The inaugural address of His Holiness Gopal Krishna Goswami,
ISKCON Governing Body Commissioner.
RESPECTED Prime Minister, respected Lieutenant Governor, Ms. Claire Ward, and all devotees present:
We are very happy that our Prime Minister has come on this auspicious occasion. On behalf of all the devotees of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, I express my gratitude to the Prime Minister. All of you, please accept the good wishes of Lord Sri Ramacandra.
This center is named "The Glory of India Vedic Cultural Center." The glory of India can spread light throughout the world. As a pure devotee of the Supreme Lord, Srila Prabhupada desired that the glory of India reach every corner of the world. Wherever Srila Prabhupada would go, he would preach to the Indians and foreigners, "You may take advantage of the benefits of technology, but do not forget your real culture."
Srila Prabhupada's spiritual master had ordered him to take the culture of India to the world. For nearly twenty-five years, Srila Prabhupada tried a lot in India, but could not get much success. So he went to America, with forty rupees, in those days about seven or eight dollars. At the age of seventy, without a single contact, he reached America, and there he had to struggle a lot. But because he had faith in the words of his spiritual master, faith in the teachings of the Lord, he went on preaching. And now you can see an ISKCON center in virtually every corner of the world.
What are the activities of these centers? They are centers that enhance the glory of India. Today people in various parts of the world are learning the Sanskrit language. They are speaking Hindi and Bengali. They are dressing in dhoti, kurta, and sari. You can see that a member of parliament from Britain, Ms. Claire Ward, sitting on the dais, is dressed in a sari. In every corner of the world people are coming in contact with Indian culture because of the preaching of Srila Prabhupada. He has translated nearly one hundred books into English, and these in turn have been translated into all the popular languages of the world. Thousands of universities are using these books as reference. Whether you go to Cambridge, Oxford, or Harvard, you will find these books making a deep impact.
Srila Prabhupada spent a lot of time in the city of Delhi. He often mentioned that Delhi, earlier known as Indraprastha, used to be the capital of the world. It was Prabhupada's desire that in this most ancient city of Delhi a center should be made where people can learn about Vedic culture and its glory. And Prabhupada had desired that the culture of India be presented through the medium of technology.
I am very much obliged to all the devotees, because it is due to their cooperation that this work was possible. Without your support it would not have been possible to fulfill Prabhupada's desire. I am grateful to all of you.
I am happy that in our country there is a leader who respects the culture of our country and who understands the importance of our culture. I pray to the Supreme Lord for His good wishes and pray that Atal Bihari Vajpayeeji can guide this country so as to increase its glory. The impact of our culture should increase, and the people of the entire world should look towards us, towards this culture, to find solutions to their problems.
Eternal Philosophy in a Modern Package
An interview with His Holiness Gopal Krishna Goswami, governing body commissioner for the International Society for Krishna Consciousness in Delhi. He provided leadership, guidance, and inspiration to people from all walks of life to take part in the marathon effort of building the new temple and cultural center.
BTG: When you first asked the Delhi civic authorities for land, what did you plan to do with it?
Gopal Krishna Goswami: From the beginning, we had a broad vision of the ISKCON Delhi project. We wanted to create a place that would inspire people to dedicate their lives to the teachings of Lord Sri Krsna. But we knew that if we just constructed another temple in Delhi, it would not be significant. Hence we developed the concept of having a cultural center. Over the years many devotees came forth to contribute, and Jnanagamya Dasa put together all the ideas for developing the themes for the cultural center, using multimedia and animatronics. We have a great heritage, and an important spiritual message to give, so we decided to present this eternal philosophy in a very modern package.
BTG: Who was your source of inspiration?
GKG: Back in 1969 when I was working in Montreal, Srila Prabhupada wrote me a letter in which he said, "In the capital city of Delhi, so many big buildings have been constructed since Independence, but not one major temple. So when you return to India, you should construct temples throughout the country."
BTG: How much did this temple cost?
GKG: So far we've spent over 20 crore rupees [$5 million] on this project. When we first started, in 1982, we had a 1.25-crore [$312,000] budget. In 1992 the project was expected to cost 6 to 8 crores [$1.5 million to $2 million]. And at that time we were in anxiety: How would this be raised? But Prabhupada had always told us, "Depend on Krsna and make an effort." So with that in mind we started to execute this project. At one time we didn't have enough money to pay for the land. It was with great difficulty that we managed to pay for the land. The cost continued to increase because the vision for the project expanded. Somehow or other Krsna provided sufficient funds so that construction never stopped.
