Krsna Balarama Deities arrive in the new temple in ISKCON
I wish to construct a grand temple of Krsna Balarama … The residents of New Delhi will be very much encouraged to visit … That is my ambition. Srila Prabhupada (In a letter to Tejyas Dasa, the then temple president, New Delhi, in 1975.)
After a gap of 32 years, Srila Prabhupada's desire was fructified bringing joy to the hearts of the devot ees. The magnificent, e nchanting, cowherd boys Sri Sri Krsna Balarama arrived at Punjabi Bagh, New Delhi on 20 September 2007.
ISKCON Punjabi Bagh's growth from a tiny preaching centre to a huge temple is a living example of the enthusiasm and vigour of the devotees. Under the guidance and blessings of His Holiness Gopal Krsna Goswami Maharaja, the entire congregation and temple devotees, worked hard in the fruition of this holy seed planted by Srila Prabhupada.
In the early eighties, with the help of a non-resident Indian couple, a small preaching centre was established in Punjabi Bagh. It gradually attracted many residents, resulting in a large following of people from all walks of life. This centre had a preaching/prasadam hall, in a garage, with the altar of un-installed Deities of Sri Sri Radhika Ramana and Sri Sri Jagannatha, Baladeva, and Subhadra. The visiting senior disciples would often comment that it was high time the Deities moved out of the garage and into the main house! However the hearts of the devotees had bigger aspirations they wished for Their Lordships to be moved to a magnificent palace!
THE TURNING POINT
With the ever-increasing number of devotees flocking to the temple, it gradually became obvious that the space was inadequate. However, a major setback came in the form of a legal notice by the owner to vacate the place. Gloom overshadowed the devotees. Punjabi Bagh is one of the posh colonies of New Delhi and quite expensive-to own even a piece of land equivalent to that preaching centre was a seemingly unattainable dream for the devotees. A legal battle ensued. Despite their sin cere efforts, the devotees lost and had no choice but to vacate and find a reasonably priced, yet befitting home for Their Lordships.
The Supreme Lord Krsna answered our sincere prayers dispel· ling all fears. One of the congregation devotees found a nice, spacious constructed building on a prime road of Punjabi Bagh at a price which seemed steep yet possible to meet. The GBC approved the building and site and the devotees set forth to acquire this huge place. All the devotees participated in their respective capacities to procure donations for Their Lordships' new residence. Under the inspiration of His Holiness Gopal Krsna Goswami Maharaja the teamwork was a great success.
The new building was registered in the name of ISKCON in March 2005 and duly renamed as 'Sri Sri Radhika Rama"a Krsna Balarama Mandir and Vedic Educational Centre.' With great jubilation , the Deities were brought to Their new home. It was then that His Holiness Gopal Krsna Goswami Maharaja reminded the devotees of the wishes of Srila Prabhupada to invite th e eternal 'Cowherd Boys' Sri S ri Krsna Balarama to New Delhi. The devotees were overjoyed and instantly began preparations to fulfil this mission. It was a unanimous decision to renovate the existing large hall on the ground floor of the newly acquired temple leaving the oth er rooms and h all untouched with further expansion in mind. The upper hall and rooms we re to be use d by the IYF (ISKCON Youth Forum) for conducting various seminars, audio visual preaching programmes and as residential quarters.
The still uninstalled Deities of Sri Sri Radhika Ramana were shifted to a small room for the daily darsana. Black Krsna with sparkling white Balarama were [0 be carved in Jaipur from the same family of sculptors where the ISKCON Vrndavana Deities originated. His Holiness Gopal Krsna Goswami Maharaja personally went several times and sent many trustworthy disciples [0 Jaipur to see the carving of Krsna and Balarama. The Deities, Their magnificent palace, and Their grand golden throne took only 15 months to complete.
