The Indian Ambassador to Italy, as well as the mayor of local municipality San Casciano, both praised the new Museum of Sacred Art (MOSA) at Italy’s Villa Vrindavana during its opening late last month.
The museum – MOSA’s second branch after the original in Radhadesh, Belgium – is located near Florence, in Villa Vrindavana’s historic 16th century wing.
It includes 22 large-size paintings on the ancient history Mahabharata by Italian artist Jnananjana Das; 10 of the Ramayana by husband and wife team from the US Ram Das Abhirama and Dhriti; and 20 classic Bhaktivedanta Book Trust paintings from Srila Prabhupada’s books.
Entering MOSA, located in the historic 16th century wing at Villa Vrindavana
It also features more drawings and paintings on the Mahabharata by Vrindavana-based American artist Bhaktisiddhanta Das, and a selection of large wooden Ramayana sculptures from the island of Bali.
The museum recently held two events for its grand opening. The first, a VIP opening on Thursday September 24th, drew about sixty local dignitaries, members of the arts and interfaith communities, and politicians.
They included Basant K. Gupta, the Indian Ambassador to Italy, who commuted from Rome; Massimiliano Pescini, the mayor of San Casciano; and the mayor of Tavernuzze, another nearby town.
The Indian Ambassador to Italy, Basant K. Gupta, views paintings from Illuminations From the Bhagavad-gita
Ambassador Gupta, author of two books on the timeless wisdom of ancient India and the Ramayana, executed the ceremonial cutting of the ribbon. In his speech, he said that MOSA is unique because its artwork is dedicated to Lord Krishna and Lord Rama.
He also called the guests’ attention to the “extraordinary work by ISKCON to promote Krishna consciousness worldwide in six hundred temples.”
Learning and spreading the teachings of the Bhagavad-gita, he said, is “hard work, but a great joy, as Krishna says in the Gita: ‘Whosoever teaches this confidential knowledge is most blessed: he receives My bhakti, pure devotional service and at the end will come to Me.’ The devotees surpass the yogis and fruitive workers.”
Guests view a painting of the gambling match from the Mahabharata
Meanwhile in his speech Massimiliano Pescini, the mayor of local town San Casciano, stated that the MOSA opening “is auspicious for the future of Villa Vrindavan, because it makes it a very important cultural center. This challenges the people in the area to work closely with the Hare Krishna community and shows them the importance of dialogue with the Indian community, both of which point to a better future for the local community.”
The VIP opening also included a guided tour with Villa Vrindavana president Parabhakti Das, art director Pandu Putra Das, MOSA director Mahaprabhu Das, and artist Jnananjana Das.
During the tour, guests also visited the museum’s temporary exhibit, which will be changed once or twice a year. The current one is of paintings from the classic 1980 book Illuminations From the Bhagavad-gita, and artist Kim Waters was present to meet everyone.
MOSA director Mahaprabhu Das speaks as the Deities are carried through the museum
“The Indian Ambassador, a learned philosopher and writer, was delighted to see the exhibit, and was reciting Bhagavad-gita verses in Sanskrit as he looked at Prabhupada’s translations and Kim’s illuminations,” recalls MOSA director Mahaprabhu Das.
MOSA is set to soon publish a brand new 184-page edition of Illuminations From the Bhagavad-gita, which will feature a new text by scholar Satyaraja Das recounting how the paintings were created, and how Srila Prabhupada met and interacted with Kim and her co-author Chris Murray. It will also include photos of Srila Prabhupada viewing their works on two different occasions in New Vrindaban, West Virginia and Potomac, Maryland.
After viewing the exhibits, the VIP guests participated in a bhajan before the Deities in the temple room, watched an Odissi dance performance by local second generation devotee Sanatani Rambolla, and tucked into an opulent prasadam buffet.
Jnananjana Das explains his art to the audience
A second opening event for the public on Sunday September 27th drew about 100 local congregational devotees, attendees of the ISKCON European Leadership Meetings, and locals. Featuring the same schedule and tour guides, it also saw Villa Vrindavana’s small Radha Krishna Deities carried in procession through the museum.
Local television station Toscanna filmed the first event for a twenty-five minute documentary program which was aired soon after.
Work on the museum will continue over the next few years, with plans to turn it into a full sensory experience complete with sounds, smells and touch.
Guests view a dramatic painting of Lord Rama slaying the demon Ravana
“We are so happy to have this second branch of MOSA in Italy, where art and spirituality are combined to such powerful effect,” says Mahaprabhu. “And especially in Villa Vrindavana, which is one of Srila Prabhupada’s jewels in Europe.”
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