Dhama Revealed as New Vrindaban Development Continues

Janmastami 2015 Radha Vrindaban Chandra

Sri Sri Radha Vrindaban Chandra on Janmastami 2015

By Madhava Smullen

The 45th annual Janmastami festival at New Vrindaban in the USA this Labor Day Weekend saw more exciting progress made in revealing Lord Krishna’s holy dhama (abode) of Vrindavan there.

The West Virginia village was established in 1968 by ISKCON founder Srila Prabhupada, who described it as “non-different from the original Vrindavan” and directed disciples that “the hilly portions may be named as Govardhana” and “If there are lakes, they can be renamed as Shyamakunda and Radhakunda.” He also requested the seven main temples of Vrindavan, India to be constructed in New Vrindaban.

Over the past four years the infrastructure of ISKCON New Vrindaban has seen tremendous improvements. Its Palace Lodge guesthouse, temple residential rooms and office wing have received full upgrades; the temple roof has been replaced; the snack bar has been transformed into a gorgeous full service Govinda’s restaurant; there’s a brand new children’s playground; and Prabhupada’s Palace is also undergoing major restoration work.

Now, a new phase has begun wherein even more of the ‘Vrindavan atmosphere’ Prabhupada envisioned is gradually being revealed. “I always had great hopes for New Vrindaban,” he wrote in 1972. “You may gradually bring that New Vrindaban property to its full potential by stages, and that will please me very much.”

On Friday September 4th, the day before Janmastami, the newly restored bas-relief forms of Jaya and Vijaya, the four-armed gatekeepers of the Lord’s Vaikuntha home, were re-installed on either side of the Sri Sri Radha Vrindabanchandra’s temple entrance with arati and joyous kirtan.

Sculpted by Prabhupada disciples Bhagavatananda and Soma and first unveiled in 1984, their original golden color had faded to such a dull gray that they were rarely noticed. But with the support of a kind donor and the efforts of Rupanuga and Lakshman Ishvara, their skin is now the rich dark blue of Vaikuntha residents, and their clubs, discs, conchshells and crowns are shining gold.

According to community president Jaya Krsna Das, they draw visitors’ attention to the temple, and their divine presence can be clearly felt.

ISKCON New Vrindaban Jaya & Vijaya Rededication 2 09-04-15 copy

Restoration of the bas-relief forms of Jaya and Vijaya.

On Janmastami day at 10:00am, 150 devotees and pilgrims gathered next to Jaya and Vijaya to head off on a guided Govardhana Parikrama tour – which is held every Saturday and Sunday at New Vrindaban.

On the way they passed an elephant prostrated in obeisance, made in 1986 by Soma and Devaprastha, and repainted last year with pure white tusks and golden tilak.


Elephant in New Vrindaban

They stopped at at Kusum Sarovara, a peaceful sacred lake surrounded by ornate domed chattras which devotees also plan to restore.

Next, they paid their respects to the giant 40-foot tall Gaura Nitai originally sculpted by Soma Das and his crew in 1985. In the days leading up to Janmastami, Damodara Das had repainted Lord Chaitanya’s lotus flower base yellow and Nityananda Prabhu’s blue, and had also freshly repainted the bridge leading up to Them and the fencing around Them.

“We have future plans to completely repaint Gaura Nitai, and possibly erect a cover to protect Them from sun, rain and snow,” says Jaya Krsna.


Sri Sri Gaura Nitai above Kusum Sarovara

Singing the Holy Name, the pilgrims then continued up the hill to Lalita Kund, Gopisvara Mahadeva – the protector of the dhama – and Radha Kund and Shyama Kund, where they sprinkled their heads with the sacred water. At each spot, longtime New Vrindaban resident Varsana Swami narrated the Lord’s divine pastimes enacted there.

Finally, the tour reached Sri Sri Radha Gopinath Mandir, the first of the seven temples Srila Prabhupada requested to be built at New Vrindaban. Currently under construction, its unique domed shape truly makes you feel you are in Vrindavan.


Radha Kunda Parikrama

Over the course of the next year, a series of six new dioramas by artist Lakshmana Dasi depicting Lord Krishna’s pastimes will be installed along the parikrama path. Three of these, all ten feet wide and six feet high and containing both painted and 3D elements, were revealed in the temple on Janmastami day.

The first shows Krishna’s close associate Uddhava speaking about the Srimad-Bhagavatam to the Lord’s 16,108 queens at Kusum Sarovara, to console them after the Lord’s departure from this world. In the second, Lord Krishna appears to Madhavendra Puri in a dream the saint had while at Govardhan, directing him where to excavate a long abandoned Deity of Gopalnathji. Finally, the third diorama shows a sweet pastime in which Lord Krishna helps His divine consort Srimati Radharani down from a tree, with the transcendental ulterior motive of taking the dust from Her lotus feet.

ISKCON New Vrindaban Janmastami Varsana Swami

Varsana Swami shares Krishna’s pastimes.

“At 7:45 in the evening on Janmastami, we had all of them set up outside and illuminated, while Varsana Swami gave a wonderful talk on all the different lilas,” says Jaya Krsna.

Meanwhile Lakshmana Dasi is also working on dioramas of the cowherd boy Lauta Baba waiting on the Govardhan Parikrama path for Krishna’s return; Radharani and the gopis singing Haridev’s name to invoke Their Lord; and Lord Indra coronating Krishna as Govinda. Each diorama will include a signboard briefly explaining it, with future plans to also include an audio track that visitors will be able to listen to by pushing a button.

Next year there are plans for restoration work on the boat house that’s home to New Vrindaban’s famous Swan Boat. Every weekend in the summer, the Deities are carried in it across the lake, just as in the boat festival at Vrindavan Dhama’s Krishna Balarama Mandir.

And in 2018 – New Vrindaban’s 50th anniversary – devotees have plans to restore the original New Vrindaban farmhouse to reflect how it was while Prabhupada was present, including its temple and a small museum for Srila Prabhupada with pictures taken from his two visits to the house in 1969 and 1976.

After all, it’s his vision that the residents of New Vrindaban are always trying to serve. “We have started New Vrindaban in America and it must be finished in the American way,” he wrote in a letter in August 1970, the year of New Vrindaban’s first Janmastami festival. “In Vrindavan there are so many temples, they say 5,000, or in Vrindavan every home, every cottage, is a temple. As far as possible try to develop New Vrindaban on this standard.”

ISKCON New Vrindaban Janmastami

The temple was packed for Janmastami.

Gradually, the residents of New Vrindaban are striving towards this lofty goal, slowly excavating the dhama. And pilgrims are showing their appreciation. This year, 3,000 people visited New Vrindaban throughout Janmastami day, with 350 gathering for the midnight arati – twice the usual number.

“One devotee visiting from Mumbai told me ‘On Janmastami evening, the Vrindavan mood was really appearing in New Vrindaban,’” Jaya Krsna recalls. “That was the best feedback for me. It’s clear that the dhama is slowly revealing itself more and more, and I am very happy to see that.”

He concludes: “In 1975 Prabhupada wrote ‘I am always praying to Krishna that the New Vrindaban attempt will be more and more successful and ideal for your country.’ So Prabhupada, the pure devotee, prays to Krishna that New Vrindaban develops, and Krishna reciprocates. We are fortunate servants, trying to support Srila Prabhupada’s sincere desire.”

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