Delhi's new Hare Krsna complex
combines the ancient and the modern
to proclaim Lord Krsna's message.
On April 5, the auspicious day of Sri Rama Navami (the appearance anniversary of Lord Ramacandra), New Delhi saw the opening of a magnificent new temple, inaugurated by the Prime Minister of India, Sri Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Here is a report about the temple and the day's proceedings.
A COOL MORNING breeze swept across my face as I hurriedly climbed a small flight of stairs to reach the temple in time for the mangala-arati, the first worship ceremony of the day, at 4:30 A.M. I crossed the red sandstone arched gateway, quickly asking permission to enter from Jaya and Vijaya gatekeepers of Vaikuntha (the spiritual world), guarding here in their carved forms. Just yesterday their life-size black stone forms had been installed at the temple entrance and outside the doorways of the main temple complex. A huge fire sacrifice had been performed to invoke their presence, along with that of Garuda, the bird-carrier of Lord Visnu. Vedic mantras had been recited amid great pomp, the gurukula boys and devotees singing the Hare Krsna mantra throughout.
I quickly entered the old temple, which seemed dwarfed by the new structure in which the Lord would reside from this day onwards. The old temple, soon to be converted into the Govinda Restaurant, was for now filled with devotees from around the globe, many of whom had come just for the temple opening. As the curtains drew to reveal the beautiful form of Sri Sri Radha-Parthasarathi, soft prayers gave way to an ecstatic kirtana. Their Lordships would now be taking up residence in the gorgeous new temple on Hare Krishna Hill.
Up the flight of nearly one hundred steps, the procession began, led by ISKCON gurus and sannyasis, their faces full of care and affection for the Deities. Sounds of conch shells, cymbals, mrdangas,and an uproarious kirtana filled the morning sky.
As I followed the Deities, the first rays of the sun shone upon the three sikharas (domes) standing majestically above the temple, and on the red sandstone auditorium and guest house. From either side of the temple doorway, the stairways on both sides extended downwards like outstretched arms, wrapping around the groves, pools, fountains, waterfalls, and landscaped gardens. A perfect tranquil setting for spiritual endeavors.
Thirty years ago, Srila Prabhupada had expressed to Gopal Krishna Goswami his desire to build a big project in Delhi. In the capital of India, the temple should be appropriately large. National leaders, the people of Delhi, visitors from India and abroad all could come to learn of Krsna's message and have the audience of the Lord.
While reflecting upon this, I was looking at the carved form of Srila Prabhupada sitting on his new vyasasana (the seat of the guru) while the priests chanted mantras. The first worship of Srila Prabhupada in the new temple was being performed by Gopal Krishna Goswami, who had made Srila Prabhupada's dream come true.
The kirtana became intense as the traditional installation of the Deity began. Two hours slipped by rapidly while devotees relished the kirtana and the sight of the beautiful ceremony.
Soon we all made our way into a pandal (open-sided tent) near the temple. Life members * (A life member is a patron enrolled in ISKCON's Life Membership Program, which encourages those who support ISKCON's activities and provides them certain benefits.) and donors had come to grace the occasion and hear the spiritual discourses and the kirtanas. Said Mahendra K. Jajodia, a prominent life member and donor, "ISKCON's new temple in Delhi is another jewel by which people can enrich their lives. Indebted to ISKCON, I feel I have no better way than to submit my resources for use in the temple. This temple will surely provide peace and solace for the disturbed minds of this jet age."
After a sweeping security check, the Prime Minister, Sri Atal Bihari Vajpayee, arrived to inaugurate the temple. And with him: Tejendra Khanna, the lieutenant governor of New Delhi; Sahib Singh Verma, the New Delhi chief minister; Ms. Sushma Swaraj, union minister for information and broadcasting; T. R. Kakkar, the Delhi police commissioner; and K. Padmanabhiah, the former home secretary.
After visiting the temple and offering respects to the Deities, and after a preview of the museum, with its multi-media and animatronics shows, the guests assembled in the auditorium. In attendance were leading industrialists and donors from India and abroad. Among the foreign dignitaries and diplomats was the youngest minister of parliament from the U.K., Ms. Claire Ward; former U.S. congressman Steven Solarz; and the ambassador of Russia. Adding a dash of glitter were movie stars Hema Malini and Sunil Dutt. The Prime Minister then addressed the gathering, glorifying Srila Prabhupada, ISKCON, and the devotees, in his bilingual speech.
Throughout the day, thousands of people thronged to see Sri Sri Radha Partha-sarathi. All were served sumptuous prasadam in the halls above the gardens.
In the evening: devotional dramas and songs, a procession by gurukula boys riding on three elephants, dances performed by devotees from Manipur, and a display of fireworks above the colored fountains in the gardens.
I walked back toward the guest rooms reflecting on the glorious day, my spirits enlivened by one of the finest moments for ISKCON, with the leaders of the nation glorifying the Bhagavad-gita and recognizing the contribution of Srila Prabhupada, who had spread the message of the Bhagavad-gita throughout the world. Spiritual seekers from throughout the world can now come to find authentic knowledge at the Sri Sri Radha Parthasarathi Temple and ISKCON Hinduja Glory of India Vedic Cultural Center.