Over thirty thousand people are expected to attend the grand opening of the seven-storey Radha Govind Dev Mandir and Bhaktivedanta Academy in Noida, Uttar Pradesh from February 11th to 13th.
Each morning of the festival will feature talks by senior devotees and spiritual ceremonies inviting the new Deities of Sri-Sri Radha Govind Dev into Their new home.
In the evenings, guests and devotees will enjoy a multitude of Krishna conscious entertainment. Famous kirtaniyas such as Vaiyasaki Das, Lokanath Swami, and Radhanath Swami will lead everyone in chanting the Hare Krishna mantra. Bhaktimarga Swami and his drama troupe from Toronto, Canada, will perform a play about the Lord.
A group of western Vaishnavis currently living in the sacred village of Vrindavan will perform the Krishna Maha-Rasa Dance. A professional dance group from Delhi will perform the Radha-Krishna ballet. And a teenage group from Jagannath Puri, Orissa will perform a traditional acrobatic dance called Gotipua, depicting Krishna’s pastimes.
The grand opening will also see the inauguration of Noida’s Bhaktivedanta Academy, a spiritual educational institution similar to Vrindavan’s VIHE or Mayapur’s MIHE.
The festival is expected to draw a mix of international devotees and local corporate professionals.
Noida, a relatively new township that was born in the 1970s and fully developed in the 1990s, borders New Delhi and was established to accommodate major industries moving from the increasingly congested capital.
ISKCON leader Lokanath Swami saw this as a major opportunity for spreading Krishna consciousness, and quickly had devotees move in and break the ground for the new temple in 2002.
While the temple was under construction, devotees rented a small residential house and began running a successful preaching center from it. The congregation grew to about 400, and in March 2005, devotees moved into the new temple when just one floor had been completed, holding Sunday Feast programs and festivals from it.
Construction of the temple continued on for many years, however, due to the time consuming nature of its extensive hand-carved elements -- in fact, workers are completing it just in time for the grand opening.
“The temple sits on only half an acre, but vertically, through the seven levels, we have created almost 60,000 square feet of useable space,” says Bhaktivedanta Academy director Buddhimanta Das. “The architecture encompasses three holy places at once: the front facade resembles Vrindavan’s famous Govindaji mandir; the dome is like that of the Srila Prabhupada Samadhi Mandir in Mayapur; and the shikhar [spire], is similar to that of the Jagannath temple in Puri.”
Inside, the temple is as modern and progressive as the city it overlooks, with wonders to be found on every floor.
The basement features an auditorium with fixed seating, a projector room and cinema screen for showing Krishna conscious movies, and a stage with professional lighting for dramas and other performances.
On the ground floor, easily accessible from the busy main road outside, is an air-conditioned Govinda’s restaurant, which is expected to bring in much needed revenue for the temple.
The first floor will be home to the Samskar Bhavan, a hall which will be used for spiritual kathas and hired out for weddings, birthdays, and other samskaras, or life events. The hall will be flanked with shops, three on either side, including the Radharani Bakery for cakes, cookies and pastries, Radharani Sweets and Snacks, and an ice cream and milkshake parlor.
More shopping opportunities await on the second floor, with a book and gift shop for Srila Prabhupada’s books and kirtan equipment, and the Anand Bazaar for Sri Sri Radha-Govind Dev’s Maha prasad.
The main temple hall is located on the third floor, with its walls, floor and intricately hand-carved pillars made from Rajasthan’s premium pure white Makrana marble.
“One of the reasons why this temple took nearly eleven years to build, is that it took four people about two months to carve each pillar, and there are one hundred pillars in the building,” Buddhimanta says.
The altar is also made of Makrana marble, and houses Deities of Gaura Nitai on the left, Sri Sri Radha Govind Dev in the center, and Jagannath, Baladeva and Subhadra on the right; while all around the temple hall on the walls are bas relief sculptures of Lord Krishna’s pastimes.
From the temple hall, visitors can take stairs or one of two elevators up to the Bhaktivedanta Academy, which features one big 200-person seminar hall, one small 80-person seminar hall, and five classrooms, fully equipped with desks, chairs, projectors, and white boards.
There’s also the Bhaktisiddhanta Library, where visitors can study Vedic scriptures, or sit at computer stations where they can read e-books and download and listen to lectures and kirtans.
The fifth and final floor (really the seventh including the basement and ground floor) is a state-of-the-art circular conference hall, housed under the temple’s central dome.
“There’s also a pantry and washrooms, and outside, little terrace gardens all around,” says Buddhimanta. “They are very nice facilities. Our regional GBC meetings can take place there.”
Next to the Sri Sri Radha Govind Dev Mandir and Bhaktivedanta Academy is another seven storey building, this one a guesthouse named “Back Home” by Lokanath Swami, after Srila Prabhupada’s famous slogan, “Back Home, Back to Godhead.” The facility can house forty-four people, and has twenty-two rooms with two beds and an attached bathroom in each.
Since Noida is directly on the way from Delhi to Vrindavan via the new Yamuna Express Highway, Buddhimanta expects many devotees to visit Noida and stay at the guesthouse on their way to the sacred land of Krishna’s birth.
Meanwhile, at the back of the ISKCON Noida property is the four-acre Krishna Jayanti Park. “It belongs to the government, but the government has given it to us to maintain, and it is only accessible through our temple,” Buddhimanta explains. “We maintain the walking track, lawns, and beautiful flowers, and devotees use it for festivals and to chant their japa in. We also take school trips there on picnics after they take darshan of the Deities in the temple.”
As its Bhaktivedanta Academy suggests, much of the ISKCON Noida project is geared towards spiritual education like this. The community is already renowned for its annual Gita Jayanti Vedic Wisdom Contest, during which fifty schools in the area participate in a variety of spiritual contests, including a quiz, a shloka recitation, and dancing, singing and painting competitions.
“We want to start having the Contest twice a year from now on, once for elementary schools and once for senior colleges and universities,” Buddhimanta says. “We also want to use our auditorium for debates, and to focus on corporate preaching, as this is a big city, full of educated people. We are already training devotees through our Bhaktivedanta Academy and equipping them with sufficient tools and techniques so that they can go out and preach in schools, colleges, universities and corporate companies.”
Bhakti Vriksha congregational preaching is also expected to be a major success in Noida.
“We already have about twenty Bhakti Vriksha groups running in different homes, and we want to increase them to one hundred groups very soon after the temple opening,” says Buddhimanta.
He grins. “There is a lot of potential here.”[ bhaktivedanta-academy ]