Prabhupada’s Vision: Our Mission.

ECO-Vrindaban Board Meeting Minutes 06/26/2016

ECO-Vrindaban New Vrindaban

ECO-Vrindaban Board Meeting Minutes 06/26/2016

Mission Statement: ECO-Vrindaban promotes simple living, cow protection, engaging oxen, local agriculture, and above all, loving Krishna, as envisioned by Srila Prabhupada, the Founder-Acharya of ISKCON New Vrindaban.

Participating Directors: Anuttama, Bhima, Chaitanya Mangala, Ranaka and Sri Tulasi Manjari

Participating Advisors: Jaya Krsna, Navin Shyam, Radha-Krishna, Vraja

Participating Managers: Mukunda, Nitaicandra

Recording Secretary: Jamuna Jivani

1. Village Association Liaison

WHEREAS: The ECO-V Board wishes to support the development of a “local self-governing village” in New Vrindaban.

RESOLVED: The Board approves up to $5K to help pay for the cost of hiring a part time Village Association Liaison for one year, under the following terms:

  • INV also commits a matching amount, up to $5K, in order to meet the full $10K request
  • ECO-V receives a report after six months
  • After one year, the pilot program will be reviewed
  • Moving into the second year, the Village Association would be expected to contribute to the Liaison’s salary, up to one third of the total

2. Mukunda’s Monthly Report

Mukunda has reported on the previous month’s projects:

  • Mukunda worked with a crew to clean up the Community Garden and other areas used for Kulimela
  • He has almost finished rebuilding the fence along the edge of the Community Garden that INV took down during construction of the new apartments

3. Nitaicandra’s Monthly Report

Nitaicandra reported on the previous month’s projects:

  • Ox yokes have arrived. Caitanya Bhagavat and Nitaicandra have been working with Hari and Priya for about a week, and they have responded well, even after a long layoff, which Nitaicandra explained is due to the excellent training they previously received.
  • Strawberries have been planted
  • Vegetable starts have been planted out (tomatoes, peppers, okra, kerala, eggplant, and marigolds)
  • Seeds have been directly planted (carrots, beets, radish, squash, beans, herbs, greens, cucumbers, salads, sunflowers, melons and amaranth)
  • Cover crop has been a success so far: cooling the soil, attracting beneficials, discouraging pests, and outgrowing weeds.
  • Heavy mulching has minimized weeding and held moisture during the long dry spells that we have recently experienced.
  • Covering our young fruit trees with netting has protected them from the cicadas
  • Some of our young trees are fruiting for the first time (apple, cherry, peach)
  • Went on an educational paw paw tour with Soma prabhu
  • Regular staff meetings have been going well
  • Electric deer fence is not yet active

Anticipated projects for the upcoming month:

  • An increase in flower production is anticipated and documentation will begin.
  • Berry season is here. We will be collecting cultivated and wild types soon.
  • Preparing and planting our large beds for our grain nursery. This year our grain production is for collecting seed for future use.
  • Our other ox teams will resume their training in the next few weeks.

4. Internal Funding Request: $12K for Two Mowers

WHEREAS: The ECO-V Board wishes to invest in equipment to support its ongoing farming-related projects.

RESOLVED: The Board approves up to $12K for the purchase of a brush hog and lawn mower.

5. Kulimela 2016 Review

Chaitanya Mangala expressed appreciation for the hard work the ECO-V staff contributed to help make it a successful event. The ECO-V members present at the meeting shared their impressions and feedback regarding the event. All thought it was overwhelmingly positive and agreed that New Vrindaban, and particularly INV, was showcased in a way that was well received by festival participants. The organizers reported they are finalizing the financial reports and once ready will provide those to INV & ECO-V as previously promised.

6. Regular ECO-V Staff Meetings

Mukunda reported that staff meetings began approximately one month ago on alternating Fridays from 10:30-11:30 am.  These meetings have been well-attended and are helping to create a more positive culture, as well as provide added support and improved communications between the individuals involved.

June 2016 Brijabasi Spirit Newsletter

ISKCON New Vrindaban Takes Rathayatra to Wheeling for ISKCON’s 50th

By Madhava Smullen


Devotees from the East Coast of the U.S. and beyond are warmly invited to attend the first ever Rathayatra festival in the city of Wheeling near New Vrindaban, West Virginia on Saturday July 16th.

Previously, since 1973, New Vrindaban residents held their own local, rural Rathayatra, a sweet and bonding tradition with a certain rustic charm.

