A Report on The Glory of Saurashtra – ISKCON Rajkot Temple
By Kalacakra Krsna das
The inauguration ceremony of ISKCON temple in Rajkot, “The Glory of Saurashtra” was celebrated with great enthusiasm on the auspicious day of Sri Rama Navami (14th Apr) in the presence of exalted sannyasis, senior disciples of Prabhupada and senior vaishnavas from across the world, presided over by ISKCON India Chairman and GBC HH Gopal Krishna Goswami Maharaj and ISKCON Gujarat Secretary and senior disciple of Srila Prabhupada, HG Yashomatinandan Prabhu. Thousands of devotees from around the world participated in the 3 days’ festivities and over 50,000 visitors thronged the temple to take darshan of Their Lordships entering into Their most opulent home.
Saurashtra, the northwestern part of Gujarat is well known for its sanctity right from the historical times. Lord Sri Krishna constructed the city of Dwaraka dham, resided in this state of Saurashtra for more than 100 years along with His queens and ruled over this place. Saurashtra is also famous for the ancient Somnath temple. In order to make it more glorious, the all-merciful Lord Sri Krishna has now transformed the industrial and cultural city of Rajkot into Vaikuntha dham.
The Pioneer and Visionary: H H Mahavishnu Goswami Maharaj, the pioneer and visionary of Sri Sri Radha Neelmadhav temple is a well-known elderly sannyasi in ISKCON. Maharaj was born in a Gujarati Vaishnava family in 1919 in a village in Maharashtra. He began his life in Krishna consciousness in early 1970s in London when he met Srila Prabhupada and spent the next 40 years of his life in practicing and preaching Krishna consciousness all over the world. He is famous for his love for Bhagavatam and the unique way in which he inspired everyone to take Bhagavatam as the life and soul. By his loving guidance, simple way of devotional service and practical application of the shastras in day to day life, not only many newcomers got attracted to Krishna consciousness but also the practicing devotees gained more faith and conviction in the path of bhakti. He built a beautiful stone temple for Sri Sri Rukhmini Dwarkadish in Dwarka dham in 2003 and now in 2019, 9 years after he entered the eternal pastimes of Lord Krishna in 2010, this grand beautiful marble temple manifested as a result of his pure devotion, simplicity, unflinching faith in Srila Prabhupada and firm faith in Srimad Bhagavatam.
The Humble Beginning: H H Mahavishnu Goswami Maharaj and H G Yashomatinandan Prabhu were traveling once in 2002 passing by Kalawad Road in the outskirts of Rajkot and Prabhu showed this piece of land to Maharaj informing that he bought it in 1986 but it is barren and nothing could be done with this land. Maharaj stopped by the land and requested H G Yashomatinandan Prabhu if he can do something for Srila Prabhupada with this land. Yashomatinandan Prabhu happily gave it in the good hands of Maharaj to offer it in the service of Srila Prabhupada.
Daunting Challenges and Indomitable Spirit: When Maharaj stepped into this piece of land in Rajkot in the year 2002, he was 84 years of age and the land was barren with no water at all. The beginning days were extremely challenging without any source of water and very less man-power. Depending completely on Krishna, Maharaj intensely prayed hard and daily chanted Srimad Bhagavatam and the holy names in the land with a handful of devotees who would go out on harinam every day in the city. Pleased by the intense devotion of his pure devotee, the Lord miraculously revealed a source of water in that barren land. Maharaj then enthusiastically embarked upon the construction of a mid-size temple structure with a 20 room guest house ably assisted by a local businessman Sri Mahendrasingh Jadeja. The guesthouse was completed in 2003 and the deities’ Sri Sri Radha Neelmadhav, Sri Prahlad Nrsimhadev and Sri Sri Jagannath, Baladev Subhadra came along as They desired and were installed as per the vedic tradition. Ever since Their Lordships arrived in Rajkot in 2003, the city which was reeling under drought every summer until then, has been receiving ample rains miraculously every year to give great joy and relief to the residents.
