregistered

Pranams,

I am not a senior member in Iskcon but feel it is important to express my opinion about this project .(atleast as a common public view)

I understand this project is the most important project of ISKCON.
Also we should best follow what srila prabhupada desired.

If it is apparent that prabhupada welcomed the American approach to this project, i thought it would rather call for a new design in every possible way and not a copy of existing structures in US/Europe.Arent the americans innovative in bringing new ideas?

Why would a tourist choose this building unless it is unique?Moreover i am sure no indian is awestuck with a dome.It is seen in everyplace from a shopping mall to an IT office and hospitals too in india.

This temple should become an iconof iskcon for all common public.
I am also sure all the devotees around the world would make this as their pilgrimage spot.

Thus I think the temple should not be a exact copy of Old indian architecture or simply an american capitol building.
It should have a perfect mix of both.

However i personally feel the structure is too simple and common and doesnt look anything wondrous.A.
- Hide quoted text -

I feel we can definitely come out with finer designs which are more appealing as a ‘Vedic’ Planetarium.

I am not sure how much of money goes into this project,but we deserve a better structure for sure!

Dasan
Rajagopal

Comment posted by scooty.ram on July 10th, 2008
4 Unregistered

Pranams,

I am not a senior member in Iskcon but feel it is important to express my opinion about this project .(atleast as a common public view)

I understand this project is the most important project of ISKCON.
Also we should best follow what srila prabhupada desired.

If it is apparent that prabhupada welcomed the American approach to this project, i thought it would rather call for a new design in every possible way and not a copy of existing structures in US/Europe.Arent the americans innovative in bringing new ideas?

Why would a tourist choose this building unless it is unique?Moreover i am sure no indian is awestuck with a dome.It is seen in everyplace from a shopping mall to an IT office and hospitals too in india.

This temple should become an iconof iskcon for all common public.
I am also sure all the devotees around the world would make this as their pilgrimage spot.

Thus I think the temple should not be a exact copy of Old indian architecture or simply an american capitol building.
It should have a perfect mix of both.

However i personally feel the structure is too simple and common and doesnt look anything wondrous.

I feel we can definitely come out with finer designs which are more appealing as a ‘Vedic’ Planetarium.

I am not sure how much of money goes into this project,but we deserve a better structure for sure!

Dasan
Rajagopal

Comment posted by scooty.ram on July 10th, 2008
5 Akruranatha

Of course we should all be happy that Srila Prabhupada’s wishes for the TVP are soon to be carried out.

Those of us not directly involved in the planning and design can do little more than hope that those in charge do something wonderful and beautiful. Whatever building they create will become something devotees all over the world will be thinking of, a kind of rallying point or symbol of the international ISKCON mission.

If done very nicely, it will also attract the attention of the world and increase the already impressive amount of spiritual tourism in Mayapur that is constantly purifying and benedicting the world.

For me the issue is not “Vedic” versus “non-Vedic”. As Hari dasa points out, Krishna is the source of everything wonderful and beautiful and attractive, and anything which is really knowledge is really “Veda”. The north-Indian Mughal architecture we are so familiar with is highly (primarily?) influenced by non-Indian traditions, and yet it cannot be divorced from Krishna consciousness, especially when used in beautiful Krishna temples.

We do not have to be, nor should we be, ultra-nationalist in the sense of trying to purge our art and design of anything that was not current in pre kali-yuga India.

Nor, probably, could we be. The question of the exact shape of columns, domes and arches in Dwaraka or Indraprastha is not something our acaryas have made a point of describing for us. Maybe Visvakarma did build something like the U.S. Capitol (and who knows where Maya Danava got his architectural inspiration, if not from Krishna?) One thing we do know is that floors, walls and columns were made of valuable gems which we could never hope to reproduce.

Krishna consciousness is truly international and the International Society for Krishna Consciousness should and does reflect that.

My only concern is that the TVP architecture really should be something wonderful and beautiful and practical and inspirational. Some domes are more successful than others. Brunelleschi’s duomo in Florence is very beautiful, whereas St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican never impressed me very much as a beautiful building (certainly it is full of amazing art masterpieces, but for me even the interior is too richly and heavily and gaudily decorated.)

Krishna designed the sunsets, majestic mountains, beautiful lakes and forests and waterfalls, and has inspired the great architects. May He inspire ISKCON’s architects.

Comment posted by Akruranatha on July 10th, 2008
6 Unregistered

I agree that, to plan for a completely vedic structure is also not that great since we have enough temples in south india to reflect that.

Wrt which is vedic and non - vedic , can we say orissa puri temple is more vedic than the tanjore brihadeeswara or kancheepuram?No, both are vedic

It only means that the temples reflect their current architecture and culture that was present oin that land at that time.

Hence it is not wrong to fuse the oldest tradition with newer technologies.

Ofcourse no one would like a hindu temple with a churchish or islamic design.
We may call that as non-vedic.

Comment posted by scooty.ram on July 12th, 2008
7 Hari Sauri dasa

A quick reply to ccd who posted the first comment:

Since you give weight to Srila Prabhupada’s instructions to build a Vrndavana style, or Bombay-style temple, why don’t you give the same weight to his instruction to build a Capitol-building style in Mayapur? Is it because you personally prefer the Vrndavan or Bombay temple designs that you generously give Srila Prabhupada your ‘OK’ on those? And because you don’t personally prefer the design that His Divine Grace picked for Mayapur you therefore want to call for an opinion poll?