“Lord Jagannath had several different carts in the early years,” recalls Rupa Ramesvari Dasi. “One year, He had a stage coach like you see in cowboy movies; another He rode Radha-Vrindabanchandra’s teakwood chariot; and for a long time, He had a simple trolley car.”

Then in the early 2000s, Malati Devi, one of the organizers of San Francisco’s 1967 Rathayatra – the first outside India – commissioned a proper traditional chariot to be built. Along with a small cart for the children, and American-style prasadam, the festival grew in popularity as a kind of spiritual family picnic.

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Lord Jagannath Baladeva and Subhadra on chariot with pujaris Jayasri dasi and Vani dasi.

But of course, the Lord of the Universe is for everyone, and when Srila Prabhupada transplanted Rathayatra to the Western World in the 1960s, he focused on cities to reach the most people possible.

“So we thought the 50th anniversary of his ISKCON would be a wonderful opportunity to reach out to our neighbors, particularly the people of Wheeling,” says organizer Vrindavan Das. “For years, we’ve been a bit isolated, and there’s been a gap between the people of Wheeling and New Vrindaban. We want to bridge that gap, share what we have with them, and educate them about our culture and beliefs.”

Wheeling authorities and the Wheeling-Ohio County CVB (Convention and Visitors Bureau) agreed, excited about adding a “Festival of India” to their already-existing roster of Greek, Lebanese, and Italian festivals.

“We are looking forward to July 16th’s Festival of India as the latest addition to Wheeling Heritage Port’s summer schedule of events,” says CVB marketing assistant Michael Biela. “This inspirational festival will bring the wonders and enchantments of New Vrindaban and the Palace of Gold to downtown Wheeling for a unique experience that the entire family can enjoy!”

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Ratha Yatra 2015 in New Vrindaban

Some three thousand people are expected for the event, including about 500 devotees from many locations such as New Vrindaban, Pittsburgh, Columbus, Cleveland, and New York City.

Beginning at noon, the two-and-a-half-hour Rathayatra parade will make its way from Water Street at the WesBanco Arena through the main streets of busy downtown Wheeling and back.

It’s bound to be quite an eye-catching sight for locals, most of whom will never have seen anything like it before. New Vrindaban’s five-foot tall Jagannath, Baladeva and Subhadra Deities will beam out from Their hand-carved chariot, its vibrant red and yellow canopy topped with a gold spire rising thirty feet into the air. Srila Prabhupada’s murti will also be on board, with a huge banner above him showing his photo and proclaiming “ISKCON: 1966 – 2016, the Joy of Devotion” and “Celebrating 50 Golden Years” in sparkling golden letters.


Devotees pulling Lord Jagannath’s chariot in New Vrindaban 2015

Below, hundreds of devotees will be pulling the cart with thick ropes, dancing and chanting in ecstasy, and waving bright, multi-colored flags and balloons in the air. And to refresh the crowd, they’ll be distributing prasadam watermelon, milk sweets and drinks.

Following the parade, there’ll be a cultural spectacular from 3pm to 6pm at the amphitheater in Heritage Port Park, a beautiful space with the magnificent Ohio River as its backdrop.

Lokah Bhakti, a regular favorite at New Vrindaban’s Festival of Colors, will bring his unique brand of energy and Bhakti dance music, along with mantra rock by local New Vrindaban devotee bands. A “color throw” of dyed powders every hour will add to the live music experience and tie in with Festival of Colors, the event for which New Vrindaban is best known locally.

Meanwhile there will also be Bharat Natyam dance by Mansee Singh from Columbus, Bhangra Dance by the Carnegie Mellon University Bhangra Group, and bhajans and kirtan by kirtaniyas from New Vrindaban and Queens, New York.

Adding extra depth will be dramatic storytelling about Lord Jagannath’s appearance by award-winner Sankirtan Das. Sankirtan, who speaks at various universities, has been described by audience members as narrating “with such vivid enthusiasm that one can ‘see’ the scenes as if they were staged.”

Wheeling Mayor Andy Mackenzie will also attend and give a speech. Other VIPs, such as the county commissioner and CVB directors, have been invited and are yet to confirm.


Lokah Bhakti, yoga instructor and entertainer, on stage at Festival of Colors 2015 in New Vrindaban.

Creating a lively festival vibe, there will also be a number of activity tents hosting a “mantra meditation” japa chanting experience; yoga classes by Lokah Bhakti and New Vrindaban’s own Ananga Manjari; face-painting, music, clowns and yoga for the kids; and a Gita Walk where people will take steps while reciting verses on the soul, reincarnation and devotion.

