By Urmila Devi Dasi
Hundreds of acres, and a medieval castle one comes to after field after field of sunflowers. New Mayapur, France! This was my first visit. The first impression is of the Deitiesâ€”there are Gaura Nitai, Radha-Govinda-Madhava, and Krishna-Balarama. Prabhupada personally installed Krishna-Balarama. The beauty of all the Deities is indescribable. I was thinking, â€śWhat is this? How are these deities so beautiful?â€ť Evidently all visitors have the same impression and make the same kind of comments. Yet, Their beauty and sweetness is not something material in the sense of how they are carved or painted or something.
I was trying for some days to understand it.
The few devotees who live on the property, or regularly serve there, are all uncommonly friendly and welcoming. But, so many aspects of the project are saddening. They are very, very poor. The ancient stone castle is in very ill repair in many places. They have many acres, but only small sections being cultivated for vegetables or flowers. Most of the gardens are not so tidy due to lack of human resources. Tulasi’s greenhouse is falling apart, the lock to the door opened with an old kitchen knife. The elderly devotee who cares for her also does 12 hours of Deity service daily, so most of Tulasiâ€™s manjaris are not picked, though she is green and healthy looking. The property is a three to five hoursâ€™ drive from Paris; few visitors go there. Therefore, like other remote farm projects, they do not have a Sunday feast. The French government is opposed to religion, so our large visiting group couldn’t even do the street chanting of harinama. Harinama is only allowed for small groups with prior permission. And there is a terrible history of leadership there in ISKCON. Many devotees who had given their heart to the project had become discouraged and moved awayâ€”literally, figuratively, or both. Most of the herd of cows has gradually died of old age. There remain only five cows that will not be bred. The Deities do get flowers from the property in season, though in the winter Their garlands are made from folded leaves. Vegetables from the property are offered to the Lord in the summer and fall. The fruits and nuts from the trees are carefully harvested, preserved, and used throughout the year. The few devotees there are very dedicated to trying to revive the project despite the hardships and setbacks.
But the Deities! One day we saw Their Lordships adorned in an outfit of autumn. Falling leaves of various colors are embroidered on the clothes. The next day, the effulgences wereâ€”oh, my! Snowflakes! And white feathers bordered the skirts of the winter outfit. The spring outfit is, perhaps the most amazing. The effulgences look like a wreath of spring flowers. Chaddars are yellow with embroidered flowers. The tops of the outfits are blue skies with birds, having borders of trees with wisteria flowers, while at the bottom is embroidered grass and butterflies. This Janmastami They will receive a summer outfit of which I got a little preview. When one sees the Deities wear these outfits, it appears that the Lords are walking through that seasonal forest in Vrindavana, and that the opulences of that particular forest are worshipping Them.
These photos do not do them justice, but you can get some idea.
Here is autumn: http://oublaise.free.fr/Murtis/F-Krishna-Murtis-9.htm
Here is winter: http://oublaise.free.fr/Murtis/F-Krishna-Murtis-31.htm
Here is the most amazing, spring: http://oublaise.free.fr/Murtis/F-Krishna-Murtis-36.htm
Then the head pujari, who has served Their Lordships for thirty years, Visesa devi dasi, told me this story…”One day a visiting sannyasi was in the temple room, looking at the Deities. He used to live here and he loves these Deities very much. At that time I was also there, along with about five devotees in the temple room. As I was looking, the Deities were no longer the Deities. There was Krishna Himself. At first, I thought I was imagining this, but all my hairs were standing on end. Later that day, my husband asked me, ‘Did you see how the Deities manifested Themselves in the temple room when Maharaja was there?’ And, some time later–maybe some weeks–another one of the devotees who was in the temple room that day told me she had the same experience.”
Finally I came to understand. The devotees there have the deities as their only possession and only wealth. Gradually, as I came to think about the tremendous austerity there coupled with the unprecedented attraction of the Deities, I concluded that Krishna reciprocates with this intense one-pointed devotion by revealing His beauty and sweetness to a great degree not experienced elsewhere.
1)There is an upcoming festival in New Mayapur to celebrate 30 years since installing Krishna-Balarama. This is a wonderful opportunity to assist with this project that is so dear to Srila prabhupada.
2)If you would like to offer outfits to the Deities in your temple like those of the seasons, you can contact Ashok Ladiwal of Pratap Bazar in Vrindavana, India. Ashok_ladiwal@yahoo.co.in (91) 9319883838