If you want an opinion poll then why not take the two opinions that matter the most–Srila Prabhupada’s and Ambarish prabhu, the person who founded the project and the person who is going to pay for it? Or do their opinions not count?

Personally I think that once Srila Prabhupada has expressed his preference, we need not look any further. His vision was transcendental and if he said, and he did say, that if we build such a building it will attract people from all over the world, then that’s good enough for me.

Yhs, Hari-sauri dasa

PS I will also add that to throw open the question of the design now, would be to delay the project many years, probably beyond the life span of most of Srila Prabhupada’s disciples. Its not an option we have. Our duty is to get this building up because we were instructed to do so by His Divine Grace. We now have the means and ability to see it manifest both in terms of constructing the building, and presenting powerful exhibits within that will challenge the false notions of a purely mechanistic world.

Comment posted by Hari Sauri dasa on July 13th, 2008
8 Gauragopala dasa

Hari Sauri saya - “Personally I think that once Srila Prabhupada has expressed his preference, we need not look any further. His vision was transcendental and if he said, and he did say, that if we build such a building it will attract people from all over the world, then that’s good enough for me”.

We must never forget that ISKCON is Srila Prabhupada’s creation and service to his Spiritual Master and Krsna. When he came to the West alone in 1965, he envisaged Temples in every city, Books in every household on the planet and devotees of Lord Caitanya in every Nation around the World. As Hari Sauri said, “His vision was transcendental”

So all devotees must humbly understand that the decision has already been made long ago because Srila Prabhupada personally chose this architecture for HIS ISKCON International Headquarters at Mayapur Dharm.

Comment posted by Gauragopala dasa on July 14th, 2008
9 Kulapavana

Hari Sauri wrote:
“If you want an opinion poll then why not take the two opinions that matter the most–Srila Prabhupada’s and Ambarish prabhu, the person who founded the project and the person who is going to pay for it?”

That is certainly a most valid point. Still, it does not mean that others do not present points worthy of some consideration. Maybe the geometry of the dome can be changed to give it more Indian form?

Personally I am more concerned about the Vedic planetarium exhibit this temple is supposed to showcase. Do we actually have something to show inside this building? There are tens of thousands impressive buildings in this world, one more will hardly make a difference. Not so with revolutionary concepts of the Universe - they are rare and can potentially inspire millions of people to take a serious look at the Vedic culture.

Good luck with the project!

Comment posted by Kulapavana on July 14th, 2008
10 Akruranatha

Hari Sauri makes some very good points. If we now have an opportunity to build the long overdue project, we should not risk delaying it.

Ambarish Prabhu deserves unlimited credit for donating so much money. There are many wealthy men in the world, but few have the good judgment to use their money in the service of pure devotees.

I happen to not like the proposed architecture much, but I am no great art critic anyway. Truth be told, I really don’t care much for the design of Srila Prabhupada’s puspa samadhi either, but I have a photograph of it on the wall of my temple room because…well, because it is Prabhupada’s puspa samadhi.

I do not think it is a dispute over who is more loyal to Srila Prabhupada’s wishes. Devotees will have different opinions in matter of artistic taste, or issues like the tradeoff between environmental impact versus the potentially large cultural impact of erecting grand and notable monumental temples. Of course they will debate in terms of how they understand Srila Prabhupada’s instructions and desires, but there is plenty of room for good, loyal disciples to disagree.

To a certain extent “there is no accounting for taste,” and devotees are apt to understand Prabhupada’s taste in light of their own (considering Prabhupada would want it to be ‘first class’). [I wish they could do something as nice as the Victoria Memorial]

Debates over public art and architecture are common. I remember a big dispute over a giant Serra sculpture Chicago, and Ambarish’s grandfather was involved in a controversy over some leftist Diego Rivera murals. Europeans tend to be even more political about art and architecture (which is no surprise considering how much of the world’s famous art and architecture comes from Europe).

My two cents is that we should appreciate the sacrifice and devotion with which the devotees who build the TVP do their work, and try to appreciate the eventual result according to our capacity. Even if we might have designed it differently ourselves, we can be sure it will be a great boon for the people of the world.

And for those involved in the design and construction, they should know that they can’t please everyone and should not be too discouraged if some don’t like it. It might have been more publicly discussed at an earlier stage, but in the final analysis a building is designed by a small group, and they must do as they see fit. I hope history will judge it well when the time comes.

Comment posted by Akruranatha on July 14th, 2008
11 ccd

I do not want to answer all the questions raised, but there is an impression that the design suggested here http://www.dandavats.com/wp-co.....43gfdd.jpg is exactly as per Prabhupadas instructions. It is not, as per Transcendental Dairy entry of 1976 Prabhupada reviewed very indian but original multi storey design by Surabhi. Model was made in 1977 by a team of devotee architects including Rajaram and was for a long time standing in the front of Lotus building. Prabhupada himself ordered in March 1977 to dig foundation for this design and laid the corner stone to that design. Present design is cearly far from any original be it Capitol building or more traditional indian styles as per previous approved designs. There was a very clear instruction by Prabhupada, go to the best architects in the world (he said from Japan) and get their feedback, why do we trust taste of one man, who is not even an architect? Ambharish Prabhu supported the previous design, from 1996-2004, he did interviews to that effect to BTG and sit in on most GBC presentations since 1996. Maybe he can suggest to change the proposed design by Bhavananda, which is his personal view.