KRSNA BALARAMA'S PALACE
The renovation work first commenced on the big hall availing the skills of an expert architect and a qualified interior designer. Labour from the neighbouring state of Rajasthan was employed and beautiful jharokas (traditional windows), and phool patti (flowers and leaves) were in tricat ely engraved on the walls, roof, and pillars. Everything was painted exquisitely in vibrant colours-the matt finish gave the hall a bright yet subtle look. This was all done by expert artists from various Indian states. The jharokas adorning the walls were complimented with exquisite original paintings of Lord Venkatesvara, S ri Nrsimhadeva, and Damodara lila especially commissioned for the occasion and painted by a Russian devotee artist. The walls magically came alive! The grand crystal chandeliers fill t he temple hall with ample yellow ligh t adding to their Lordship's radiance . A royal sirhhasana for the two sets of main Deities was ord e red from Ahmedabad the city renowned for hand-made wooden artefacts. With modern tiled flooring, twelve chandeliers, state of the art sound system, the 2200 square feet fully air-conditioned temple hall is the perfect place to absorb oneself in Hari-katha and Hari-kirtana.
A majestic entrance was designed resembling a gate to a fort with dioramas of Krsna's pastimes adorning its two sides. A massive courtyard awaits the entrants with a royal Garuda with folded hands facing the Deities. In the corner of the courtyard, a lotus fountain has been constructed with beautiful mosaic work depicting colourful fishes to give pleasure to Their Lordships. Rama Dasa from Kenya dedicated seven months to supervise the renovation work at the new temple.
THE GRAND AUSPICIOUS DAY
The auspicious occas ion of Radhastami was chosen to be the day for the grand installation of the Deities. It is a ceremony in which the Lord is invited to accept the Deity form for the devotees to render service unto Him. Some parts of the ceremony are performed behind the closed doors. Prior to the main ceremony, a four-day festival enthralled all. Huge billboards with life-size pictures of Sri Sri Krsna Balarama advertising Their divine arrival were publicized all over Delhi. With deep faith and conviction' devotees participated in the various traditional yajiias and pujas. The temple was adorned with expensive imported colourful flowers-the different vibrant colours complimented the surroundings and were greatly pleasing to the eye. Every step of the planning from the flower decorations, stage settings, prasadam seating, to the pandal arrangement was remarkably done. The dawn of 16 September marked the beginning of the festival. At 9 am the svasti-vacana started, followed by Vasudeva Punyaha, and Kalasa Sthapana (installing of auspicious vessels), Vastu Homa (fire sacrifice to purify the place). Vaisnava Homa (fire sacrifice of great devotees) was performed in the evening from 6-8 pm. These auspicious rites were conducted by pujarrs from the Mumbai temple. Hundreds of devotees participated in the yajna.
One of the most fascinating ceremonies was sayanadhivdsam, or placing the Deities in an auspicious bed. The enchanting Deities wrapped in simple white silk with Their eyes covered were made to sleep in tubs of paddy The next day They were fully concealed in rose and lotus petals alluring all with Their hidden sight and fragrance. The Deities were then immersed in water captivating all with Their radiance. On the third day, 18 September, the Silpi Dosa Snanam (bathing to purify the Deities of carving defects) was performed at 9 am leading to the Netronmilanam ceremony (opening of the eyes, ) then Vandapana (offering of auspicious items.) The devotees offered liberally-gifting gold ornaments, precious stones, and silver accessories. In the evening Nayasadi Homa (fire sacrifice to the limbs of the Lord) took place in the main temple hall inviting 'prana' into the Deities. All of these main ceremonies were performed according the Paiicaratriki vidhi.
Many gathered after the homa to have a glimpse of Their Lordships on the jhulan (swing) before They were put to sayana (rest.) The jhula was excellently decorated with flowers. The temple hall and altar were illuminated with only ghee and oil lamps thereby creating a breathtaking ambience.