The Growing Days: By Maharaj’s purity and association, a nice congregation developed along with increasing visiting devotees from all over the world. Sunday feast very soon became popular and the entire hall was filled with hundreds of devotees singing and dancing for kirtans. Janmashtami was celebrated across 4 days with lakhs of local devotees attending the festival. Ratha yatra and all other festivals were attended by thousands of devotees. Maharaj very soon inaugurated the Gopal’s Goshala too with more than 20 cows. He inaugurated a nice Vedic school – Sri Prahlad International School in which over 120 children joined to study in a devotional atmosphere. Maharaj, being a teacher himself loved teaching the children every day. However not one to be satisfied ever with the limits of his service, Maharaj soon revealed to us his long term vision as his life time offering to Srila Prabhupada, a huge gorgeous marble temple for Sri Sri Radha-Neelmadhav – The Glory of Saurashtra.
Bhumi Puja of ‘The Glory of Saurashtra’: The Bhumi Puja for the grand temple was performed in 2007. During the Bhumi Puja, Maharaj made us do a unique service. He made us all write the Hare Krishna Mahamantra in several notebooks and fill all the pages with the holy names. Then he instructed us to place them all in the foundation along with Ananta-sesha. He then emphatically said, “The holy names will be the foundation of this temple and the holy names will build the temple. We are not building it. The only thing we have to do is sincere bhakti in the form of chanting, reading, mangala arati and service. This temple will stand on the strength of our sincere devotional service.” Then by the unlimited mercy of Supreme Lord Krishna, the temple construction began.
Fund Collection is Krishna’s Responsibility, not Ours: Maharaj ensured that the construction work progressed according to the in-flow of funds. Whatever Lakshmi came in, will go into the construction 100%. At the same time, Maharaj followed a strict principle – he would never open his mouth for donation. His famous statement often rings in our ears, “Our job is to do Bhakti and it is Krishna’s job to build His temple. Why should we go and collect for His temple?” He also said once to our surprise, “If Krishna gives us money only enough to build the foundation, we will build the foundation and do our sankirtan there.” Such was his contentment in whatever Krishna reciprocates.
Maharaj instructed his disciples with three main principles for temple construction:
1. Never beg for Lakshmi from anyone.
2. Work hard to build the gorgeous marble temple for Sri Sri Radha-Neelmadhav.
3. Practice loving dealings and serve everyone with humility. Do not serve only those who satisfy your senses.
On top of these principles, Maharaj also said, “At the time of inauguration, provide the best accommodation, transportation and prasadam facilities for visiting devotees and spend with a wide-heart.” How to implement these principles which are impossible to practice collectively? Maharaj showed us by his own example that the only way we can follow these principles is by developing unflinching faith and devotion at the lotus feet of the Supreme Lord. There are several instances where devotees would promise that they will give a lump sum amount but later strayed away from their promise. But Maharaj was never upset with them and always gave them the soothing shade of his loving shelter. At the same time, he would never appease some wealthy person just to get some donation from them. In this regard, he would often refer to this beautiful sloka from the shastras which he took as a life-time lesson.
re re cātaka sāvadhāna manasā mitra kñanam çruyatām
ambodhā bahavo vasanti gagane sarvepi naikādrçā
kecid vrñöibhir ārdrayanti dharani garjanti kecid vrithā
yam yam paçyasi tasya tasya purato mā brühi dīnam vacah
Cataka is a bird that drinks only rain water and that too on the swati nakshatra day. The poet is addressing him, “My friend Cataka, please hear me for a second. Always be aware in your mind. In the sky, there are so many clouds. But not all clouds may quench your thirst. A few of them may wet the land and a few others may simply make sound and pass away. So please do not open your mouth at the sight of every cloud for want of water and utter begging words.”
There are also times when devotees would repent that they could not offer any Lakshmi service. Maharaj would tell them lovingly, “Don’t worry son. No need to send any money. You send your (chanting) rounds to us, your rounds will build the temple. If you are in need of any Lakshmi, we will give you. Son should not hesitate to ask for any help from the father.”