Comment posted by ccd on July 15th, 2008
12 Gauragopala dasa

Akruranatha prabhu says- ” Do not think it is a dispute over who is more loyal to Srila Prabhupada’s wishes. Devotees will have different opinions in matter of artistic taste, or issues like the tradeoff between environmental impact versus the potentially large cultural impact of erecting grand and notable monumental temples. Of course they will debate in terms of how they understand Srila Prabhupada’s instructions and desires, but there is plenty of room for good, loyal disciples to disagree”.

This is a very valid point made by Akruranatha Prabhu, Srila Prabhupada always asked the opinions of his disciples in such matters but also had his preference as in this case with the architecture of the design for the Mayapur Temple of the Vedic Planetarium.

Hari Sauri Prabhu also makes this valid point – “We know that Srila Prabhupada made some brief remarks on one or two occasions about the TVP looking like the US Capitol. But we also know that on many occasions he was shown and approved designs of an Indian nature. We feel it is therefore necessary for the movement’s leadership to carefully consider which of the designs that Srila Prabhupada spoke about best fulfils his overall desires for the project”

Both viewpoints are correct

I can understand where Akruranatha Prabhu is coming from and his point is the fundamental foundation of Vaishnavism where love or bhakti is the eternal relationship of ‘servitude existing between all living entities and Krsna.

In other words, the living entities relationship with Krsna is based on the free will to serve Him or even ignore Him by enter the material World.

Krsna gives all living entities this ‘free will’ that makes them autonomous, because without the ability to choose, how can there be genuin love to express ones unique individuality? Even in the restricted material world, the conditioned soul has their limited God given talents and abilities that can be used to please their Guru.

I believe this is another point Akruranatha Prabhu is making, insisting that the devotees abilities, talents in their service to Krsna must be encouraged and nurtured so that they can reach their full potential of serving out of love, to Krsna. In this way, the pure devotees are always thinking of ways to please THEIR Spiritual Master whom ultimately represents the parampara succession and is offered to Krsna.

Comment posted by Gauragopala dasa on July 15th, 2008
13 Gauragopala dasa

I can also understand where Hari Sauri Prabhu is coming from; after all, he was the personal servant of Srila Prabhupada. So, it is obviously out of love, and having that rare association of HEARING Prabhupada preferences, he will ALWAYS see the choice of his Spiritual Master as the best, just like a son always ‘chooses’ to agree with his good fathers wisdom.

This does not mean one just follows blindly, a good son like Akruranatha Prabhu can always use his own personal likings to built another fabulous Temple in America that’s so magnificent that people from all over North and South America will come and visit

Or someone with talent can come to Melbourne Down Under and build a second magnificent Temple in the suburb of Keysborough as our Radha Ballabha Temple is now way too small for the amount of guests that now come.

Your fallen servant Gauragopala dasa

Comment posted by Gauragopala dasa on July 15th, 2008
14 ccd

Gauragopala Prabhu,

You wrote:

This is a very valid point made by Akruranatha Prabhu, Srila Prabhupada always asked the opinions of his disciples in such matters but also had his preference as in this case with the architecture of the design for the Mayapur Temple of the Vedic Planetarium.

Hari Sauri Prabhu also makes this valid point – “We know that Srila Prabhupada made some brief remarks on one or two occasions about the TVP looking like the US Capitol. But we also know that on many occasions he was shown and approved designs of an Indian nature. We feel it is therefore necessary for the movement’s leadership to carefully consider which of the designs that Srila Prabhupada spoke about best fulfils his overall desires for the project”
Both viewpoints are correct

The second view above that you ascribed to Hari Sauri, is actually the view he is attempting to defeat by this post. His Divine Grace did make remarks that Mayapur temple should look like Capitol building in DC, Vrindavan temple, St Paul in London and when he was in france he also pointed out to most prominent building and said: “Do it like that!” It does not mean that we should copy it (which one?). On another ocasion in 1974 he visited Tirupati temple of Balaji, and said that our temples should have this design and have a golden dome. However present design copies part of Capitol hill, with added blue domes and Mogul towers, it appears like a mosque. (http://www.fun2u.fuyohh.com/images/al-akbar-mosque-surayabaya.jpg)

Prabhupada was very clear that he did not want our temples to look ‘like a mosque’. He specifically wrote about it to his disciples. Why should we go against what Prabhupada wanted? I am sure if this is explained to Ambharisha, he will be able to talk designers through and make it look more like a temple that Prabhupada would like to have. Opinion of other devotees is just representative of this obvious need. Everyone I talk to liked our design that was approved in 1995.

Comment posted by ccd on July 16th, 2008
15 Akruranatha

Caitanya Candrodaya Prabhu writes: “There was a very clear instruction by Prabhupada, go to the best architects in the world (he said from Japan) and get their feedback . . .”

It does seem to me that if we are setting out to build something of such significance, which we expect to be the central building of ISKCON for years to come, we would want to get the feedback of respected architects. If Prabhupada really gave such an instruction, it would not suprise me (even though Prabhupada often surprised me). I mean, it only makes sense that we should consult talented architects. Right?

I do not know whether or not that was done. I have not been close to this project, but I do remember seeing things over the years (when Harikesa was involved in the 1990s), maybe in newsletters or even in BTG articles, about architects who were involved.

I cannot imagine that the whole building was simply designed by Bhavananda, as CC writes. Was it? That would be a little shocking. I do not mean to knock Bhavananda’s talents as a designer, but I would expect a building of this importance to be designed in consultation with well-trained, highly-talented professionals. Sometimes competitions are held and one design is selected out of many entries by various great arcitects.