Finally, the much awaited day arrived. The Prana Pratistha ceremony began at 8.25 am amidst tumultuous kirtana-melodious karatals accompanied by mrdangas putting all in a trance. The Mahaabhi eka of the gorgeous Deities was performed by senior Vaisnavas including His Holiness Gopal Krsna Goswami Maharaja, ISKCON New Delhi GBC; His Holiness Bhanu Swami, GBC Chairman; His Holiness Radharamal)a Swami, Mahamana Dasa, Bhima Dasa, Makhanlal Dasa, Basu Ghosa Dasa, Bhaktivinode Dasa, Umapati Dasa, President of ISKCON Nairobi, Kenya, Srestha Dasa, Co-President of ISKCON Vrndavana, and oth ers. The Deities were bathed with milk, yogurt, and numerous fruit juices. The devotees shouted ecstatically as the different colourful juices were poured. Large quantities of flower petals were showered on Them leaving all hypnotized. The ceremony was witnessed by thousands in the temple hall and on the LCD screens installed all over the covered pandal. Some television channels broadcasted the event worldwide.
A cultural program was held on the pandal stage in presence of New Delhi State Government Ministers including Health Minister Sri Yoganand Shastri and Industrial Minister Sri Mangatram Singhal who came on behalf of the New Delhi Chief Minister Shrimati Sheila Dixit. Mr. Manjinder Singh Sirsa, the Punjabi Bagh area Councillor, and Chairman of Community Services, Municipal Corporation of Delhi was also present. Mr Sirsa is very helpful in solvi ng the problems of the devotees. A classical dance and play were performed by the devotees. The VIPs present were impressed and spoke highly of ISKCON and expressed their gratitude to Srila Prabhupada in spreading the Indian cu lture worldwide.
The mahabhoga was later offered with hundreds of food items cooked lovingly for the newly arrived Krsna Balarama and the dearmost Radhika Ramal)a. Favourite dishes of Srimati Radharani, Sri Krsna, and Sri Balarama were prepared by the devotees. Lord Balarama was not spared His beloved varuni honey was dripping from the bhoga offering!
Then came the most precious moment which we were all dreaming of for ages-the first darsana of Sri Sri Krsna Balarama accompanied by Sri Sri Radhika Ramana. The beautiful, enchanting, captivating, all-attractive Deities of Sri Sri Krsna Balarama and Sri Sri Radhika Ramana dressed exquisitely in grand embroidered garments, glittering jewels and aristocratic ornamented head-pieces left the spectators spellbound. Their glimpse enhanced the devotion of the masses. The devotees danced in ecstasy celebrating the arrival of Sri Krsna Balarama.
MAIN GOAL-PROPAGATE VEDIC KNOWLEDGE
One of the main goals of the ISKCON Punjabi Bagh temple is to enlighten the people with the propagation of Vedic Education. The temple has proved extremely successful with this aim within two years of shifting to the new premises. The congregation has grown almost ten fold! Preaching programs are being conducted in various parts of Delhi providing guidance to thousands of people towards a spiritual way of life. Around 20 cell (Bhakti Vrksa) programs are in progress for the new devotees. The temple organises a bimonthly program for the inmates of Delhi Prison. ISKCON Punjabi Bagh ranked 3rd in World Book Distribution 2006; with a score of whooping 2.25 lakh books.
COWHERD BOYS IN HASTINAPUR
Hastinapur, which is the ancient name for Delhi, is hundred kilometres away from Vrndavana. It is a pious land where the Pandavas resided. His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada's intense desire was fulfilled bringing delight to Delhites. The arrival of the transcendental Cowherd Boys brought the bliss of Vrndavana to the morose lives of the people of Delhi.
Radhika Krpa Devi Dasi is a disciple of His Holiness Gopal Knna Goswami Maharaja. She travels extensively and recently completed a successful preaching tour in Australia and Pakistan. She is the author of Pearls of Devotion, a book of spiritual poems and Vai1nava Teachings in Sikhism, which is currently receiving accolades both nationally and abroad. She is settled in Punjabi Bagh with her husband Rasa Priya Dasa and son.
Photos by Kunal Matti