Prabhupada’s Palace in New Vrindaban Confirmed as Smriti Samadhi

Prabhupada's Palace Smrti Samadhi New Vrindaban ISKCON

By Madhava Smullen

As ISKCON’s 50th anniversary quickly approaches in 2016, and New Vrindaban’s 50th in 2018, long time members and residents are working to make sure that accurate histories of the past half century are available for future generations.

Since the 1980s, some devotees in New Vrindaban have mistakenly claimed that Prabhupada’s Palace is a Pushpa Samadhi. According to the Vaishnava tradition, a pushpa samadhi houses flowers worn by a departed Vaishnava, like Srila Prabhupada’s in Mayapur.

However although various stories have persisted over time that a flower or flower garland worn by Srila Prabhupada was installed at his Palace in New Vrindaban, they have since been confirmed as untrue through direct testimony by the devotees cited in the narratives.

In July 2015, after extensive research by board member Chaitanya Mangala including the testimonies, the ISKCON New Vrindaban board formally acknowledged that there are no flowers worn by Srila Prabhupada – nor one of his teeth, another claim — installed at his Palace.

Earlier inquiries by New Vrindaban GBCs Tamohara Das and Malati Devi also came to the same conclusions.

Prabhupada's Clay Footprints New Vrindaban ISKCON Palace of Gold

This does not, however, diminish the importance and glory of Prabhupada’s Palace. It has been appropriately identified as a smriti samadhi – a memorial shrine that preserves a Vaishnava’s memory by keeping worshipable personal items.

Three very special personal items of Srila Prabhupada’s are displayed in a glass case in his temple room at the Palace: the bongo drum that he played during the first Tompkins Square Park Harinama Sankirtan parties in 1966; a bronzed pair of his shoes; and original clay imprints of his feet.

In 1976 devotees traveled from New Vrindaban to the West 55th Street temple in Manhattan specifically to get these imprints from Srila Prabhupada in person. They are one of only two such imprints, which were copied and are now on display in ISKCON temples all over the world. But the original remains on display at Prabhupada’s Palace.

As a result of the efforts by the New Vrindaban GBCs, the Palace has been officially recognized by ISKCON’s Governing Body Commission as a Shrine and Memorial and included in the ISKCON Law Book as such.

In a 2006 resolution, the GBC also listed several other reasons as to why the Palace is to be held in high regard as a Smriti Samadhi by ISKCON members all over the world.

Prabhupada Palace of Gold New Vrindaban ISKCON

Firstly, Srila Prabhupada personally named New Vrindaban, spent quality time there, left behind a legacy of instructions for the project, and emphasized it by stating that it was non-different from Vrindavana, India.

Secondly, Prabhupada’s Palace at New Vrindaban is the only monument in the Western hemisphere built specifically and only to glorify Prabhupada. What’s more it’s built by volunteers who put years of their life into it as devotional service – a labor of love. And Srila Prabhupada reciprocated with that love, calling the devotees working on the Palace “my jewels.”

Finally, Prabhupada repeatedly inquired when his Palace would be finished and expressed his eagerness to live there. “When my palace will be ready I shall go there and stay,” he wrote in 1974. “I like very much that place.” And during a 1974 onsite visit, he said, “If you want, I am already living here.”

While Srila Prabhupada left this world before the Palace was completed, he is living there in spirit — his murti was installed at its grand opening ceremony in 1979, and he has been steadily worshiped there ever since.

And while his physical presence (vapu) may have been limited to four visits, he lives through his teachings (vani), which he lovingly imprints on the hearts of his faithful devotees.

Prabhupada's Palace of Gold ISKCON New Vrindaban

Thus Srila Prabhupada is eternally present at his Palace in New Vrindaban. And to this day, it remains a place where he is the sole focus: from the monthly Sangams, to the mangala-aratis just for him, to the 30,000 tourists and pilgrims who visit every year and learn about his legacy, to the sweet memories that are shared about him by his disciples on his appearance and disappearance days.

And with a major restoration plan now underway, Prabhupada’s Palace is set to become even more renowned amongst future generations as his Smriti Samadhi – the greatest memorial to our Founder-Acarya in the Western World.

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