But if it is too late to change it, so be it. We should not cause disruptions or hard feelings. Whatever Hari Sauri thinks is okay in my book (but CC is correct that Prabhupada did not approve this specific design, isnt he?)

Thanks, Gauragopal for your generous interpretation of my comments. You have understood my intentions and elaborated on them better than I could.

H.H. Radhanatha Swami famously reminded us that our priority should be to build a temple in everyone’s heart.

We cannot expect to please Krishna with our stones and cement. It is the bhakti with which we make offerings that determines if they are accepted.

Of course, bhakti dictates that we do it very carefully and expertly according to our capacity. We want to do something that will nicely further Prabhupada’s mission of preaching Gaura Vani throughout the world. But to do that properly we have to first respect the contributions of the other devotees, and the genuine spirit with which they are doing their service.

If we get the bhakti part right there is no limit to the magnificent buildings we can erect. Without bhakti even the greatest monuments are useless.

Comment posted by Akruranatha on July 16th, 2008
16 Unregistered

Hare Krishna. I have been associated with ISKCON for a long time. I hope that the comments from devotees, life members and well wishers are still accepted. At the very outset, the design does not look like a temple of spiritual understanding, definitely not vedic. The design looks common place and nothing fantastic or fabulous. It will definitely not be an appealing architecture for Indians and least westerners. I am not sure whether there was any public polling involved in this. That would be helpful to get individual biases out of the picture.

I think any one who says that this structure looks like vatican probably does not understand building architecture. Mughal. Colonial and Medieval style architectures will have a dome. To say that any thing that has a dome looks like vatican is like saying all whites are english, all muslims are terrorists, all that glitters is gold etc.

The point to create a fabulous architecture that actually invoke cosmic energies.

Comment posted by rajaramvenk on July 16th, 2008
17 Gauragopala dasa

My apologies to Hari Sauri Prabhu, it was not suppose to read as though he wrote it, thank you for pointing that out ccd Prabhu however, later on in my post you will find I agree with what you have also said -

ccd wrote - “Why should we go against what Prabhupada wanted? I am sure if this is explained to Ambharisha, he will be able to talk designers through and make it look more like a temple that Prabhupada would like to have. Opinion of other devotees is just representative of this obvious need. Everyone I talk to liked our design that was approved in 1995″.

Yes, if Srila Prabhupada liked this design, then really, there is no argument, as in this case -

Prabhupada: … I wanted both of you to take various detailed photographs of that Capitol.

Yadubara: The Capitol Building. For what purpose, Srila Prabhupada?

Prabhupada:: We shall have picture, planetarium in Mayapura. (aside:) That’s better. [break] …spiritual world, material world, and so on, so on. Planetary…, succession of the planetary systems, everything. A building like that.

Yadubara: That would be a separate building from the temple?

Prabhupada:: Yes. We are acquiring 350 acres of land for life for constructing a small township…

My point in my previous post was directed at for OTHER Temples architecture around the world, where devotees can use their God given abilities, BASED on the foundations of what a Radha Krsna, or Gaura Nitai Temple should look like, as instructed by Srila Prabhupada.

Clearly however, the Mayapur Temple of the Vedic Planetarium has more to it than just Vedic architecture, as Prabhupada also liked other designs around the world.

Sincerely

Your fallen servant Gauragopala dasa

Comment posted by Gauragopala dasa on July 18th, 2008
18 Deenabandhu

Thanks for taking the time for answering the arguments. But these arguments are really just symptoms of the real disease, which is a lot of people simply don’t like the design. It is very uninspiring as others have pointed out. Rather squat looking, looks more like a giant version of the mosque than that you can see on the muslim side of any small Indian village than the US Capitol.
Very unoriginal and certainly does not inspire one to go to the steamy jungles of Bengal when one can see better domes in more convenient places. Simply painting it gay colors did not help either. I talked to one devotee who had the 3d program on his computer and when they asked him to paint it gayly, he told them to get someone else to do it.

Several devotees from Mayapur were just here for parikrama and not a single one had anything nice to say about it. In fact I have not met a single person who likes this design and a lot of people come thru Vrindavan.

You can read in the Lilamrita how Srila Prabhupada was asking everyone about the domes of the Krishna Balaram temple. So he was ready to take opinions from the devotees also. And many are disturbed by this unimaginative design.

I understand that we have waited a long time, but all good things take some time. We also complained a lot about Srila Prabhupada’s Samadhi in Vrindavan taking a long time. But the fact was that carving marble nicely takes a long time and now we have a very beautiful building that I think rivals the Taj, which except for it’s size, I never found very inspiring. And looking at the presentation on the website, we can see the road running right by the temple and we all know what nightmares Indian roads are. This will create tons of sound pollution.

I understand that we are squeezing it on to the land that ISKCON actually owns, but how long can the communists go on? They’ve already failed in Soviet Union. And we’re already seeing the cracks in their grip on Bengal. Better to wait and do it properly. In the future, our children and their children, our disciples and their disciples will ask why we squeezed it in between everything else.

Everyone I’ve talked to liked the previous design much better, very soaring, inspiring, and original. I think we have to listen to what the devotees are saying.

Your servant,
Deena Bandhu dasa

Comment posted by Deenabandhu on July 19th, 2008
19 Hari Sauri dasa

Kulpavana wrote:
“Personally I am more concerned about the Vedic planetarium exhibit this temple is supposed to showcase. Do we actually have something to show inside this building? There are tens of thousands impressive buildings in this world, one more will hardly make a difference. Not so with revolutionary concepts of the Universe - they are rare and can potentially inspire millions of people to take a serious look at the Vedic culture.”

