With devotees around the world isolated in their homes due to COVID-19, visiting the sacred holy places of Mayapur or Vrindavan is not currently possible. But an innovative new project promises to bring Mayapur to you – straight into your living room – via an immersive 360 degree Virtual Reality film on Radhastami, August 26th. Entitled Kripa Kataksha: The Gaze of Grace, the film is available by registering at https://www.mayapurvrfestivals.com/.
At the behest of Jayapataka Swami and ISKCON Mayapur management, the Strategic Synergies Department at Sridhama Mayapur, headed by Radhapati Gopinath Das, has been finding unique ways to give the worldwide community of devotees the Mayapur experience for some time now, starting with their Round the World Digital Ratha Yatra on June 23rd.
Purchasing 108 Zoom accounts each with a capacity of 500 participants, the team broadcast a special interactive digital Ratha Yatra to 50,000 devotees in over 100 countries around the world.
When the presentation, entitled “Mercy on Wheels,” began, participants could see an animated graphic of Lord Jagannath’s chariot. Upon following directions to touch the rope on their screen, the Rath would begin moving closer with the sound of conchshells, so that it felt as if they were pulling the Lord on His chariot. Devotees could also virtually “offer” arati to the Rajapur Jagannath, Baladeva and Subhadra Deities, who are known to be non-different from Lord Jagannath at Puri. Finally they could receive Jagannatha’s blessings by touching their heads to the screen as an animation of Jayapataka Swami reached out with the Lord’s sacred items.
Since Navadvipa (the holy place adjacent to Mayapur) is considered to be a manifestation of Srimati Radharani’s mercy and of Her desire to serve and please Lord Krishna, Radhastami is an especially significant observance for ISKCON Mayapur. So for their next innovative experience – a fully immersive 360 degree film that will transport devotees straight from their living room sofas to Mayapur Dhama – the team chose to focus on Radhastami.
Devotees who registered via https://www.mayapurvrfestivals.com/ by August 18th received a Google Cardboard VR headset in the mail. (Registration remains open until August 24th for those who already have their own headset) Between August 21st and 23rd, registrants will be able to watch tutorials on the website on how to make the most of the experience. They will then be able to download a link to the VR short film Kripa Kataksha: The Gaze of Grace on August 25th, which they will be able to watch on Radhastami day, August 26th by inserting their smartphones into their VR headsets.
The 360 degree virtual reality experience, shot before Radhastami day, was produced by a professional team including Shyamasundar Das (not to be confused with the Prabhupada disciple), who has produced previous 360 films for ISKCON Mayapur’s full dome planetarium theater.
As the film opens, leaders and resident devotees of ISKCON Mayapur, speaking from their own homes, will welcome viewers to the experience on the auspicious occasion of Radhastami. There will then be a 360-degree tour of the Mayapur campus, visiting Srila Prabhupada’s bhajan kutir and Samadhi; the temple courtyard; and the temple itself with Sri Sri Radha Madhava and the Asta-Sakhis, Sri Sri Pancha-Tattva, Sri Sri Prahlada-Nrsimhadeva, and Srila Prabhupada. Viewers will also get to see Sri Sri Jagannath, Baladeva and Subhadra at Rajapur; and Yogapith, the birthplace of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.
Finally, the film will feature a small scale mini-abishekha, arati for Sri Sri Radha Madhava and a yajna for the safety of all the registrants as well as for the entire ISKCON worldwide community, to give viewers the feel of a traditional Radhastami festival.
These elements, shot before Radhastami, were performed by resident pujaris only without the typical gathering of people. They were filmed by a small crew of resident Mayapur devotees who were given special permission to film in the temple, and who employed masks, social distancing and other precautions.
While watching this film with their VR headset, viewers will be able to turn and see in any direction, as if they really are in Mayapur Dhama.
“You’re like a kid in a candy store,” says Radhapati Gopinath Das. “You can look anywhere, and just relish the feeling of being in Mayapur. With a regular video of Sri Sri Radha Madhava and the Asta-sakhis, you would only be able to see Them on the screen in front of you, and when you looked to the right or left you would just see the walls or windows of your living room. But the 360 film has six cameras filming in all directions. So when you look left, you can see Prahlada-Nrsimhadeva and Ananatadeva; when you look right, you can see Srila Garudadeva; and when you turn back, you can see Srila Prabhupada. So you are immediately transported from your living room into the temple.”
He adds: “For those who love Mayapur, that is a very tearjerking feeling. Devotees will have a sense of fulfillment, that ‘I never thought I could be in Mayapur in the midst of everything I’m going through during this pandemic.’ And they will feel connected with the mercy of Sri Mayapur Dhama.”
Kripa Kataksha: Gaze of Grace will also include some non-360 footage of previous years’ Radhastami festivals, filmed before the pandemic.
Looking ahead, this is only the beginning – future Mayapur VR festivals will be created for the sacred months of Purusottama (September to October) and the month of Kartik (October to November).
Viewers who already own VR headsets can still register for Kripa Kataksha: Gaze of Grace until August 24th. For more info please visit: https://www.mayapurvrfestivals.com/[ mayapur ] [ radhastami ] [ radhasthami ]