The Hinduja family was very helpful and gave us encouragement and financial support. Ashok Hinduja, a gifted architect, helped actively and was involved in the planning and construction effort. Most of the funds came from friends and devotees from Delhi and abroad. Our temple devotees preached nicely, and donors and life members came forward to help.
BTG: What are some of the features of the museum?
GKG: The animatronics show features computerized, full-movement, lifelike robots of Krsna, Arjuna, and Srila Prabhupada speaking Bhagavad-gita. This is the only show of its kind in India. Thousands of people will enjoy this show and increase their appreciation for Bhagavad-gita.
We also have a 380-seat theater in which we're going to present the Krsna conscious philosophy with videos and multimedia shows.
The museum will also present the philosophy of the Vedic scriptures through the medium of dioramas. The sculptures and paintings in the museum will bring to life the ancient teachings of theMahabharata and Ramayana.
We have twelve back-lit color panels telling about the Hare Krsna movement. At the inaugural program, the chief minister, after seeing those panels, mentioned a statement from Srila Prabhupada included there: "Purity is the force." This shows the impact of these exhibits.
BTG: Besides teaching Vedic culture and philosophy, will the project do anything more?
GKG: The ISKCON Glory of India temple will help Indians and Western visitors appreciate the ancient culture of India and understand the important teachings of the Vedas. We hope the high-tech exhibits and shows will impress and inspire people to follow spiritual principles and thereby experience peace, harmony, and perfection in their lives. People will appreciate ISKCON's contribution to improve the world. They will especially develop a deep sense of gratitude for the selfless and magnanimous work done by ISKCON's founder-acarya, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, who will be honored as one of the greatest spiritual leaders to grace the earth in the last century.
Art, Architecture, and Ambiance
JUST ABOVE THE doorway of the main temple rests a beautiful high-relief sculpture of Lord Visnu's face. About twenty such huge sculptures, cast in fiberglass by an American devotee, Bhaktisiddhanta Dasa, grace the temple complex.
"It took me about two years to do these castings, using local material and innovative methods," Bhaktisiddhanta says. "Normally this work would have taken about five to six years, but Krsna really blessed me."
Employing more than twenty skilled people throughout, his studio created a stunning array of sculptures depicting stories from the Mahabharata. Some of the stories, like that of Ghatotkaca, are not so commonly known.
On the octagonal temple ceiling, huge triangular paintings, again from Bhaktisiddhanta's studio, depict prominent episodes from the life of Sri Krsna and Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.
"These eight paintings are the work of devotee artists from Russia," says Jnanagamya Dasa, a professional designer who has been with ISKCON since 1972.
Just three years ago Jnanagamya took the position of director for the Glory of India Experience, the museum side of the project. Next he intends to use his skills for a still more ambitious ISKCON project, at Mayapur, West Bengal.
Veda Tech: Robots Preach Reality
"My eyes are blinded by this fearful form. O Krsna, please show me Your original and most pleasing form as Govinda." The display of the fearful universal form stops, Arjuna bows down, and Krsna raises His hands to bless the relieved Arjuna. These are not drama artists, but robots performing in a specially housed animatronics theater.
At the press of a remote button, the robots start moving their arms, their necks, and even their eyes and lips. Sophisticated robots have been programmed to impart the most valuable teachings of theBhagavad-gita.
The technical director for this animatronics experience is a Croatian brahmacari, Dina Natha Dasa. His is the human hand behind the subtle mechanical movements of the robots.
"Every day we have priests reciting verses from the holy books," Dina Natha says. "Now, this is a new way to reach out to modern minds."
The Heavenly Environment
Rolling hills, misty fog, the sound of water cascading down a mountain face, temple bells clanging at a distance, birds chirping back to their homes upon the fall of dusk. Such is the atmosphere created in the temple precincts. Terraces and sunken courtyards arrayed between the buildings create dynamic spatial relationships, with a focal point in a spectacular waterfall brilliantly lit up at night, flowing over prismatic red granite blocks. As the shimmering water cascades into pools, it disappears into a rising fog, creating an ethereal effect. The fog, sprayed up from the pools by microfine sapphire nozzles, spreads gently throughout the gardens, cooling the air.
This is the artistry of Ravindra Bhan, architect and landscape designer. By working with, not against, a challenging rocky and hilly site, he has brought forth a landscape that is a source of delight and wonder.