I think this is the real point. One can hardly build anything that has not been built before. The use of the building is what will attract people. For example, in Delhi the Bahai’s built their Lotus temple; right next door is our ISKCON temple. By comparision, our temple comes off a distant second best architecturally. Once you have been to the Bahai place you don’t want to go again because there is no life. But due to its usage our temple is always packed up, the exhibits are visited by approx. 1,000 per day and the project is a huge success.

Yhs, Hari-sauri dasa

Comment posted by Hari Sauri dasa on July 22nd, 2008
20 Hari Sauri dasa

Akruranath prabhu wrote:
“It does seem to me that if we are setting out to build something of such significance, which we expect to be the central building of ISKCON for years to come, we would want to get the feedback of respected architects. If Prabhupada really gave such an instruction, it would not suprise me (even though Prabhupada often surprised me). I mean, it only makes sense that we should consult talented architects. Right?”

As a point of information, last year our TOVP team did visit Mr Hiranandani. He is not an architect but one of the biggest developers in India. His son is constructing the tallest building in the world in Dubai. He is a partner in Mr. Hiranandani’s co.He is also on the board of the Sri Nathji Temple and is redeveloping that temple and guest houses and
grounds and paying for it himself.

He appreciated the design very much and said,”Yes this is very beautiful and most important, it is do-able.”

So at least one developer has given his enthusiastic stamp of approval. I don’t doubt that when our building goes up it is going to be very much appreciated. It will be fairly unique in India and the world because of it housing the Vedic Planetarium and its design is going to be a large part of its attraction simply because it is different from other ‘Hindu’ temples in India. Its an east west fusion and that is what Srila Prabhupada wanted.

It is not very credible to argue that it is not an attractive design or that it won’t attract large numbers of visitors. Buildings with similar domes are visited by many millions per year around the world-St Peter’s, St. Paul’s, US Capitol etc. etc. I haven’t heard that anyone has ever called these buildings ugly. They make a very positive statement, and that is what our building will do also.

Yhs, Hari-sauri dasa

Comment posted by Hari Sauri dasa on July 22nd, 2008
21 Hari Sauri dasa

Deena Bandhu prabhu wrote:

“I understand that we have waited a long time, but all good things take some time.”

We have actually waited far too long in mine, and many other devotee’s, opinion. There is a reason why nothing eventuated from nearly 30 years of endeavor and millions of dollars spent. As Srila Prabhupada himself said, “The plans and contemplations are going on in different phases, now when Caitanya Mahaprabhu will be pleased it will be taken up.” Without intending any criticism towards the devotees who have worked on past designs, somehow none of that endeavor resulted in anything tangible. Yet within a very short time, at a fragment of the cost, we are now on the verge of actually beginning the work.

I know at least a few devotees who think that previous designs were not successful because they were not what Srila Prabhupada wanted. It may be premature to say that this design will be successfully built, but at least we know it is what Srila Prabhupada himself desired. I think that is a good premise to proceed on.

DBd further states:
“We also complained a lot about Srila Prabhupada’s Samadhi in Vrindavan taking a long time. But the fact was that carving marble nicely takes a long time and now we have a very beautiful building that I think rivals the Taj, which except for it’s size, I never found very inspiring.”

That says it all right there prabhu. You never found the Taj very inspiring. It happens to be one of, if not, the most famous buildings on the planet. That you don’t find our TOVP design very inspiring may be a sign…

DBd’s final point:
“And looking at the presentation on the website, we can see the road running right by the temple and we all know what nightmares Indian roads are. This will create tons of sound pollution.”

Of course the computer animation is just that. It shows the existing road. In the future we may well have a different road system and the main entrance to our ISKCON compound may be elsewhere. We have a city for 50,000 to build. Of course there will be noise and other kinds of pollutions and we will do our best to minimize that. Maybe we will have a restricted area where combustion engines are not allowed and we only use bullock carts for transportation. This has been discussed and will continue to be a focus of attention.

Yhs, Hari-sauri dasa

Comment posted by Hari Sauri dasa on July 22nd, 2008
22 Unregistered

Hare Krishna,
Please accept my humble obeisances.
All glories to Srila Prabhupada!

For what it’s worth, I’d like to contribute a different perspective on this monumental project. I have been following this project for a long time and am anxious to see how it all unfolds. My occupational duties, as an Environmental Health Specialist for a state government agency in the U.S., deal with addressing Public Health issues within a multitude of various scenarios. My work consists of regularly reviewing a wide range of site development plans, evaluating site conditions for potential Public Health and Environmental risk factors.

First, it seems that referring to this project simply as a “Temple of the Vedic Planetarium” undermines the ultimate plans/vision (as I understand) for this project. This project is not just a large temple building with a couple of other buildings in the general area…it is going to become a municipality, practically speaking. The vision for this project is to become the spiritual capital of the world being able to facilitate the arrival of thousands…of pilgrims/visitors at any given time and provide first-class spiritual education. Therefore, proper implementation of several core factors is necessary in making this project able to accommodate this magnitude of public gatherings.