Finally, for the palate there will be food booths selling Indian, Italian and Mexican prasadam cuisine from New Vrindaban’s Govinda’s Restaurant, as well as smoothies and drinks. And as with most of ISKCON’s spiritual public festivals, there will also be a charitable aspect, with about one and-a-half-thousand free plates of rice, dahl, subji and halava to be distributed.

“It’s going to be a great day of good clean family-friendly fun,” says Vrindavan. “We look forward to developing friendships with the people of Wheeling, and sharing our culture with them.”

ECO-Vrindaban Board Meeting Minutes 05/15/2016

ECO-Vrindaban New Vrindaban

ECO-Vrindaban Board Meeting Minutes 05/15/2016

Mission Statement: ECO-Vrindaban promotes simple living, cow protection, engaging oxen, local agriculture, and above all, loving Krishna, as envisioned by Srila Prabhupada, the Founder-Acharya of ISKCON New Vrindaban.

Participating Directors: Anuttama, Bhima, Chaitanya Mangala, Kripamaya, Ranaka and Sri Tulasi Manjari.

Participating Advisors: Jaya Krsna, Radha-Krishna, Vraja

Participating Managers: Mukunda, Nitaicandra

Recording Secretary: Jamuna Jivani

1. Designate Remaining “Project” Topics to ECO-V Managers

Jamuna Jivani will compile a list of ECO-V’s projects list for everyone to review and the managers can discuss in their regular Thursday meetings.

2. External Grant Request: ISKCON Alachua

The Board indicated it is not currently funding additional external grants. Chaitanya Mangala will respond to Mukhya prabhu’s request and inform her.

3. Kripamaya’s Sabbatical Request

In anticipation of the opening of his upcoming Ramayana musical work, Kripamaya has requested a three-month sabbatical from June to August. The Board has agreed to this request with the stipulation that he be available should an additional Director be necessary to constitute a quorum for a vote.

4. Mukunda’s Monthly Report

Mukunda reported on the previous month’s projects:

  • Working with, and engaging Krsna Nama prabhu part-time in various hands-on projects.
  • Repaired the gates at the flower garden.
  • Repaired some fencing at Nandagram and Bahulaban
  • In the process of providing and taking inventory of the needed equipment to our various service locations.
  • Helped with some of the logistics for Festival of Inspiration and Kuli Mela ‘16.
  • Continuing to act as Chair of the Steering Committee meetings and help with the recent Village Association expansion.

Anticipated projects for the upcoming month:

  • Clean and organize the area outside of the milking goshala
  • Build a fence for Dharma the bull
  • Continue to prepare sites to be used for upcoming festivals

5. Nitaicandra’s Monthly Report

Nitaicandra reported on the previous month’s projects:

  • Ordered ox yokes (should be ready soon)
  • Planted potatoes with Ranaka and Ray
  • Started summer vegetable and flower seeds indoors about three weeks ago. Caitanya Bhagavat was caring for them.
  • Cows have been moved to Bahulaban. Caitanya Bhagavat is caring for them.
  • Tilled and planted a cover crop in community garden
  • Krsnanama prabhu composted and mulched about 75% of our young trees in Madhuban.
  • Mukunda and Krsnanama prabhus have been helping with the clean-up of the community garden
  • A half dozen or so devotees claimed garden space in the Community Garden
  • Strawberries arrived
  • Vidya and Julie planted out flower starts in the teaching garden and Vidya’s gardens.
  • Meeting held at the Goshala to discuss how to best serve the cows, cow herds and guests. We came up with a plan to improve the overall appearance and ease of use, including moving the dung pile, improving drainage, adding gravel to road and parking area, and painting.

Anticipated projects for the upcoming month:

  • Covering young fruit trees for cicada protection
  • Planting out early seeds
  • Plant strawberries
  • Plant starts (tomatoes, eggplant, okra, peppers, herbs, etc.)
  • Heavy mulching
  • On-going maintenance
  • As soon as the ox yokes arrive, we will kick start the ox program and resume training.

6. Monthly Team ECO-V Meetings

Ranaka, Mukunda and Nitaicandra are establishing monthly meetings for those involved in ECO-V projects with the intention of increasing camaraderie and cooperation between team members.