In regard to collecting Lakshmi, Maharaj would often say that we need to put our legs in others’ shoes and understand their pains. He would quote the Bhagavatam verse 6.10.6 which was very close to his heart:
nünaà svärtha-paro loko na veda para-saìkaöam
yadi veda na yäceta neti näha yad éçvaraù
Those who are too self-interested beg something from others, not knowing of others’ pain. But if the beggar knew the difficulty of the giver, he would not ask for anything. Similarly, he who is able to give charity does not know the beggar’s difficulty, for otherwise he would not refuse to give the beggar anything he might want as charity.
Bhakti Builds the Temple: Maharaj ingrained his powerful realization in the hearts of his disciples that temples are not built by the money but by our sincere devotional service. He once shared his deep realization, “‘When we build a temple we build our devotional service. It is non-different. So the fabric of our bhakti should be the foundation of the temple.”
The main temple in Rajkot was built by the tireless efforts and guidance of Maharaj. Every day morning after the Bhagavatam class, Maharaj would spend 6 to 7 hours daily on the surveillance of the construction of the new temple. He would talk to every construction worker lovingly enquiring about their well-being, family and everything else. The workers happily remarked, “We had built many temples. But this temple is very unique because we get love along with the salary.” Maharaj keenly watched over every expense that was happening and wherever possible Maharaj tried to save money. He encouraged us also to follow in his foot-steps.
A Pure Devotee Returns to the Eternal Abode of Krishna: On Jan 25, 2010, Maharaj wound up his pastimes in the material world at the age of 91 and entered into the eternal pastimes of Lord Krishna. Although Maharaj left our mundane vision, we could feel Maharaj’s presence in every step of the development of ISKCON Rajkot. He left the service of completing the ‘Glory of Saurashtra’ project in the hands of his disciples, ably led by H G Devakinandan Prabhu (Singapore) and H G Vaishnava Seva Prabhu. As years went along, the donations were coming mainly in trickles from a handful of Maharaj’s disciples, there was hardly any big donors involved in the project. H G Vaishnava Seva Prabhu relentlessly worked hard with full focus in spite of innumerable challenges, rightly guided by H G Devakinandan Prabhu, in the devotional mood of Maharaj. As Maharaj taught us that the natural outcome of Bhagavatam study must be detachment, some of the disciples gave their entire inheritance, savings and earnings to push the project to completion. Many other disciples and well-wishers of Maharaj in different parts of the world began to contribute according to their individual capacity.
Krishna Builds His Own Temple: By Maharaj’s mercy, the temple construction service picked up speed around 2014. The original plan made for the temple and the current majestic form that has manifested in front of our eyes are unimaginably different. Even the architect and structural engineers themselves are wonderstruck by this outcome. This obviously proves that an impossible construction has become possible because of Maharaj’s purity and intense desire to please Krishna.
At the time of his departure, Maharaj instructed his disciples to seek guidance of senior authorities’ H G Yashomatinandan Prabhu and H H Gopal Krishna Goswami Maharaj for the completion of the temple construction. By the blessings of such exalted vaishnavas and many other sincere well-wishers in Srila Prabhupada’s transcendental family, the huge gorgeous temple, fully cladded with marble was inaugurated on the most auspicious day of Sri Rama Navami with the installation of Sri Sri Sita Rama Lakshman Hanuman who were given the beautiful name of Sri Sri Ramä Räma Rämänuja Hanumän by H G Devakinandan Prabhu (ISKCON Juhu).
This temple is an excellent model of Rajasthani arts. There are three entrances – One main entrance and two entrances in the left and right. The roof, floor, interior and exterior parts are all made of pure marble. There are also two well-designed fountains present at the main entrance.
In spite of limited donors, limited funds and limited support, this beautiful, grand, attractive temple has manifested in the cultural and industrial city of Rajkot only because of the intense desire of a pure devotee H H Mahavishnu Goswami Maharaj, his firm faith on the principles of Srimad Bhagavatam, by the blessings of Srila Prabhupada and by the causeless mercy of Sri Sri Radha Neel Madhav.