The first problem with land developers, all across the board, is that their vision consists of land and it’s layout with buildings and roads. Everything else is simply left aside to think about later and often becomes a nightmare later on. Everything else means - potable drinking water facilities, solid waste collection, handling, and disposal, onsite sewage collection and treatment, stormwater collection and treatment, etc… Every site has its own conditions and challenges in properly providing these basic necessities. Developers usually don’t see this as an important piece of land development, especially in “third world” countries. As a result, all waste products are often discharged to the nearest surface water body where many/most people bath and use for drinking water purposes, further resulting in a wide range of waterborne/gastrointestinal illnesses like cholera, hepatitis, typhoid and amoebic dysentery, etc… This is the biggest challenge with the development of land, especially in India and other countries with poor Public Health and Environmental setbacks/standards.

Comment posted by bbd on July 24th, 2008
23 Unregistered

I have worked on an American lead team with the government of Sri Lanka to help develop basic sanitary conditions for Buddhists sites of pilgrimage (i.e. Anuradhapura & Katargama) that are visited by up to 200,000 pilgrims at one time. Since most sites of pilgrimage are near a body of water, that body of water is used as a drinking water source, a source for bathing, and ultimately…a toilet (due to the fact that adequate facilities are not provided onsite). Basically, from a Public Health perspective, everyone was/is drinking bath and toilet water which can result in a large outbreak of illnesses.

Even in India, where the Vishnu Purana states that no one shall defecate within 150 ft or urinate within 25 ft of a water body, roughly 80% of all waste generated along the sacred Ganges is simply dumped or channeled into Mother Ganga. The Yamuna River is also being offended at a similar alarming fashion. In our case, we are advertising Krishna Consciousness and attempting to set an example of a brahminical lifestyle consisting of cleanliness and purity. Therefore, we must be careful in our display of this “spiritual headquarters” for the entire world to see. Our presentation must be impeccable.

So, for this project development I would like to mention a few points for consideration:

Potable Drinking Water
With potential shops, restaurants, guesthouses, bath houses, temple buildings, or any other location needing running water in this project plan, safe drinking water is absolutely necessary. Therefore, with this site or any other site, a water source must first be identified. Generally speaking, we have two options in Sri Mayapur Dham. Install a well field for groundwater collection (several drilled wells providing enough capacity for onsite needs) or receive water from Mother Ganga (surface water collection and treatment). In either case at least a 100 ft radial sanitary control zone (setback) from the water source must be implemented and protected to prevent contamination.

Comment posted by bbd on July 24th, 2008
24 Unregistered

Due to unsanitary conditions, travelers in India may be all too familiar with the “Dehli belly” (waterborne or foodborne gastrointestinal illnesses they may encounter). When most (thoughtful) travelers enter another country (especially a third world country) they often become familiar with bottled water, due to unsafe drinking water that may be publicly provided. Although bottled water may give one a sense of health security (safe for drinking), bottled water creates a huge solid waste issue. Even in holy places one can see plastic bottles and other solid waste blown all over the place, even in water bodies like Yamuna Devi. Therefore, given this consideration plus the need for adequate building pluming (i.e. water pressure) it would be best to remove any such need or desire for bottled water in Sri Mayapur Dham. Therefore, a high quality and quantity drinking water system is necessary.

GROUNDWATER COLLECTION - Groundwater collection is usually done by withdrawing water from underneath a confined layer of substrata (by drilled wells). This water is usually protected from other shallow water tables and can provide a good quantity of high quality water, safe for drinking. However, some naturally occurring contaminants could be present in the groundwater requiring extensive treatment before consumed. In this case, Arsenic3 and Arsenic5 are prevalent all throughout India and Bengal. See these links for more info http://www.sos-arsenic.net/ and http://bicn.com/acic/. Therefore, groundwater collection and treatment may not be a viable option…unless a complex and highly maintained system is designed and implemented. Or, maybe by the grace of Mahaprabhu, we can tap into a pure groundwater aquifer suitable for drinking with little to no treatment necessary.

Comment posted by bbd on July 24th, 2008
25 Unregistered

SURFACE WATER COLLECTION – The only option for surface water collection to be used for a potable source is Mother Ganga. Although Mother Ganga is one of the most pure and spiritual of all water bodies, She has been greatly offended and continues to be disrespected from New Dehli all the way through Calcutta by being burdened with seemingly unlimited tons of human excreta and hazardous waste. Since Sri Mayapur Dham in downstream from most major Indian municipalities (except Calcutta), disease causing factors in/near the holy dham would be expected to be high. However, even many western cities use highly polluted surface water bodies as a drinking water source given the proper treatment system (flocculation, filtration, disinfection). It seems like an oxymoron to say that Ganges water would need to be purified before regular human consumption. However, this is Kali Yuga, and this would be the case for the physical realm.

SEWAGE COLLECTION & TREATMENT – The majority of sewage collection and treatment systems in India and other countries throughout the world do little more than channel human waste to a nearby river. This would be unacceptable in Sri Mayapur Dham. This project would be expected to generate a high volume of waste water in Sri Mayapur that would need to be properly collected and treated. A full scale Western sewage system or even onsite septic systems are probably not practical in Sri Mayapur. The best solution would be to have toilet & bath complexes for public use that are practical for India and are easily maintainable, and environmentally sound. Sulabh International http://www.sulabhinternational.org/pg05.htm is the best resource out there for this kind of application. If you can separate human waste (toilets and baths) from gray water (sinks, drains, etc…), residential from commercial, it can be more proficiently maintained and treated.

