On August 24,1988, the anniversary of the passing of Srila Rupa Gosvami, Sri Vishvambhara Dayal, affectionately known as "Bhagatji" by hundreds of ISKCON devotees, passed away.
A resident of Vrndavana, India, the holy land of Lord Krsna's birth and childhood activities, Bhagatji was a lifelong devotee of Lord Krsna and Balarama and a dear friend of Srila Prabhupada's. He assisted Srila Prabhupada greatly in establishing and developing ISKCON in Vrndavana.
As a boy in the town of Meerut during the time of British rule in India, Bhagatji attended a school with an Irish headmaster. Almost forty years later, Srila Prabhupada brought his European and American disciples to Vrndavana, all chanting Hare Krsna. Bhagatji was amazed. The British had brought their Western influence to India, but now Srila Prabhupada was bringing Britishers, Europeans, and Americans who appreciated the philosophy, religion, and culture of India as perfectly presented by Srila Prabhupada. Bhagatji was deeply moved by this great feat of Srila Prabhupada's.
Bhagatji almost single-handedly established and developed the Bhaktivedanta Swami Gosala (a place where cows are kept and cared for) in Vrndavana, working diligently to hire and Supervise all the laborers for the construction work. He wanted very much to establish, on Srila Prabhupada's behalf, a first-class gosala in Vrndavana.
When it was time to purchase the first cows for the newly completed gosala, Bhagatji insisted that he accompany Dhananjaya dasa and Gunarnava dasa to the Govardhana Cow Market so that the ISKCON devotees would get the best deal. On a motorcycle Gunarnava driving, Dhananjaya in the middle, and Bhagatji at the rear they headed off to Govardhana. When they arrived, Bhagatji promptly yet carefully selected two cows for the Bhaktivedanta Swami Gosala.
Bhagatji served Srila Prabhupada and ISKCON continually. He was expert at getting things done quickly and efficiently in otherwise slow and laborious situations. When the devotees sometimes apologized for asking him to do so much, he would say that the service he was doing for ISKCON was a manifestation of his love for Srila Prabhupada and that it gave him vitality. Over the years, Srila Prabhupada often told ISKCON's leaders in Vrndavana to seek Bhagatji's advice in their local dealings.
Srila Prabhupada greatly appreciated Bhagatji's cooking, especially his capatis and would often call Bhagatji over to visit him in his room, where he would then jokingly ask Bhagatji when he was going to invite him over for prasadam. Bhagatji loved to offer prasadam to Srila Prabhupada in a spirit of loving exchange between devotees.
When Srila Prabhupada wanted to purchase the land to build a gurukula (school) next to ISKCON's temple complex in Vrndavana, he instructed Dhananjaya dasa to speak with Bhagatji about this. Dhananjaya did, and Bhagatji negotiated the purchase of the land at a very good price and then donated the money to pay for it. He said he enjoyed every minute of the struggle to get that land for building the Bhaktivedanta Swami Gurukula.
Bhagatji loved Srila Prabhupada and assisted him enthusiastically. He also loved Srila Prabhupada's disciples and relished sitting and talking about Srila Prabhupada for hours with any ISKCON devotee. He often expressed his realization of Srila Prabhupada's extraordinary spiritual position.
Those of us who knew and loved Bhagatji feel sorrow in separation from him. Yet we are sure that Lord Krsna has called him back to His eternal abode to serve in Goloka Vrindavana with the same enthusiasm he exhibited in Vrndavana here on earth.