In a little-known town of Bengal on the banks of the river Ganga, an extraordinary temple is coming up.
From here, the flood of Lord Caitanya’s mercy will inundate the entire world.
From here, the flood of Lord Caitanya’s mercy will inundate the entire world.
The world’s great spiritual traditions are all but lost. All that remains of them are a few sincere followers and a few grand monuments. Millions visit these monuments, not usually to enhance their spirituality but because of the monuments’ architectural and historical significance. The Temple of the Vedic Planetarium (ToVP) aims at nothing less than making wholesome, authentic spiritual life again appealing to people. Combining modern technology, ancient science, timeless wisdom, and lively culture, the very creation of the ToVP will fulfill fascinating prophecies. Will it indeed flood the world with sublime love of God?
The Mayapur Connection
The ToVP is rising on the banks of the Ganges in the holy town of Mayapur, West Bengal, India. Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, father of the modern-day Krishna consciousness movement, narrates in his Navadvipa-dhama-mahatmya how Lord Nityananda spoke to Srila Jiva Gosvami about the future of Mayapur. Lord Nityananda prophesized: “When our Lord Caitanya disappears, by His desire, the Ganges will swell. The Ganges water will almost cover Mayapur for a hundred years, and then the water will recede. Then, by the Lord’s desire, Mayapur will again be manifest, and the devotees will build temples of the Lord. One exceedingly wonderful temple (adbhuta-mandira) will appear from which Gauranga’s eternal service will be preached around the world.”
Mayapur is ISKCON’s international headquarters; Srila Prabhupada chose it as such because it’s the place where Lord Caitanya appeared. Lord Caitanya, who is Krishna Himself in a golden form, appeared in Mayapur a little over five hundred years ago with the mission to flood the world with the highest love of God a love that had rarely been revealed to this world before. He spread the Hare Krishna mantra throughout India, and prophesized that one of His commanders-in-chief would one day spread the same holy name to every town and village in the world. In 1965, at almost seventy years old, Srila Prabhupada arrived in the USA. Within twelve spectacular years he inspired the founding of 108 temples in cities around the globe. Now thirty-five years later, ISKCON continues to spread Lord Caitanya’s mission, with the goal of fulfilling the prediction that Krishna’s name will be heard in every town and village. Today, ISKCON has about five hundred temples, farm communities, restaurants, and schools. But while all of these are ISKCON temples, this upcoming ToVP in Mayapur will undoubtedly be the ISKCON temple.
It’s significant that Srila Prabhupada chose Mayapur as ISKCON’s international headquarters. Even today Mayapur is not overly connected with the rest of the world; he didn’t choose it for the material facilities it could provide. Rather, Srila Prabhupada well knew the incomparable spiritual significance of Mayapur. Here Lord Caitanya first revealed his superexcellent presentation of Vaishnavism: Gaudiya Vaishnavism. Mayapur is the highest seat of Gaudiya Vaishnavism, just as Vatican City is the highest seat for Roman Catholics and Mecca serves in the same capacity for Muslims. Now with the construction of the magnificent ToVP, Gaudiya Vaishnavism will be prominent on the world’s spiritual map. Millions from all walks of life will be attracted to the sublime philosophy and culture that built it.
Temple or Planetarium?
The Temple of the Vedic Planetarium the name itself arouses interest. Srila Prabhupada had a clear vision one he expressed on many occasions for the ToVP. He wanted “a unique Vedic Planetarium to present the Vedic perspective of life, including a gigantic display of the material and spiritual worlds, which could be viewed by visitors from different levels as they traveled through the planetarium.” Srila Prabhupada wanted to use something startling and state-of-the-art to attract people from around the world to Mayapur. Once they arrived, their spiritual journey would begin and they would be given the chance to practice Krishna consciousness, if only for a few days, ushering auspiciousness into their lives.