7. ECO-V’s Involvement in Kulimela 2016

For the upcoming Kulimela Festival, ECO-V plans to:

  • Prepare sites to be used, including moving stones from the stage area, making the sites look presentable, building a fence and removing trees
  • Offer tours of various locations with cows and gardens
  • If possible, offer demos or workshops

8. Upstairs Bahulaban Barn Community Center Proposal Update

The Board has determined that in order to proceed with any plans for usage, first they must investigate possible health code requirements and have an evaluation made by a structural engineer. The Board asked Mukunda and Ranaka to work on those two issues and report their findings.

9. Village Association Liaison  – Service Description & Funding Request

The Board had a brief discussion on the topic, but due to time constraints, agreed to wait until the next meeting for further discussion.

10. Funding for Dump Trailer

WHEREAS: The ECO-V Board wishes to invest in equipment to support its ongoing farming-related projects.

RESOLVED: The Board approves up to $10,250 for the purchase of a dump trailer.

Brijabasi Spirit Newsletter May 2016

Service Appreciation Reaches New Depths in Fourth Ceremony

By Madhava Smullen

Gaura Saksi expresses his gratitude for Jaya Murari das.

Gaura Shakti das expresses his gratitude for Jaya Murari das.

“People aren’t showing up with prepared speeches just yet,” jokes Chaitanya Mangala, MC of New Vrindaban’s fourth service appreciation ceremony since 2014. “But you can tell that what they’re sharing is much more thought-out.”

His quip illuminates just how much the ceremony has grown to mean to New Vrindaban residents, who are taking to heart Lord Krishna’s assertion, “I consider worship of My devotees to be better than direct worship of Me.”

At each ceremony, people are taking more time to think about and express their appreciations of their fellow devotees. They’re also digging deeper – while previously one or two would become misty-eyed, this spring’s ceremony on April 17th saw at least a dozen devotees deliver such heartfelt tributes that they were choked up with tears and had to pause for a few moments.

Preceding the open appreciations were Chaitanya Mangala’s Powerpoint presentations about each person’s life and service, beginning with Betty Hickey, retired caretaker of the Rose Garden at Prabhupada’s Palace – who was present with her son Glenn.

Betty Hickey

Vraja Johnson awards Betty Hickey her service appreciation plaque on April 17th.

Betty, who comes from a neighboring family of farmers, started at the Bahulaban greenhouse in 1983, moved to the Rose Garden in 1985, and managed it for most of her nearly thirty years of service until her retirement in 2011.

During that time she carefully cultivated it into an award-winning rose garden, named several times between 1988 and 1998 as one of the top 100 gardens in the United States by the American Rose Society.

Constantly making newspaper headlines, the Palace Rose Garden drew rose aficionados to New Vrindaban in droves. Also serving as the tour guide, Betty led them around, dazzling them with her botanical knowledge.

After the presentation, devotees praised Betty’s care, dedication, and kind-heartedness. Those who had worked with her in the Rose Garden over the years were grateful for her gentle, encouraging corrections when things weren’t up to standard, and for making them feel so valuable.

Betty’s late husband Jim Hickey, who passed away in December 2006, was also honored for his service. Jim worked as the head maintenance man at New Vrindaban during the 1980s, and was well-remembered for driving his blue flat-bed pick-up truck up and down the ridge, taking care of many things that needed repairing.

Like all the appreciation recipients throughout the evening, Betty was presented with a plaque by the ISKCON New Vrindaban and Eco-Vrindaban boards, commemorating her and Jim’s contribution.

“I think that it’s not work if it’s good work, and I always enjoyed my work here,” she commented, calling the devotees gathered “some of my best friends.”

Jaya Murari

Jaya Murari 2016 portrait.

Next, Jaya Murari Das was honored for his more than four decades of service. Joining ISKCON in the spring of 1975, he moved to New Vrindaban that November, and received initiation from Srila Prabhupada on July 29th, 1976.

For the early residents, Jaya Murari’s appearance in New Vrindaban was nothing short of heaven-sent. At the time, the backwoods community was extremely austere, with only one faucet, no proper toilets or plumbing, and widespread dysentery from the contaminated water.

Jaya Murari, about ten years older than most of the other devotees and already well into a career as a master plumber, turned up with four truckloads of tools and plumbing materials. He soon built a safe and reliable plumbing infrastructure for the community, which he continued to expand and improve upon over the years until his retirement in the 2000s.

Always a dependable presence, he is also well-known for his photography and for his delicious Sunday pancake breakfasts in the early days.