The Inauguration Ceremony of ‘The Glory of Saurashtra’: The inauguration ceremony was held in three days (12th-14th Apr) with various yajnas, homas, kalasha sthapana, maha abhisheka and prana prathishta. 1008 bhoga offerings were prepared by devotees from various parts of the world. Many senior vaishnavas like H H Lokanath Maharaj, H H Bhakti Nityananda Maharaj, H H Bhakti Ashraya Vaishnava Maharaj, H H Amiya Vilas Maharaj, H H Rupa Raghunath Maharaj, H H Bhakti Madhurya Govinda Maharaj, H G Jananivas Prabhu, H G Pankajanghri Prabhu, H G Nrsimhananda Prabhu, H G Braja Hari Prabhu, H G Devakinandan Prabhu (ISKCON Juhu), H G Bhima Prabhu, H G Basu Ghosh Prabhu, H G Nityananda Prabhu, H G Sachidananda Prabhu, H G Vishnunam Prabhu, H G Jagat Sakshi Prabhu, H G Bhaktivinod Prabhu, H G Atmaram Prabhu and H G Vrindavan Chandra Prabhu, presided by H H Gopal Krishna Goswami Maharaj and H G Yashomatinandan Prabhu.
Sri Sri Radha-Neelmadhav dham was filled with sweet kirtans for all 3 days and it was Lord Sri Ramachandra Bhagavan’s transcendental desire that on the auspicious day of His appearance, Their Lordships Sri Sri Sita Rama Lakshman Hanuman were installed with uproarious chanting of His holy names by thousands of devotees led by H H Lokanath Maharaj’s sweet kirtans. In the evening on 14th Apr the Chief Minister of Gujarat Sri Vijay Rupani and Governor of Karnataka Sri Vaju Bhai Valla graced the occasion and gave very beautiful speeches glorifying Lord Sri Krishna and Srila Prabhupada.
Current and Future Preaching Programs: By the hard work and endeavors of H G Vaishnava Seva Prabhu and his team of devotees following in the footsteps of H H Mahavishnu Goswami Maharaj, a nice congregation has been developed over the years and many new devotees keep joining the family of devotees regularly. By Krishna’s causeless mercy a nice weekly youth program is conducted for the students in the nearby colleges who are attracted to the temple environment, prasadam and engage in various service. With a number of colleges in the vicinity of Rajkot, many systematic programs are being organized to attract the youths to Krishna consciousness. There is also a weekly Radharani Sabha for matajis in the congregation. On a regular basis visiting devotees give Bhagavad-gita and Bhagavatam classes which encourage the devotees to take up study of Srila Prabhupada’s books seriously.
In the upcoming days, the following projects will be launched by the blessings of Sri Sri Radha-Neelmadhav.
1. Annamrta Seva – Thousands of Government school children in Rajkot will be fed lunch every day.
2. Goshala expansion – The current goshala will be expanded to include more cows and calves and their products will be utilized to propagate a vedic life style.
3. Govinda’s Restaurant – A nice sophisticated Govinda’s restaurant will be launched in the coming days to distribute prasadam to visitors as desired by Srila Prabhupada.
4. Ayurvedic hospital – A nice Ayurvedic hospital will be launched to serve patients with natural medicines.
5. Vedic Library – A Vedic library comprising of all ancient books, Srila Prabhupada’s books and all our acaryas’ compositions is planned in the temple campus.
In the future, the Glory of Saurashtra ISKCON temple will become an important place of visit in the entire state of Gujarat. This is now the second largest temple in Gujarat. This temple is a boon for all the pious people of Rajkot and it will not only relieve them of their material sufferings, but would also help in their spiritual progress. In fact, it is not just for the residents of Rajkot alone, this would be a great cultural center, par excellence that would help in the material and spiritual progress of all mankind.