Aside from the presentation itself, Srila Prabhupada recognized the hold modern atheistic science has on most people. He wanted to challenge the mechanistic understanding of the universe. To educate people in the principles of Vedic cosmology is a crucial aim of the ToVP. Cosmology studies the origin, purpose, structure, and function of the universe, and Vedic cosmology gives extensive information not only about the structure of the phenomenal universe as we see it, but about its source, purpose, and the subtle laws that govern it.
The fundamental concept pervading Vedic cosmology is that everything and everyone has a relationship with and dependence on the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Sri Krishna, the source of the creation, maintenance, and dissolution of the manifested worlds. The Vedic Planetarium and Science Center will attractively present this profound understanding. It will also offer solid scientific arguments that underpin the concepts of Intelligent Design. And of course, the ToVP will continue to challenge and counter popular atheistic claims about human ancestry by showing through evidence and logic that life cannot come from matter and that humans could not have evolved from apes.
The ToVP’s aim is the aim of any true temple: to attract people to Krishna (God) and to educate them about Him. Five hundred years ago Mayapur and the nearby town of Navadvipa were centers of learning in logic, philosophy, and spirituality. Today, Mayapur hosts primary school students as well as adults taking advanced courses in Vaishnava philosophy and practice. Mayapur’s leaders, headed by His Holiness Jayapataka Swami Maharaja, are already planning to build a university. Along with an academic education, however, future Mayapur students will also experience a practical lifestyle centered on devotion to God. The ToVP will be the hub of this spiritual education.
Grand and Exquisite
The ToVP is the biggest Vedic temple being built in the last 1000 years. Srila Prabhupada is the original ToVP architect. In his letters and conversations he had clearly outlined its key features. The temple is coming up honoring all those instructions.
In July 1976, Srila Prabhupada expressed his preference for the outer design of the temple. While visiting Washington, he instructed his disciples Yadubara Dasa and Visakha Devi Dasi to take detailed photos of the US Capitol building, which would serve as a prototype for the ToVP. The most prominent external feature of the ToVP will thus be its three towering domes. Based on Prabhupada’s various instructions, the tallest and central dome, more than 300 feet tall, will house three sets of deities. The leftmost set will be of the disciplic succession, the venerable line of spiritual masters in which Srila Prabhupada has come. In the center will be the effulgent and huge Pancha-tattva deities: Sri Krishna Caitanya, Prabhu Nityananda, Sri Advaita, Sri Gadadhara, and Sri Srivasa, who are already being worshiped today in the present Mayapur temple. And on their right will be the gorgeous Sri Sri Radha-Madhava and Their eight principal cowherd girl friends. The combined presence of all these deities on the 140-foot wide ToVP altar will offer a darshana unmatched in this world.
The huge temple space around the central deities will be big enough to hold 10,000 devotees. The high ceiling of the dome will remind visitors of the greatness of God and inspire humility and submissiveness. Hanging inside the central dome will be a chandelier with a difference: a moving 3-D model of the structure of the universe as described in the Srimad-Bhagavatam. Visitors will be able to study the structure of the universe from multiple levels. At each level will be galleries and exhibits to explain the various aspects of the universe, along with its purpose. The highest level will take visitors on a tour to the spiritual world.
The central dome walls would be of the best of marble ornamented by gold inlays. The magical and expensive onyx marble, which is known for its translucence and delicacy, will adorn the altar. The central dome will be flanked on either side by two smaller domes. The dome on the right will house the Deity of Lord Narsimha. Its interiors will be South Indian style and dominated by black. The dome on the left will house the Vedic Planetarium. The temple would implement green architecture; a state-of-the-art natural air flow system will ventilate the huge central and right domes without using air-conditioners. In contrast, the Vedic Planetarium, consisting of multiple floors, seminar halls, etc. will be fully air conditioned.