Although Jaya Murari couldn’t attend the ceremony due to ill-health, the many devotees who rose to share their appreciations were filmed for him. Tears flowed freely as they recalled how completely he had changed the New Vrindaban experience; how he exemplified the gentle brahminical nature Prabhupada described in his books; and how he was a “Prabhupada man” through and through.

Ananga Manjari awards Sukhavaha dasi her service appreciation plaque.

Ananga Manjari awards Sukhavaha dasi her service appreciation plaque.

Next to be honored was devotee care manager Sukhavaha Dasi. After she joined in 1974 and was initiated by Prabhupada in 1975, she began helping the Pittsburgh and New Vrindaban temples with their bookkeeping. She was then put in charge of New Vrindaban’s “red trailer store,” distributing all the supplies devotees needed for their health and services.

In 1976, New Vrindaban installed industrial washing machines, and Sukhavaha headed up the laundry department; while in the 1980s, she spent much of her time on the road, fundraising. During this phase, she had her son Bhagavan, and daughters Sukadevi and Narahari.

More recently, she started ISKCON New Vrindaban’s devotee care program, and will be turning the “Prabhupada House” near the temple into a Wellness Center that will provide many physical, emotional and mental health services.

Offering appreciation, the devotees gathered described her as full of enthusiasm, always there to help, and very dedicated to working on herself. The greatest example of the latter was expressed in a very moving moment when her son Bhagavan, who was present, spoke about his mother. Like a lot of ISKCON parents in the early days, he said, she had focused on her services to the detriment of caring for her children.

“But a decade ago, you called me up one night, and said you wanted to talk about the past, and take responsibility for it,” Bhagavan recalled. “And since then, we’ve worked through many of our issues, and I couldn’t be happier with our relationship today.”


Bhima Walker awards Sarvasaksi and Viduttama dasi their service appreciation plaque.

Finally, husband and wife Sarvasaksi Das and Viduttama Dasi were honored for their life of service. Joining ISKCON in 1974 as a married couple and moving to New Vrindaban that same year, they were initiated by Srila Prabhupada on Janmastami 1975.

Both did early services connected to the cows, which were a central part of New Vrindaban life at the time, with about 100 cows to 150 people.

Sarva helped milk all the cows by hand and herded them in and out of the Bahulaban pastures daily. Viduttama churned cream into butter for the Deities and devotees, also by hand. Both were photographed and featured in a 1976 Back to Godhead magazine article.

Later, as construction began on Prabhupada’s Palace, Sarva worked with the heavy equipment department. He then spent a decade as a silversmith, casting and making jewelry for a local New Vrindaban business. He is now semi-retired.

Viduttama, meanwhile, did the laundry in the days before washing machines came to New Vrindaban, washing everyone’s clothes by hand, outside, with cold water, rocks and ashes. Next, she worked in the Palace gift shop, where she enjoyed meeting and interacting with guests. She and Sarva also had two children – a son, Sudarshan, and a daughter, Radhastami.

Last year, Viduttama came full circle, as she began working for Govinda’s Groceries gift store and doing laundry for the Palace Lodge — the exact same services she did all those years ago. “And I love it!” she blurted out at the ceremony. “I couldn’t be any happier!”

A whole host of devotees recalled their many fond memories of serving with Sarva and Viduttama, as well as their kindness, devotion, down-to-earth natures and enthusiasm. The outpouring of love moved the couple to tears.

Ekadasi cake made by Lakshmanesvara das.

Ekadasi cake made by Lakshmanesvara das.

According to Srila Prabhupada’s purport in Verse 4 of the Nectar of Instruction, MC Chaitanya Mangala pointed out, these kinds of loving exchanges between devotees were exactly what ISKCON had been established to facilitate.

In conclusion he also quoted a 1972 lecture by Prabhupada in which he said, “In the lower stage, a devotee is concerned with the Deity worship, but he does not take much care of the devotees. But when one is advanced further, he can see Krsna and His devotees also.”

“Clearly, in the early days of ISKCON, we were at that lower stage,” Chaitanya Mangala says. “Now, let’s collectively evolve to the next level, where we worship Krishna in the temple, and also care for the devotees around us.”

That care continued to be shown into the evening, as devotees drank herbal tea, tucked into a celebratory Ekadasi cake made by Laksmanesvara Das, and chatted, furthering the loving connections made throughout the ceremony.