On the ISKCON Team
Lokanath Swami has been one of the spiritual leaders for the Krsna consciousness movement in Delhi for about 20 years; originally from Maharashtra, he joined ISKCON in 1971. Lokanath Maharaja particularly played a large part in helping find and acquire the land for the project. He says, "Having spent the prime of my youth in Delhi, I have certainly developed some attachment for preaching in this city. I also have great attachment to the people of Delhi. But most of all I have the greatest attachment for the Deities, Their Divine Lordhips Sri Sri Radha Parthasarathi."
A devotee with a civil engineering degree, Trikalajna Dasa moved back home to Delhi from London in 1991 to serve as the president of the temple while it was under construction, up until November 1997.
Trikalajna Dasa says, "The inspiration behind this project was simply to please Srila Prabhupada. This project is no doubt unique. Being instrumental in helping to build it was a transcendental experience that doesn't come easily."
Temple president since November 1997, Kratu Dasa is a disciple of Srila Prabhupada and a mature administrator and preacher. He says, "Our biggest challenge lies ahead, to use the facilities for making people Krsna conscious." Another of his interests is to invite students from schools and colleges.
A former lawyer and member of ISKCON since the early eighties, Maha-mantra Dasa became ISKCON Delhi's vice president and communications director in 1993. He contributed considerably by raising funds and gaining governmental support. His request to the Prime Minister: "Rename the area surrounding the temple as Sant Prabhupada Nagar instead of Sant Nagar."
Life Membership Team
A team of qualified and dedicated devotees worked hard to enlist support from many ISKCON life members and donors to help in the project. Radha Damodar Dasa, an Ayur-vedic doctor, with ISKCON since 1982, is the ISKCON Delhi's vice president and life membership director. Ram Nam Dasa, a mechanical engineer, also doubles as the computer expert. Samba Dasa is an excellent cook and preacher. Krsna Priya Dasa is a medical doctor and ardent supporter of the project. Vrajendra-nandana Dasa is an erstwhile media person and president of the Punjabi Bagh temple in New Delhi. Braja Bhakti Vilasa Dasa, a professional designer, says, "I wish to maintain the Deity altar and design clothes for Them." Rocana Dasa is a former student of psychology and a leading preacher. Balabhadra Dasa is the director of Delhi's Hare Krishna Food for Life program. Varaha Dasa is a classical Bengali bhajana singer. Mohana Rupa Dasa is the director of the Youth Forum. Yadukulesvara Dasa is a preacher. These are just a few among the many other members of the ISKCON team.
A Word of Thanks
The International Society for Krishna Consciousness would like to sincerely thank Sri Srichand Hinduja and Sri Ashok Hinduja, who through the Hinduja Foundation generously supported the New Delhi temple project. The Foundation gave a large financial contribution, and Sri Ashok Hinduja played a significant role in planning the architecture of the project. We pray that Sri Sri Radha-Parthasarathi will shower blessings upon them and their families.
Designed with Devotion
A TEAM OF TOP Indian professionals worked together to give the Glory of India Vedic Cultural Center its architecture and design. Mr. A. P. Kanvinde served as the chief architect. One of India's foremost architects and recipient of the prestigious Padma Sri award, Mr. Kanvinde had never before designed a temple. But impressed by the devotional spirit of project director Mr. C. J. Dave (Caturmasya Dasa), and after having met Gopal Krishna Goswami, he took up the project, offering his services without charge. Caturmasya Dasa was ably assisted by Mr. G. L. Nagar, a retired aircraft maintenance engineer, and Mr. A. S. Rana. Mr. Ravindra Bhan, a professor of architecture at an American university, designed the landscape. Mr. Sumit Ghosh, a professional architect, designed the interiors. Mr. S. V. Damle was the structural engineer. Mr. Kanvinde took advantage of the hilly site in the design. "The whole setting which climbs up on top of the rocks is unique," he says. "It contributes to the spiritual experience." He adds, "In the old city survey maps, this hill is known as Govardhana Hill." Surely the most striking aspect of the design is the sikharas (domes). "The hollowsikhara is an important symbolic element of openness," Mr. Kanvinde explains. "Historically there was stone over stone, completely solid. So I opened it as a source of space. We have also created lighting effects from inside the sikhara at night. It will be seen from many miles." In summary, he says, "I feel that the Glory of India Project is a fusion of the past and the present: India's ancient culture of the past, presented for the people of the present."