Back To Godhead - A Vrndavana Tour

How Lord Krsna's holy land was transported halfway around the world to the lake know as Inis Rath.

Govindadvipa, ISKCON's 22-acre island in Northern Ireland, has been home for the deities Sri Sri Radha-Govinda since 1986. I first laid eyes on Radha-Govinda in 1985, before They were formally installed in the temple, and from that moment on, They made arrangements to draw me into their service. I moved into the temple community on January 7, 1986. Radha-Govinda were installed soon after, and I was allowed to take care of them.

My spiritual master, Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami, instructed me to make sure to read Srila Prabhupada's books even if my heavy schedule of service to Radha-Govinda made it difficult. He said that the reading would help me understand that Radha-Govinda are not just statues standing on the altar; They are Radha and Krsna, and They have Their pastimes.

Srila Prabhupada's book Krsna contains many of Radha-Krsna's pastimes, and that book has always attracted me. I find that when I read it the pastimes enter my mind. And going to Their holy land in India has allowed the pastimes to enter my heart.

Besides my regular service to Radha-Govinda, I've been fortunate to go twelve times to Vrndavana for ISKCON's annual Vraja Mandala Parikrama, a one-month tour of the holy places of Krsna's pastimes. I've seen proof that Radha-Govinda don't just stand on the altar; I've seen Govinda's footprints on top of Charan Pahari in Kamyavana, one of the twelve forests of Vrndavana (Vraja), and I've seen the imprint of Radhas crown at Surya Kund.

My Dream for Govindadvipa

Much of the beautiful island of Go-vindadvipa (also known as Inis Rath) is covered by forest, and being surrounded by water, it resembles Vrndavana, where the Yamuna River flows. Early in 2003, our temple president, Manu Dasa, asked the devotees here to write down what they feel is the purpose of Govindadvipa.

Back To Godhead - Radha Krishna

"And you can dream," he added.

So I wrote him my dream for Govindadvipa, which was to turn the island into a replica of the twelve forests of Vrndavana, with signposts, figures depicting the pastimes, and ghats on the lake.

When Manu read it, he was very encouraging: "Go for it. Just do it."

I drew a map of the island with the pastime places on it and put it on the temple notice board, petitioning devotees to contribute toward it. A little money came, and I bought a vanload of wood. My artist friend Syama Priya Dasi painted on the wood many four-foot-tall figures performing pastimes. They were then cut out and heavily varnished. Another artist, Caitanyacandra Daya Dasa, came forward and volunteered to paint more figures. He also designed the wooden roof structures and taught Giriraja Dasa how to make them. So we did a few. Then more money came, and we did some more. In the end we had sixty signposts and twenty-five sets of figures under roofs around the island. Devotees worked very hard. Lila Vrndavana Dasi would put her baby to bed, then go into the art room and paint names on signs all night.

Walking around the island and finding the pastime places became a wonderful meditation. It started to be that nothing on Govindadvipa was ordinary anymore. When I found an old stone structure that resembled the grinding mortar from Krsna's pastimes at Gokula, I put it in our Gokula beside the figures of Krsna and Yasoda, His mother. It had been outside the temple for years, but now it was definitely "the grinding mortar."

Govindadvipa Parikrama

Back To Godhead - Govindadvipa Parikrama

In August, we had our second "Radha-Govinda's Vrndavana Pastimes Seminar" for three days, starting on Lord Balarama's appearance day. Dina Bandhu Dasa, one of the tour guides for the Vraja Mandala Parikrama, came all the way from Vrndavana to give the seminar. Over the three days, Radha-Govinda were dressed in five different pastime outfits. Dina Bandhu spoke about the pastimes, and devotees performed a drama /dance depicting each one.

On the first day, Dina Bandhu cut the ribbon to officially open Govindadvipa's parikrama path. In the first forest, Madhuvana, he spoke about the pastimes that had taken place there. He said that Krsna appeared in Madhuvana in each of the four Vedic ages: Satya, Treta, Dvapara, and Kali. We saw the figure of Dhruva Maharaja receiving the audience of Lord Narayana, which happened in Satya-yuga. Further into the forest was the cave of Lavanasura, who in Treta-yuga was killed there by Satrughna, Lord Rama's brother. Then we saw Krsna and Balarama coming to water their cows at Krishna Kund, which happened in Dvapara-yuga, and the figure of Lord Caitanya, who performed Vraja parikrama in Kali-yuga.

In the second forest, Talavana, we saw the figure of Lord Balarama and a big stuffed donkey demon Dhenukasura. Dina Bandhu invited the children to beat up Dhenukasura. Then at the appropriate time in the story the donkey flew through the air, flung by Balarama, and landed in a tall tree. (Special effects by Radhanatha Dasa.)

And so we went, completing one third of the parikrama each day, fully enlivened by Dina Bandhu's dynamic delivery of the nectar pastimes.

Vandavana Everywhere

Srila Prabhupada said that all our temples are Vrndavana, because wherever Radha and Krsna are, that is Vrndavana. Everything contained in the twelve forests of Vraja is available to us at our Radha-Krsna temples. The scriptures reinforce this point by explaining that Radha decided to accompany Krsna to earth only after He had agreed to bring Vrndavana with Them from the spiritual world. Since Radha has appeared in our temples, we can be sure that Vrndavana is there too.

Krsna fulfilled my dream for Govindadvipa. But I'm not done dreaming yet. I want to increase and improve the figures over the next few years. I want to see stone figures under concrete roof structures, and I want to see stone ghats. But already, a walk around Govindadvipa will never be the same again.

Maha-mantra Devi Dasi has been serving Radha-Govinda at Govindadvipa and making outfits for them since she joined ISKCON in 1986. Readers interested in helping develop Govindadvipa Parikrama with donations or sculpturing talents can e-mail govindadwipa@