A Facelift for Prabhupada’s Palace of Gold – May/June 2016 Issue BTG Magazine

ECO-Vrindaban Launches an Array of Exciting Efforts for ISKCON’s 50th

By Madhava Smullen

ECO-Vrindaban ISKCON Garden Cows Oxen Prabhupada ISKCON 50

ECO-Vrindaban members Krsna Nama das, Nitai Chandra das, Lila, and Chaitanya Bhagavat das planting this year’s strawberry patch in New Vrindaban’s Community garden.

With ISKCON celebrating its 50th anniversary throughout 2016, ECO-Vrindaban – New Vrindaban’s self-sufficiency wing – is making many special efforts to honor Srila Prabhupada’s desires for the community.

One of these is to put a special focus on growing grains, which Prabhupada instructed his New Vrindaban disciples to do early on. “These duties are there in New Vrindaban, and we shall have to live there self independently, simply by raising cows, grains, fruits, and flowers,” he wrote in 1969.

“So we researched what grain best suited the local environment, and found that traditionally corn was grown here by Native Americans hundreds of years before European settlers,” says Garden Manager Nitaicandra Das. “It’s also being grown very successfully by locals today.”

To begin with in this first year, Nitaicandra plans to dedicate about five acres to corn production at the Nandagram farm recently acquired by ECO-V. He also aims to grow oats, barley, spelt, wheat, quinoa and amaranth in quarter-acre test plots.

In keeping with Prabhupada’s desires, a large variety of vegetables will be grown too, in the New Vrindaban community gardens. And of course, the Deity Flower Garden crew, headed by Vidya Dasi, will be busy producing tons of flowers for Sri-Sri Radha-Vrindabanchandra.

“Produce. Make the whole field green,” Srila Prabhupada said during a conversation in Vrindavana, India in 1977. “Therefore I am asking so much… ‘Farm, farm, farm, farm.’ That is not my program—Krishna’s program.” He even later added, “Krishna is the Farm Acarya. Baladeva is holding a plow, and Krishna is holding the calf.”

Another 2016 goal of ECO-V’s, that was also a priority for Prabhupada, is to teach its growing herd of oxen to pull carts.

“We now have a state-of the art ox training facility at Nandagram,” explains Nitaicandra, who serves as the ox trainer too. “My goal is to train our oldest ox team, Hari and Priya, to pull a cart and help transport vegetables and tools in the garden this year. By New Vrindaban’s 50th anniversary in 2018, we aim for them to be ready to pull Prabhupada’s murti on a tour of Govardhana Hill.”

ECO-Vrindaban, New Vrindaban, ISKCON, Prabhupada, Cows, Garden

Ananda Vidya das and Lalita Gopi devi dasi serve the cows in a freshly painted goshala

The cow care program is also getting special attention, with Ananda-Vidya, Lalita Gopi and other staff members freshly painting the milking goshala near the temple and insulating it to ensure the cows and their caretakers stay warm. The cows themselves are producing around twenty-six gallons of milk per day, which is made into butter and ghee for the temple and its presiding Deities and residents.

ECO-V Project Manager Mukunda Das, meanwhile, is also busy with offerings to Srila Prabhupada for ISKCON’s 50th. He is renovating and re-purposing New Vrindaban’s former brick factory and milk parlor as facilities for cleaning, canning and storing vegetables and grains.

“We want to improve ECO-V’s capacity to supply ISKCON New Vrindaban with as much of its food supplies, and for as much of the year as possible,” he says.

The facilities are already being used, and will store this year’s harvest beginning in July; although the full conversion will be a multi-year project.

ECO-Vrindaban, ISKCON, Prabhupada, New Vrindaban, Cows, Garden, Simple Living, Chaitanya Mangala

Chaitanya Mangala das reports on the earth-based home built by devotees in Madhuban during the spring INV Board Meetings tour.

Another exciting effort is the restoration of special sites of Prabhupada’s pastimes. One of these is a small, off-the-grid, earth-based home built by devotees in Madhuban from Prabhupada’s own design. Prabhupada visited the home in 1974, appreciating the construction and the simple life of its householder residents. Sitting on a rocking chair, he said, “You should make thousands of these nice houses.”

“It’s in major disrepair right now, so we’ll start by assessing its condition, and preventing further decay,” says Mukunda. “Then we’ll gradually restore it as a sacred historical site, with a picture of Prabhupada on a rocking chair. It will be a place where visitors can spend a moment with him, and see what simple living in New Vrindaban used to be and what it could be again.”