Comment posted by bbd on July 24th, 2008
26 Unregistered

SOLID WASTE COLLECTION & DISPOSAL – Garbage is a problem everywhere. With paper, plastics, etc… humans tend to decorate their landscape with waste. The Vedic system did not use such materials. The Vedic system would consist of eating meals on leaves (like banana leaves) using one’s own hands and drinking from disposable clay cups. Actually, Srila Prabhupada would say that the Vedic system was to use gold and silver dishes rather than the “disposable” plastic or styrofoam materials of Kali Yuga. Any case, humans generate waste and the waste needs to be collected and disposed of properly. If biodegradable waste can be separated and composted, that would be great and would require a location for this. Otherwise, waste in the West usually ends up in a monitored landfill or much of it blows into a nearby water body. India’s landfills are completely hellish and we should try to avoid our contribution to them as much as possible. This will all need to be considered for this project.

STORMWATER – When it rains, the water that collects on the ground gathers up pollutants and waste while following the path of least resistance, usually the closest water body (i.e. Mother Ganga). The main contaminants of concern would be coming from automobiles (as displayed in the virtual model) and disease causing pathogens from concentrated human and animal activity. Usually, there are a couple of collection and treatment options. One option is groundwater infiltration through the means of dry wells. A Dry well is practically a covered hole in the ground that water can collect into and gradually filter through the ground eventually ending back into the groundwater. The best option is to create a bio-swail/lagoon/pond where all storm water is channeled into top where biological organisms break down pollutants before it then flows into the nearest water body.

Comment posted by bbd on July 24th, 2008
27 Unregistered

Let’s try to give Mother Ganga more than just prayers and oblations, let’s give Her the utmost respect and care She is due. Let’s make this project an impeccable presentation of Krishna Consciousness. Although my own experience is mostly limited to the western world, I understand that we are trying to attract people to Sri Mayapur Dham from all over the world. Therefore, we must ensure that the best possible sanitary conditions can be arranged. This will also make this project exceptional above other places/temples throughout India. If this project is indeed accommodating and sustainable, the whole world will have no other choice but to follow in every respect. If it becomes uncomfortable, filthy, polluted, disorganized, like other temples or places of pilgrimage in India, it will not meet expectations nor be most effective at spreading Mahaprabhu’s message.

I’m sure devotees have put their minds and hearts into this project and will continue to do so. I have not seen the detailed plans for this project (nor do I have any right to) that mention any of the points for consideration I have provided in summary. Maybe everything has already been properly considered and designs/plans are in the works. If so, I am relieved from any related anxiety and will wait to read/hear the updates on progress. This project was initially intended to “blow the socks off” of people all throughout the world and bring their attention to the Vedic conception of life. I hope and pray that we are mature and ready to implement this vision. Jai Nitai Gauranga!

your servant,
bbd

Comment posted by bbd on July 24th, 2008
28 Akruranatha

Thank you bbd for your many important insights. I hope devotees like yourself with specialized knowledge and training can assist in making Mayapur an ideal city with proper planning for water and waste management and sewage management, etc.

Mayapur should be a first class example of a proper cooperation between “lame man” and “blind man,” so that it is both spiritually and materially ideal.

We should not think that using the best available knowledge and green, sattvik technology in the matter of urban planning is somehow “not Vedic.” Rather, it is the pollution and unclean and unhealthy conditions in many third-world countries and even in many Indian cities that is really not Vedic.

Brahminical culture means clean, intelligent, pure, self-controlled, peaceful, honest, tolerant, austere and full of spiritual knowledge. We should expect a city designed and planned by real brahmanas to be very clean and healthy and pure, even moreso than modern “first world” cities (some western cities are better than others–the last time I was in Manhattan there was garbage all over the place), and certainly not beset with “third world” problems like inadequate handling of sewage and solid waste.

If we can take good advice from professional urban planners, designers and architects, and practically implement the best education available in this regard to make a wonderful spiritual city, that will be very pleasing to Srila Prabhupada.

Of course in the U.S. most counties in populated areas have building codes and planning commissions that regulate what and how development can take place. [At least at ISKCON Mayapur it is all on ISKCON land so ISKCON’s local management can regulate all the building directly, without needing to solicit the help of government agencies.]

Obviously, if we have uncleanliness and resulting dysintery, cholera, plague, or even just obnoxious smells and litter or crowding and quarrels and strife between people, that will not be a very good offering. Ideally, the ISKCON project should even improve the quality of life in the surrounding areas as well.

I do not know anything about it, but I expect those in charge in Mayapur are taking advantage of good advice from educated and talented people like you.

Comment posted by Akruranatha on July 25th, 2008
29 Suresh das

It is important to remember as well the cost of upkeep for such a project will be very high. It is always something to keep in mind when buying something expensive, not only its initial cost, but also the cost to maintain it. These costs should be easily manageable for the devotees, and should not become a burden on future generations of devotees, potentially living beyond their means, in uncertain economic times.

Comment posted by Suresh das on July 26th, 2008
30 Unregistered

Please forgive me if I left an impression that I am involved with this project to any degree. I am not involved with this project in any capacity. I am just presenting my own natural perspective influenced by my profession and my prakriti. I am a well wisher of this great historical event and pray that everything goes well in accordance to Sri Pancha Tattva’s desire.

