In the land of Lord Caitanya, an architectural wonder in honor
of the founder/acarya of ISKCON towers above the plains of West Bengal.
IN VANDAVANA, in July of 1977, Srila Prabhupada said he wanted to go to Mayapur, where perhaps he could regain his health. He had asked before that a small house be built there so he could have a peaceful, quiet place to write his books. He had said that his Mayapur house "should be by the side of our decorative pond, positioned so that I may enjoy the summer breeze."
When the devotees directing the Mayapur project visited Srila Prabhupada as he lay ill, they showed him sketches for his house.
"It has not yet begun?" he asked.
"The plans are being drawn up," they replied. "The architects say there will be no problem building it, and we can keep working right through the monsoon season."
Srila Prabhupada said that for now it would be his residence and after he passed away it could be his samadhi (memorial tomb). He was preparing his disciples for his departure from this world, which took place on November 14, 1977.
Srila Prabhupada's body was buried in Vrndavana, and flowers from the garlands that had last adorned it were brought to Mayapur. With great ceremony the flowers were placed in the earth at the site Srila Prabhupada had selected for his house. There devotees laid a cornerstone for a memorial shrine.
Construction of Prabhupada's puspa samadhi ("tomb of flowers") began in 1980. The building stands 200 feet high, its dome spanning 120 feet. The architecture melds features of traditional Bengali brick temples, simple thatched-roof cottages, and grand European churches. All the work has been done by local Muslim and Hindu villagers, closely guided by ISKCON devotees to assure the best workmanship.
Concrete and brick are available locally, but gathering materials for the decorative finishings took devotees to many parts of India. From Makrana, Rajasthan, they brought carved marble, hand-selected from the mines, from Hindaun, Rajasthan, they brought sandstone, from Bombay Italian marble, and from Benares silver and brass work.
The structure is done, and the decorative work is well underway. The marble and sandstone in the main hall is almost all in place. The main hall, designed by Matsya Avatara Dasa, from Italy, uses striped Albata marble with green Baroda borders on the walls, pink marble with green bases on the columns. Inlaid into the floor will be a large lotus in Italian marble of red, yellow, and green. Niches in the walls will house bronze panels and sculptures.
The exterior of the dome, clad in polished white marble, is completed. Its kalasa (metal spire) will be ornamented with gold mosaic tiles made on site. Fitting the tiles has begun, and al-ready the golden spire can be seen from Navadvipa, across the Ganges River.
Inside, the dome will be covered with eight large mosaics depicting Prabhupada in some of his major achievements translating and publishing books, preaching, building temples, installing Deities, setting up schools, holding Rathayatra festivals, starting programs for cow protection, and initiating disciples from all over the world. Above these scenes and overlooking the main floor, a museum of dioramas will show scenes from Srila Prabhupada's life.
The heart of the samadhi is the chamber, where a bronze form of Srila Prabhupada on an azure marble seat will preside. The chamber will be clad with carved white Indian marble, inlaid with gold mosaic tiles and marble of Italian red, Italian yellow, and Baroda green.
Outside, the pink sandstone walls of the veranda will be set off by red sandstone balustrades, columns, and arches. On the ground floor, terra cotta relief panels and sculptured figures, all finished in colored glazes, will depict the nine methods of devotional service. A frieze of terra cotta figures dancing, playing instruments, and singing Hare Krsna will encircle the building.
Landscaping is underway. The road that goes around the building will be bound by a hedge with thirteen arched entrances, decorated lampposts, and pots with plants. Srila Prabhupada's "decorative pond" has been surrounded by a rock garden.
Visitors to the samadhi will experience Srila Prabhupada's presence by seeing his deity form, by seeing the depictions of his instructions and pastimes, and by meeting his dedicated disciples and granddisciples. Srila Prabhupada's samadhi will be the focus for prayers glorifying him as more and more people realize his greatness and the value of his transcendental instructions. As Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura has written, the pure devotee lives forever by his divine instructions.
Now that the task of building the samadhi is nearing completion, we pray for the continued mercy of the devotees worldwide who have given funds to the project and who spread the glories of Sridham Mayapur, as presented by Srila Prabhupada.
Sadbhuja Dasa joined ISKCON in Melbourne, Australia, in 1980. He lives in Mayapur and is a project co-ordinator for Srila Prabhupada's puspa samadhi.