In addition to its own local efforts, ECO-V is taking ISKCON 50 as an opportunity to support simple living throughout ISKCON. It will provide a grant for Kalakantha Das, the ISKCON Minister for Agriculture and Cow Protection, to travel to four farm conferences he has organized this year in South America, Europe, Asia and North America.

ECO-V will also sponsor the registration fees for fifteen devotees to attend the North American conference in Gita Nagari this August, and will send its own representatives to talk about New Vrindaban’s efforts.

These will likely be Nitaicandra and Mukunda, who are thrilled at the opportunities they’ll get this year to connect with Srila Prabhupada, by spending ISKCON’s 50th anniversary serving a project so close to his heart.

New Vrindaban Celebrates 30th Anniversary of USA’s Only Full-Size Nrsimha

New Vrindaban ISKCON Nrsimhadeva 30th Anniversary

By Madhava Smullen

For thirty years, a very special Lord Nrsimhadeva Deity has protected the devotees of New Vrindaban and all of North America, and received their love and service.

Now, residents of the West Virginia village want to invite people from all over North America to come celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of His installation, and to behold the only full-size Nrsimha Deity on the continent, on His sacred appearance day.

Sculpted by artist Soma Das in New Vrindaban and installed in 1986, the ferocious half-man, half-lion Lord with his deep black skin and golden mane stands at a towering seven feet tall next to his boy devotee Prahlad – so the celebration is sure to be an awe-inspiring spectacle.

Although the original installation was on January 6th, this year’s epic three-day anniversary festival will run from Friday May 20th – Nrsimha Chaturdasi – to Sunday May 22nd.

On the first day, all the devotees will bathe the full-size Deities with a variety of liquids including milk, yoghurt and ghee from New Vindaban’s own protected cows. During this maha-abhisekha, one thousand Nrsimha Kavachas will also be knotted together into one huge garland, and offered to the Lord.

Soma Das with Lord Nrsimhadeva, Nrsimha Chaturdasi 2015

Soma Das with Lord Nrsimhadeva, Nrsimha Chaturdasi 2015

On Saturday, the Nrsimha Kavacha mantra will be chanted 108 times during a fire sacrifice to invoke the feral Lord’s protection, and the thousand Kavachas will be distributed to the guests.

And on both days, there will be dramatic retellings of the story of Nrsimhadeva and Prahlad by award-winning storyteller Sankirtan Das; roaring kirtans, special Nrsimha aratis; and delectable feasts – with many of the community devotees bringing offerings from their homes. Sunday, meanwhile, will wrap things up with a Govardhana parikrama and Sunday Feast.

But perhaps one of the biggest treats of the festival will be the Nrsimha Katha on both Friday and Saturday. Senior Prabhupada disciples Urmila Dasi and Srutakirti Das will speak about Lord Nrsimhadeva’s loving pastimes; Soma Das and other early New Vrindaban devotees will share their memories of sculpting and installing the Lord thirty years ago.

Back then, Soma recalls, New Vrindaban devotees had longed to install Nrsimhadeva for protection for many years.

“Then one day, I was walking from Prabhupada’s Palace down to the old temple at Bahulaban,” he says. “I had already finished my japa, and I remembered reading in the Nectar of Devotion that performing service in your mind is as good as performing it in real life. I started to meditate on making a beautiful Nrsimhadeva Deity, and installing Him in a wonderful temple. So when I was asked later if I wanted to sculpt Him, I was over the moon!”

Soma Das finishes the original clay sculpture of Lord Nrsimhadeva in 1985

Soma Das finishes the original clay sculpture of Lord Nrsimhadeva in 1985.

Like most of the pioneering devotees building up New Vrindaban at the time, Soma, then 32, had no professional experience or education in sculpting. Instead, he had learned on the job; his many sculptures, including a giant Gaura-Nitai and bas relief forms of Jaya and Vijaya, already adorned the community.

Beginning work on Lord Nrsimhadeva and Prahlad Maharaj in October 1985, he first formed the Lord from clay. While doing so, he consulted the Shilpa Shastra and other Vedic texts, particularly the descriptions of Nrsimha in Prabhupada’s Srimad-Bhagavatam.

He also consulted Sri Vaishnava priest Sampat Kumar Bhattacharya, head of the Tirupati temple authority TTD, who had been personally praised for his expertise by Srila Prabhupada.

It “just so happened” that as Soma was sculpting Lord Nrsimhadeva, the Bhattacharya was visiting nearby Pittsburgh to open a South Indian temple there – the first time a Sri Vaishnava priest had ever done so outside of India.