The towering domes will be visible from miles away. The temple will be situated within beautiful landscaping with water bodies, fountains, and lawns. The massive size will awaken visitors to the temple’s immense significance. The outside walls would be in various exquisite shades of blue, white, and gold. The best marble to clad the outer walls will come directly from the quarries of Turkey. True to its purpose of being a world temple, its architecture would be an eclectic blend, borrowing heavily from Vedic and non-Vedic styles of sacred architecture. The main entrance would be like that of a classic Vedic temple with pillars and a courtyard. The magnificent domes would in robin-egg blue and would be reminiscent to the famous Faberge eggs designed by the famous Russian jewelry firm, House of Faberge. Faberge eggs are elaborate jewel-encrusted eggs, typically miniature. Along the same lines, the ToVP domes would be elaborately ornamented with weavings of gold. Above the entrance to the central dome would be an astronomical clock similar to the famous Prague Astronomical Clock. Eight staircase towers all around the structure would lend delightful symmetry. At night, the play of light would create another breathtaking scene. Apart from these major features, there will be innumerable finer aspects that will lend unprecedented beauty to this magnificent temple.
The Rising Moon of Mayapur
Srila Prabhupada requested his disciple Ambarisa Dasa (Alfred Ford, great grandson of Henry Ford), to help finance the ToVP. Taking this instruction as his very life, Ambarisa Dasa is personally financing a major portion of the total expenses. The temple construction started in 2009 and is well under way. Srila Prabhupada talked about the ToVP most with another disciple, Bhavananda Dasa, who was involved for many years with the early development of the Mayapur temple. He now serves as the Creative Director for the ToVP. Sadbhuja Dasa, a 22-year Mayapur veteran and Project Coordinator for the completion of Srila Prabhupada’s Puspa Samadhi, is now heading the ToVP project as the Project Director. Working under him are Pundarikaksa Govinda Dasa as the Site Project Coordinator and Vilasini Devi Dasi as the Consultant Coordinator coordinating all architects and drawings.
Gammon India, one of the largest physical infrastructure construction companies in India, is building the temple. Mr. Vibhuti Choudhary is acting as the consultant. The plan is for the superstructure to be complete within the next three years. If possible, even the Deities will be moved to Their grand new location. The completion of the external decorative work will take some years beyond to complete. The year 2016 is the 50th anniversary of ISKCON. The ToVP team’s desire is to present this grand temple to Srila Prabhupada in 2016 as a token of love and immense gratitude for the unfathomable gift of Krishna consciousness that he has given the world.
Srila Prabhupada said that the ToVP already exists; Bhaktivinoda Thakura saw it. Whatever the Lord desires automatically becomes manifest by His iccha-sakti, the power of His desire. Now, what remains is to put the bricks and cement, and steel and paint, all in their place. Srila Prabhupada explained that Krishna showed Arjuna on the battlefield of Kurukshetra that He had already killed Arjuna’s enemies. Arjuna still had to fire his arrows and become the instrument for the killing. Similarly, whoever will help in physically building the ToVP will become famous as an instrument of the Lord in fulfilling His most cherished desire of spreading His message in every town and village.
Srila Prabhupada made Mayapur the center of ISKCON. The ToVP touches the life of every ISKCON friend and member in a way unlike any other ISKCON temple. It is the root of the ISKCON tree. By watering this root, one will feel more strongly connected to the mission of the Lord. From this root the highest spiritual nourishment will reach all devotional branches all over the world.
Srila Prabhupada named the present Mayapur temple complex “Sri Mayapur Chandrodaya Mandir”. Chandra means “moon” and refers to the effulgent moon of Lord Caitanya. The word candrodaya can be split as either chandra-doya or chandra-udaya. The former refers to the doya (mercy) of Lord Caitanya, and the latter to the udaya (rise) of Lord Caitanya’s mission. About the ToVP, Srila Prabhupada had once said, “The plans and contemplations are going on in different phases; now when Caitanya Mahaprabhu will be pleased it will be taken up.” That time has come. With the rise of the ToVP, the resplendent moon of Lord Caitanya will ascend further and bathe the world with the most pleasing moonlight of love of God.
To know more about the progress of the ToVP:
Call: Vraja Vilasa Dasa on 09635990391
Abhijit Toley did M.Tech.in Computer Science from IIT Mumbai and is presently working as a Senior Software Engineer in an MNC in Pune. Check his blog at www.thebandwagonofmoltengold.blogspot.com/