As for the Temple building, I am confused about the interior design of the planetarium exhibit as presented by a GBC member in New Dwarka about a year ago. In his presentation http://www.lalive.info/flash/B.....ort512.htm prabhu explained that the Vedic Planetarium and the main temple room for the Guru Parampara, Sri Pancha Tattva, and Sri Sri Radha Madhava are shared under the same dome. He explained that as one travels up a mobile spiral staircase (escalator) observing the planetary systems from low to high…all the way up to Goloka Vrndavana, one can then, at the top, catch a glimpse of Sri Pancha Tattva from above.

Is the exhibit to share the same room/dome as the deities? If so, I envision a huge noise and congestion factor, coming from the exhibit and its viewers, potentially conflicting with deity activities. This idea seems like it would turn the temple room atmosphere into something like a trip to Disney or some grand scale amusement park. Why wouldn’t the planetarium have it own room/dome? Whatever is best for preaching is most important of course.

As for the exterior, it does seem that many devotees prefer the previous design as shown in detail at
http://indianskyscraperblog.wo.....ys-part-1/ &

http://indianskyscraperblog.wo.....ys-part-2/

Maybe it just has to do with the older design being presented in detailed artistic presentations and physical models rather than a over-simplified virtual computer animated tour like the latest design. Maybe it has to do with the style or artistic expressions? Whatever the case, if the latest design is “said and done” (and is absolutely what Prabhupada envisioned) then let’s be sure to make it self sustainable, make it presentable to be advertised world-wide, and make it accommodating to all classes of people. That way its intended purpose will be most effectively achieved.

your servant,
bbd

Comment posted by bbd on July 26th, 2008
31 Unregistered

Dear devotees, please accept my humble obeisances, all glories to Srila Prabhupada.

I am a great example of a very ordinary person, and i like many others have a disliking for American foreign policies. After reading the comments above, i went to watch the 3d video of the proposed temple design, fully expecting my heart to sink in a ‘oh no what have they done’ fashion. To my joy, i found a truly beautiful and magnificent building, that has flavours of the building Srila Prabhupada obviously liked, but far far more stunning and beautiful, what to speak of the wonderful plans for the interior. I feel so happy for Srila Prabhupada, i feel very grateful to the devotees of the world for making His dream come true. Please build asap! Let me know if you need any labouring help :)

Comment posted by mike108 on July 27th, 2008
32 pustakrishna

Dear Godbrothers and Godsisters,
Dandavat and Hare Krishna. I personally, as Srila Prabhupad’s secretary, heard His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupad speak about the Vedic Planetarium a number of times. He usually discussed what would be inside the building. He wanted to recreate the cosmology of the planetary systems from lower to higher, and then above that Vaikuntha, and above that Goloka Vrindaban. This is inside the temple. I did not hear him emphasize the outside of the temple. The point is, you must have a suitable structure to house the levels upon levels of lower to higher places where the quality of life progresses from tamas to rajas to sattva guna, to transcendental planes of existence. In this way, Srila Prabhupad is demonstrating things as they are, and enlightening visitors to the possibility of higher and lower planes of existence. Clearly, it diminishes the view that this is the best of all worlds, placing our current position in a merely relative position.
I think that it is mundane to say that the structure should not imitate the appearance of the US Capitol done because America is less prestigious. What kind of mundane calculations are people going to make? It is obvious that no design can fully glorify the high thinking of Srila Prabhupad who is an emissary of Goloka! Still, the planners of the building will need to consider what Srila Prabhupad intended to display INSIDE the Temple of the Vedic Planetarium. “Easy Journey to Other Planets…”Once the emphasis is on that point, then Sri Krishna will inspire the architects to create just the right design, because, after all, we live with faith in our Lord. Keep your heart on the spirit of what Srila Prabhupad wants to accomplish and things will turn out fine.

Respectfully,

Pusta Krishna das

Comment posted by pustakrishna on August 1st, 2008
33 Unregistered

Dear Tattva Vit Prabhu,
Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.

I am so convinced that Srila Prabhupada would not be happy with the domes and the Deity facing south since it is contrary to what His Divine Grace instructed Kirtananda prabhu for the New Vrndavan project (as appended below)

I vote for number 6
6) I disapprove of the present design and prefer that nothing be built
in the Lotus Park now and that ISKCON wait until a better design is
made and/or better land is available and/or some other condition is
met.

Thank you so much for heading this petition.

Your servant
Simhesvara dasa

===============

My Dear Kirtanananda,
Please accept my blessings. I am in due receipt of your letter dated January
20th. and February first along with your enclosed plans of the Radha
Govindaji Temple in New Vrindaban. From these plans everything seems to be
in order except the domes are making the temple look like a mosque.
Therefore you please eliminate these domes and consult the Mayapur plan
which can be obtained by writing Calcutta for design of the domes. The
Deities should be facing East.

===============

I am also pasting link
of a mosque with domes looking like that of a temple . Or is it pix of a temple with domes looking like a mosque. We find many of these designs in our country and the Mayapur design will not make any difference to the mosques we see here.

Comment posted by simhes on August 28th, 2008
34 Unregistered

Dear Simheshwar prabhu,
Thanks for this information.
I was really confused after seeing all such posting confirming prabhupada liking a DOME which definitely means a mosque if it is a place of worship.
We might go historically to prove Dome is a vedic design but we need to accept and recognise the present day understanding of a Dome structure as a mosque if we name it as a place of worship.

Who knows , muslim community may dislike a mosque like structure with human form being worshiped .

Will we accept a tanjore temple housing a mosque and cow slaughter house?

Dasan

Comment posted by scooty.ram on August 28th, 2008

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Home » A reply to concerns about the current design of the Temple of the Vedic Planetarium
 
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