“He came by, approved my work, and answered all my questions,” Soma says. “Like the whole process, it seemed like divine arrangement. It really felt like Lord Nrsimhadeva wanted to appear in New Vrindaban, and I was just working for Him. It didn’t even feel like I made Him.”

Foreground - Nrsimhadeva cast in granite and West Virginia coal_ background - Prahlad cast in white marble, 1985

Foreground – Nrsimhadeva cast in granite and West Virginia coal. Background – Prahlad cast in white marble, 1985.

The Deity was completed quickly, in only three months. Kumar, Sudhanu and their mold shop crew made plaster molds from Soma’s clay original and poured in epoxy resin mixed with granite dust and ground-up West Virginia coal for the jet black color. Prahlad, meanwhile, was cast out of cultured white marble.

Although the devotees were pensive because there was only one chance for the cast to work, they breathed a sigh of relief and awe when on the fateful day, Kumar opened the molds to reveal the beautiful Deities of the Lord and His devotee.

“I remember we all ran over to see Him come out of the mold,” recalls Madhurya-lila Dasi. “It was amazing.”

Meanwhile, all the different Deity worship departments at New Vrindaban were in marathon mode as the installation date loomed.

Ishani headed up the jewelry workshop with a small core group, including Madhurya-lila, Gopi, and Janaki, and got help from anyone else she could. Her team created pieces by soldering brass or copper jewelry findings together, electroplating, cutting crystals to create jewels, and hammering relief designs by hand – all of it learned through books and on the job.

“We were working from 7 in the morning until probably 10 or 11 at night,” says Madhurya-lila. “And I’m pretty sure all of us pulled at least one all-nighter.”

Lord Nrsimhadeva on His installation day, January 6th 1986

Lord Nrsimhadeva on His installation day, January 6th 1986.

Despite this, Madhurya-lila – who will also create the Lord’s jewelry for the 30th anniversary — says she loved it. “There was a team spirit that I’ve rarely experienced anywhere else in my life. I would go back to that jewelry shop in a heartbeat. There’s no place I’d rather be.”

The result of all this dedicated teamwork was a gorgeous full set of golden jewelry set with red and green jewels for Prahlad and Nrsimhadeva: a large tubular crown, sudarshan chakra, conchshell, earrings, necklaces, arm and ankle bracelets, and tilak and belt. Ishani created the Lord’s eyes as well, along with Kuladri Das.

The Deity Sewing Department, headed by Adhara Dasi and her dedicated crew of women, also worked around the clock in the months leading up to the installation day, creating new outfits for the Lord and His boy devotee. These included a beautiful yellow dhoti and crimson chaddar lined with gold for the Lord, a purple dhoti with violet chaddar for Prahlad, and a velvet backdrop adorned with winding flowered vines.

For the installation on January 6th, 1986 and surrounding three-day festival, hundreds of devotees from all over North America gathered for ecstatic chanting, dancing, feasting, dramas and more – just as they will on the 30th anniversary celebration.

Gaura Keshava Das, a brahamana priest who had been trained in South India by Sampat Kumar amongst others, performed the elaborate installation rituals, including fire sacrifices in the yajnashala outside the temple, and Prana Pratistha.

“This involved touching the heart of the Deity, and inviting the Lord to please expand His heart and reside within the Deity, and accept the worship of the devotees,” Gaura Keshava recalls.

Kumar Das works on an altar in the mold shop

Kumar Das works on an altar in the mold shop.

During this process, four strong devotees carried the 400-pound Lord into the temple room. A blindfold was removed and His eyes were ceremonially opened. He was then installed with much pomp upon a beautiful golden altar and throne cast by Kumar in New Vrindaban.

From then on, Lord Nrsimhadeva was very merciful to all the New Vrindaban devotees, and especially the Prahlad-like children – in the 1980s, the older gurukula boys would perform all His morning aratis, while once a week the women and younger boys and girls would worship Him.

Today, His early servants such as Srimati, Jayasri and Lokadristi continue to worship Him alongside new pujaris like Abhinandana Das.

And now, at this May’s unmissable 30th anniversary celebration, we’ll all get to feel His love and protection, as we hear from those who were there how He appeared all those years ago in New Vrindaban.

New Vrindaban Nrsimhadeva 30th Anniversary ISKCON


April Brijabasi Spirit Newsletter

FOI Jayapataka Maharaj

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