On April 4th, on the auspicious occasion of Ramanuja Acharya’s appearance day, the presiding Deities of ISKCON Houston, Texas, were moved into Their beautiful new home.
Construction began on the 24,000 square-foot Orissan-style temple, with its ninety-foot-high central gold-tipped dome, in 2004.
The official opening festival, on May 17th and 18th, will draw an estimated 15,000 people and mark the culmination of many years of hard work by devotees.
It will also see the realization of the late Tamal Krishna Goswami’s dream of a grand new place for celebrating, promoting, and educating people in the science of Krishna consciousness.
The Deities had to be moved before this opening festival, however. The reason? Several logistical issues that were best tackled beforehand, to ensure that Their Lordships would be happily established in Their new home by the big day.
“They were cemented when They were originally installed, because devotees thought they would never be moved again,” explains temple president Shyamasundara Das.
For this reason Yasomatinandana Das, who moved the Deities during their original installation in 1986, was brought in to oversee the operation.
The moving process began before dawn on Saturday morning, with devotees first moving Srila Prabhupada’s murti form and then the Deities.
As the main Deities of Sri Sri Radha-Nilamadhava were secured to the altar with epoxy, devotees had to very carefully cut around Their base with a special thin saw.
This successfully done, the next consideration was the marble Deities’ height and weight. They’re nearly six-foot-high, while Nilamadhava weighs 1,300 pounds and Radharani 1,000.
Their Lordships were tilted and placed on hand trucks by some very strong devotees, secured, and transported to Their new temple room just 150 feet away.
As They were moved, twenty to thirty devotees danced and chanted the Hare Krishna mantra, flanking Their path. These included Giriraj Swami, Rtadhvaja Swami, North American GBC Nityananda Das, and temple president Shyamasundar Das.
The ISKCON Deity Ministry’s North American representative Jayananda Das was also present, to ensure that the Deities were moved to Their new home comfortably and according to the prescribed scriptural procedures.
After Sri Sri Radha-Nilamadhava, the other Deities – Sri Sri Nitai Chaitanya Chandra, Their smaller counterparts Sri Sri Nitai Gaura Chandra, and Sri Giriraj Govardhan – were all moved to the new temple.
“With the custom-made teakwood altar, opulent marble tiles, onyx walls, and beautifully placed lighting, the Deities looked more opulent than ever before,” says Shyamasundara Das.
Missing from the altar were the small Radha-Krishna Deities Sri Sri Radha-Giridhari, who were stolen in October 2010 and never returned. New Radha-Giridhari Deities, however, will be installed at the opening festival in May. (According to proper procedure, the other Deities will not require a reinstallation ceremony, as they were already installed in 1986 and are just being moved to a new location.)
Full worship began as soon as the Deities were placed on Their new altar, and all temple programs will now be held in the new temple. The Deities’ clothes and jewelry were also moved in advance to the spacious new pujari rooms.
While the temple room, altar, and pujari rooms are now complete, a few finishing touches are still being made on the temple before the opening in May.
Pujari Radha-Krishna Das feels that the Deities will be happy with Their new temple. “In the old temple, the altar was rotting underneath Them, due to being eaten away by termites and water damage after a hurricane a few years ago,” he says. “We could see the panels buckling and giving way.”
He adds: “The Deities have been very kind, merciful and tolerant with us, so we’re so happy to finally give them such a nice ornate altar. It’s solid, too, with a marble base and nothing underneath Them that would rot, so that they will be there comfortably for a long, long time.”
Meanwhile temple president Shyamasundara Das thanks contractor Sriman Arun Kothari, who spent the past two years pushing the temple construction on to completion. He also thanks his congregation and other supporters throughout the world.
“We thank you for supporting ISKCON of Houston over the years,” he says. “We ask you to pray that this new temple help us spread the holy name, distribute the teachings of Srila Prabhupada, and thus attract more people to Krishna consciousness. We invite each and everyone of you to come join us during our grand opening festival from May 17th to 18th this year.”[ deities ] [ houston ] [ texas ]