When Cyclone Hudhud raged through the province of Andhra Pradhesh on India’s East Coast on October 12th 2014, it caused serious damage to ISKCON Visakhapatnam, leaving devotees feeling demoralized.
But like the proverbial phoenix from the flames, a grand, beautiful new temple is rising from the debris. Construction began on the auspicious day of Gaura Purnima on March 5th this year, and the monumental 67,000 square foot temple is expected to be completed by Nityananda Trayodasi in Feburary 2018.
The journey to this point began in May 1999, when Samba Das and his wife Nitaisevini Dasi arrived in Visakhapatnam with nothing more than a laminated photo of Radha Krishna and five thousand rupees’ worth of Srila Prabhupada’s books.
They had no shortage of vision, however, with a plan to build a massive temple complex for Lord Krishna called “The Glory of Andhra.”
Running a preaching center from a small rented place, they travelled throughout Andhra Pradesh in a bus, distributing books and chanting the Hare Krishna mantra. Meanwhile, they tackled government bureaucracy and economic setbacks to try to realize their vision.
Finally, in 2005, they acquired a beautiful three-acre piece of land in the serene Sagar Nagar area, facing the calm waters of the Bay of Bengal.
There, they built a commercial kitchen for their Annadanam food relief program, an Ayurvedic clinic, and a brahmachari ashram, seminar hall, guesthouse, and goshala for cow care.
Their vision of a grand Mandir, however, was blocked by yet more government red-tape, with officials saying a permanent structure could not be erected so close to the sea. In the meantime, as Samba and his wife struggled to find a way, they built a temporary temple hall for their Deities of Sri Sri Radha Damodar and Jagannath, Baladeva, and Subhadra.
The construction crew gets to work on the new temple
It was this temple and the surrounding complex which was struck by Cyclone Hudhud. Barelling through at speeds of 109 mph, it destroyed the gift shop, dioramas, and goshala completely, and also caused extensive damage to the the temple hall, kitchen, book warehouse, Ayurvedic clinic, guest house, water tank, and air conditioning and electrical systems.
It was a crushing blow, but the community came together and by January 2015, after a lot of hard work, they had – amazingly – fixed most of the damage.
Soon after that, there was more good news. Samba and Nitaisevini had gotten clearance to build their original vision of a grand “Glory of Andhra” temple on the seaside by getting it classified as a tourist attraction.
On March 1st 2015, Samba signed a contract with the builders, and at last, on Gaura Purnima, construction commenced.
“Many donors and well-wishers had lost hope that this temple would ever happen,” says Nitaisevini. “But now, finally it has begun.”
Visakhapatnam, a commercial hub, the largest city in Andhra Pradesh, and one of the 100 fastest growing cities in the world, is also an important site for Vaishnavas. In the epic Ramayana, Lord Rama is said to have formed his army of vanaras there; in India’s other great epic, the Mahabharat, the Pandava Bhimasena is said to have killed the demon Bakasura in a nearby village; and today Visakhapatnam is still home to the Simhachalam temple of Lord Narasimhadeva.
With its new 67,000 square foot “Glory of Andhra” temple, ISKCON hopes to give Visakhapatnam even further significance for Gaudiya Vaishnavas.
3D rendering of the "Glory of Andhra" temple
The two-storey edifice with a basement will feature a 21,000 square-foot temple hall on the top floor, which will be home to ISKCON Visakhapatnam’s current Deities of Sri Sri Radha Damodar and Jagannath, Baladeva, and Subhadra. Large new Deities of Balaji, Sita, Rama, Lakshman and Hanuman, Gaura-Nitai, and Narasimhadeva will also be installed.
On the 1st floor will be a multimedia theater; a Vedic Planetarium depicting the universe according to the Srimad-Bhagavatam as well as reincarnation and karma; an audio visual library; and a hall of dioramas on the life and pastimes of Lord Krishna.
There will also be a naturopathy center, wherein ayurveda, yoga and panchakarma remedies will be offered; a mantra meditation hall build underwater to keep it cool in the summer; and a Govinda’s vegetarian restaurant.
In addition the temple will include a professionally-equipped kitchen kitchen for ISKCON Visakhapatnam’s Annadanam program, which already currently feeds 5,000 children every day with nutritious meals and supplies several hospitals in the area.
Meanwhile a school for children up to tenth grade is planned, where students will receive a standard academic education along with an emphasis on Vedic scriptures. They will also have classes on cooking, sewing, computer use, and classical dance forms like Bharatanatyam and Kuchipudi.
In addition there will be a goshala – the community currently cares for 85 cows and calves – as well as of course standard ISKCON outreach activities such as Sunday Feasts, book distribution, college outreach, and Sunday school and summer camps for children.
“Although we suffered through Cyclone Hudhud last year, the Lord has given us a precious gift in the form of clearance to start this beautiful temple project,” says Nitaisevini Dasi. “As it is rightly said, the darkest hour is just before the dawn. The devotees and congregation of Visakhapatnam were so devastated, but now they have new hope, and new enthusiasm.”
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For regular construction updates on the Glory of Andhra project, please visit iskconvizag.org.
To help the devotees of ISKCON Visakhapatnam build their new temple by donating, please see the below details.
Account Name: ISKCON Visakhapatnam
Bank Name: Indian Overseas Bank
Branch: Vuda Branch
Account No. 164901000010002
IFSC Code: IOBA0001649[ andra-pradesh ] [ cyclone ] [ visakhapatnam ]