A Grand Welcome Ceremony will be held from October 14th to 15th to welcome Srila Prabhupada’s murti form to the under-construction Temple of the Vedic Planetarium in Mayapur, during Prabhupada’s 125th appearance anniversary year.
The TOVP, ISKCON’s flagship temple, was set to receive its grand opening during the last quarter of 2022, and construction was progressing at a rapid pace, when Covid struck.
According to Development Director Braja Vilasa Das, operations shut down completely for 7 to 8 months in 2020, before picking up again gradually with strict Covid safety protocols. When the second Covid wave hit India in March and April 2021, the project again scaled down, picking up once more about a month ago.
Driving the effort to complete Srila Prabhupada’s vision as a labor of love is Chairman Ambarish Das, who now hopes to see the temple open by the last quarter of 2024. First, though, will be the Grand Welcome Ceremony for Srila Prabhupada.
“In these difficult times, without the mercy of Srila Prabhupada, we can’t finish this project,” says Braja Vilasa.
The poster for the Grand Welcome Ceremony of Srila Prabhupada's murti
The new, one-of-a-kind, life-size murti for the TOVP was designed by master sculptor Locana Das. Srila Prabhupada appears in his worship pose with folded hands, embodying his famous statement, “Bombay is my office, Vrindavan is my home, and Mayapur is my place of worship.”
ISKCON gurus, leaders, and other senior devotees residing in Mayapur, as well as members of the ISKCON India Bureau will be there in person to welcome Prabhupada, while senior devotees from around the world will attend via Zoom. Strict Covid precautions will be maintained at the event, including masks, social distancing, and sanitizing facilities.
Although the official installation of Srila Prabhupada’s murti has been rescheduled for 2022, the welcoming ceremony will include the abhishek of Srila Prabhupada originally planned for the installation, in which he will be bathed with waters from 125 sacred rivers to signify his 125th appearance year. Copper, silver, gold, and platinum kalash abisheks will be offered on behalf of those who donate towards the TOVP construction. There will also be a Rathotsava fire yajna.
Meanwhile senior devotees will glorify Srila Prabhupada and share Prabhupada katha both in person and via Zoom. There will be a Sampradaya Sammelan, in which the leaders of the four Vaishnava Sampradayas will be invited to speak about the glories and achievements of Srila Prabhupada, and about the Temple of the Vedic Planetarium.
Srila Prabhupada will be taken on a chariot procession, with devotees showing him the entire Mayapur community, giving him a detailed report of their efforts, and explaining how they are keeping his vision as their priority. There will also be cultural performances by students from the Bhaktivedanta National School and Sri Mayapur International School, including a drama about Srila Prabhupada’s life story. All events will be broadcast on Mayapur.tv, the Mayapur Facebook page, and the TOVP Facebook page and Youtube channel.
A CGI graphic of Lord Nrsimhadeva's altar, which is expected to be completed in 2022
After the ceremony, Srila Prabhupada will reside in beautifully appointed quarters on the TOVP’s pujari seva floor, said to be the largest such facility in the world, spread over 2.5 acres. There he will be worshipped daily, and will inspire and oversee the remainder of the construction (which will be shown to him via a special CCTV), until his official installation in the Temple of the Vedic Planetarium.
Braja Vilasa Das explains that there is precedent for such an arrangement. “When Mayapur was under construction in the 1970s, Srila Prabhupada came here and oversaw construction of the Lotus building, where the temple was at the time. He even gave class while they were still laying the marble on the temple floor. Similarly in Juhu, Mumbai, he moved in when the construction was not finished. And even though devotees said, ‘Srila Prabhupada, this noise will disturb you, he said, ‘No, I wanted to. This is Sankirtana.” So, similarly, he is coming to the Temple of the Vedic Planetarium when the construction is still going on, so that we all can dedicate ourselves even more to finishing this project on time and offering it to him.”
Braja Vilasa gives all credit for keeping enthusiasm alive in the project to Ambarish Das, who has dedicated his life to completing the TOVP. He also expresses his gratitude to “all those devotees who have supported us immensely during these difficult times.”
“These days nothing is certain,” Braja Vilasa says. “But as Ambarish Prabhu would say, ‘One thing is certain – and that’s Srila Prabhupada’s mercy.’ Now that we are welcoming Srila Prabhupada into this temple of the Vedic Planetarium, we hope and pray to Prabhupada that this pandemic ends, and life becomes normal so that we can do this devotional activity which he has given us of completing this temple, and offering it to him.”