Name: Goura-Vrindavana Farm
Address: Rod. Rio-Santos BR 101, Km 558, Graúna – Paraty RJ CEP 23970-000
Phone: +55 24 9962 5262
Websites: http://goura.com.br, http://www.dharmashala.com.br/
Presiding Deities: Small deities of Pancha Tattva, Gaura Nitai, and Radha Krishna, as well as salagrama silas and govardhana silas. Large deities of Radha Vrindavana Chandra and Gaura Nitai will be installed in 2011.
President: Achyutananda Dasa.
Established in: 1983.
Temple Style: Current temple is a room used for worship in the community’s ashram. A new temple, stone-built with an oriental roof, will open in 2011.
Location: An 800-hectare farm in the middle of the Atlantic Rainforest, the largest forest reserve in Brazil. Since it extends all the way to the ocean, it is richer in plant life than the Amazon Rainforest. The ISKCON community is in Paraty, located between Brazil’s two largest cities, Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, and three-and-a-half hours’ drive from each.
Distinctive food offerings: Dried bananas grown on the farm and dried in the community’s own factory. And local roots Mandioca (also known as Cassava root) and Imhame, a kind of yam, also grown on the farm.
Number of residents: Twenty.
Number of visitors: Around seventy people visit to attend retreats every month.
Best time of year to visit: April to September, for a drier, more comfortable climate.
Goura Vrindavana was born back in 1983, when two devotee brothers, Setukara Dasa and Arcana Marya Dasa, bought a piece of land in Paraty. Other devotees began to move to the location and buy neighboring plots, adding to the original one. The community grew. But it wasn’t until 1998, when Purushatraya Swami joined the project, that it began to develop into a major ISKCON project.
Using his years of experience running other farms in Brazil and India, he divided the project into different departments and assigned each devotee a responsibility. His vision was for the farm to be financially sustainable on its own, rather than relying on donations or any outside source. