New Vrindaban Prabhupada Festival to Awaken Sweet Service Mood

Srila Prabhupada Festival New Vrindaban

By Madhava Smullen

ISKCON New Vrindaban is warmly inviting everyone to attend its Srila Prabhupada Festival this September 30th to October 2nd. As an offering of love and appreciation for their service and sacrifices, current and previous New Vrindaban residents, as well as all Prabhupada disciples, will have their lodging and prasadam completely covered for the weekend.

The festival is a revival of the historical Prabhupada Festivals that began in the West Virginia rural community with the opening of Srila Prabhupada’s Palace in 1979, and continued through to the mid 1980s. Lavish affairs, they saw devotees from around the world come together to serve Srila Prabhupada with processions, abishekhas and gift-giving, as well as 24-hour kirtans, dramas, sumptuous feasts, and elaborate fireworks displays.

This year’s festival aims to not only bring back that tradition, but also to reconnect with previous residents who assisted in the gradual development of New Vrindaban; revive a spirit of giving special attention to Srila Prabhupada; and awaken the team spirit and sweet, sincere mood of service that the early devotees had for him.

To do this, much of the festival will be focused on taking participants on parikrama to the tirthas where Prabhupada spent time during his four visits to New Vrindaban, to commemorate those special moments.

Prabhupada ISKCON New Vrindaban Madhuban House Front Yard Darshan June 1976

Prabhupada sitting in the front yard of the Madhuban house for an evening darshan – June 1976

On Friday, the parikrama will go to the Madhuban area of New Vrindaban, where Srila Prabhupada stayed in an old farmhouse during his second visit in September 1972. Upon arriving and sitting down in his room in the farmhouse, he was pleased to be back in New Vrindaban and said, “This Vrindaban, that Vrindavan, no difference.”

While at Madhuban, devotees will have a bonfire kirtan, and watch a video of Srila Prabhupada in New Vrindaban. Later that evening, they’ll launch lanterns into the night sky and set intentions for their service to him.

On Saturday, they’ll experience mangala arati at Prabhupada’s Palace and take a japa walk to Nandagram, where Srila Prabhupada visited gurukula students and received gurupuja during his last stay in 1976.

They’ll also hike to the original Vrindaban farmhouse, where the community was focused in its early days, and where Prabhupada spent 32 days in May/June 1969. While there, he marveled at the fresh milk from New Vrindaban’s first cow, Kaliya, the local tulip honey, and the sweet water from the well; and told devotees that everything they needed for a happy life and God realization was there.

Prabhupada New Vrindaban 1969 tree Rishikesh, Yadunandan, Ranadhir Kirtanananda, Pradyumna, Taruni, NaraNarayana, Arundhati, Purusottama and Madhu-Mangal.

Srila Prabhupada seated under a tree with his disciples in New Vrindaban – 1969.

He also spent many spring afternoons under a persimmon tree teaching the young devotees of his fledgeling rural community about every element of the simple life, from how to protect and engage cows and bulls to eco-building.

During a special program in a pandal at Vrindaban during the Prabhupada Festival, senior devotees who were actually present back then will recall all these memories and more, tell sweet stories, and show pictures of those days.

Then, taking some downtime, everyone will walk along Big Wheeling Creek, where Prabhupada walked in 1972. There’ll also be a chance for devotees to visit the cows, do yoga, or get a massage at ISKCON New Vrindaban’s devotee care center.

Finally in the evening, there will be a program at Prabhupada’s Palace, which New Vrindaban devotees built as an offering of love to Srila Prabhupada, and which he accepted with love, saying, “These devotees are my jewels.”

Prabhupada at his Palace of Gold ISKCON New Vrindaban

Prabhupada’s Murti at his Palace of Gold.

Afterwards, Prabhupada’s murti will be carried on a Palanquin around the Palace, just as devotees carried his murti in a procession when they installed him in his Palace in 1979. The procession will make its way down to the Kusum Sarovara Lake, where Prabhupada will ride a Swan boat in an ecstatic twist on New Vrindaban’s signature Swan Boat Festival.

On Sunday morning, there will be a class by New Vrindaban pioneer Kuladri Dasa on the front lawn of Ruci Dasi and Sankirtan Dasa’s house. Srila Prabhupada stayed in this house during his last visit in 1976, and in the evenings met with his disciples on the lawn, where he was famously photographed speaking from a grand vyasasana upholstered in bold yellow silk.

Prabhupada ISKCON New Vrindaban Bhagavat Dharma Govindaji Hill Bahulaban 1972

Prabhupada delivering his Bhagavat Dharma discource on Govindaji Hill – 1972

Everyone will then make their way to Govindaji Hill, to recreate the Bhagavat Dharma Discourses Srila Prabhupada gave under a pavilion there, speaking on the Bhagavatam to hundreds of devotees and guests for over a week.

Suhotra Swami recalled the Discourses as “a perfect outline,” going “deeper and deeper into the meaning of Srimad-Bhagavatam.” And Prabhupada himself described the experience as “truly a wonderful time,” and asked his disciples to “Go on holding Bhagavata Dharma discourses in every city of the world.”

The Bhagavat Dharma experience will be followed by local craft activities such as painting, clay sculpting and woodworking amidst the beautiful nature of New Vrindaban. Then there will be a closing sanga, and finally all the visitors will be seen off with lunch and travel packs.

ISKCON New Vrindaban temple president Jaya Krsna Dasa hopes that the festival will be an ideal way to honor Srila Prabhupada during the 50th anniversary of his ISKCON. He also hopes that next year’s Prabhupada Festival – for it will be an annual event from now on – will be even bigger, building towards New Vrindaban’s own 50th anniversary celebrations in 2018.

Until then? “This year I think we will be inspired by hearing about the adventures of the early residents, about how they dedicated so much of their lives to Srila Prabhupada,” he says. “And all the devotees will be inspired to hear stories about Srila Prabhupada in New Vrindaban, and about the instructions he gave for the community, that are valuable for all farm communities and for all devotees around the world.”

To find out more, or to register for the Srila Prabhupada Festival, please call Gaurnatraj Dasa at 304-312-6539 or email him at

Prabhupada ISKCON New Vrindaban Walk Big Wheeling Creek Shepherd's Bridge 1974

Prabhupada walking with his followers over Big Wheeling Creek on Shepherd’s Bridge – 1972

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