Over 500 people, including congregation members and the local community at large, are expected to attend the April 4th Foundation Stone Ceremony for ISKCON of New Jersey’s grand new temple in Parsippanny. The ceremony is set to launch construction on a project that took over a decade of hard work, and will ultimately cost a total of $7 to $8 million.
Parsippany Mayor Michael Sorriano will attend the event, and will ceremonially open a curtain to reveal the foundation stone and officially inaugurate the construction process. The polished granite slab, currently being fashioned in India, will be engraved with the words “International Society for Krishna Consciousness, Founder Acharya A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada” and “This Foundation Stone was laid by Mayor Michael Sorriano.”
The ensuing program, to be held in a hall across the street from the temple site, will feature kirtan, a presentation on the project with pledges, and a sumptuous feast.
Construction of the temple will begin soon after, with the shell of the building set to be completed within twelve to fifteen months. Deities will be installed near the end of 2021, after which additional funds will be raised over time, and the building will gradually be completed in phases.
The road to this point has been a long one. ISKCON of New Jersey has been operating from the current temple in Towaco, Northern New Jersey, since 1981. But the building, now well over 100 years old, was never designed as a place of worship.
“As our congregation has grown over the years, we’ve felt more and more stresses due to the fact that there is insufficient parking, the temple room is too small, and we don’t have good classroom facilities for our Sunday School, or a separate prasadam area for visitors,” says temple president Nilamani Das.
Devotees gather at the current Towaco temple for a festival
As the building grows older and older, it has also become more and more expensive and difficult to maintain, with devotees spending vast sums of money each year on electrical, plumbing and other issues. Along with the fact that Nilamani felt they needed a more central location to attract regular worshippers, it was time to move.
ISKCON of New Jersey acquired the new Parsipanny property in 2008, followed by more than a decade of negotiating challenges, including legal hurdles to acquire the building permit, and technical difficulties with finalizing the construction drawings.
These were finally all overcome, and the funds needed were raised with the help of pledges from the congregation. Further funds will be raised with the assistance of an advisory committee consisting of prominent businesspeople and influential members of the local community.
In the meantime, construction is set to begin on the 3.3 acre property, located in the heart of Parsippany, with a large residential community that’s home to around 500 Indian families on one side, and a major shopping thoroughfare on the other, easily accessible from all highways.
The 40,000 square-foot North-Indian style Vedic temple will be surrounded with beautifully landscaped lawns, trees, flowers and shrubbery, as well as extensive parking with over 150 parking spots.
Inside, there will be a 3,200 square-foot temple hall with 17-foot-high ceilings and three gorgeous altars; a lobby area with seating and a gift store; a multipurpose hall for taking prasad and holding events such as weddings; a large modern commercial kitchen which will be used for catering and events; a Govinda’s café; a library; ashrams for temple residents; and a large number of classrooms.
“A major focus for us is offering education such as Sunday School for children, as well as continuing education classes for grown-ups,” says ISKCON of New Jersey Communications Director Madana-gopala Das.
With the new temple’s added space and facilities, New Jersey devotees plan to at least double their Sunday School program, which already cares for eighty students. This will naturally mean also growing their youth programs, such as youth gatherings, kirtan training, career planning, and spiritual growth, which nurture graduates of the Sunday School.
The new temple will also serve ISKCON of New Jersey’s regular congregation of about 250 people with Sunday Feasts and other programs. In addition, it will allow devotees to refocus on their Western outreach.
“We’d like to have a special program geared towards those of non-Indian background, so that we can address their needs in a more customized way, in terms of presentation, prasadam, kirtan and so forth,” says Madana-gopala. “Since the new temple will be so accessible, anybody can come – there’s a bus stop just a few steps away.”
Currently, the Towaco temple only holds programs on weekends. But due to the new temple’s proximity to the local community, it will be able to offer programs several days a week. “Things like evening sastra training, Bhagavad-gita classes; as well as bridge programs like yoga, music lessons, cooking lessons, to attract different crowds of people,” Madana-gopala says.
With Parsippany attracting a lot of attention recently when it was voted one of Money Magazine’s best places to live in America, ISKCON of New Jersey has high hopes for the move.
After years of struggle to realize the project, Madana-gopala explains, “It is very invigorating and enthusing. We’re seeing even people who have no connection to ISKCON getting so excited about it, and wanting to help; what to speak of those devotees who have stuck with us through thick and thin. For our part, we’re very happy to have this opportunity to serve Srila Prabhupada in a bigger and better way.”
“It has been a long process for us, with lots of ups and downs – so we are very, very excited that now we are on the verge of actually starting the building construction itself,” adds temple president Nilamani Das. “We’ve always had faith that we are not really the doers — this is a new home for our most beloved Sri Sri Gaura Nitai, and They are orchestrating everything. Step by step, They have guided us and made it possible. So we’re confident that we’re going to get to the finish line, and be able to give this beautiful new home to our Deities.”
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Jun 25, 2022
Radhapriya Chawla, ISKCON Toronto Communications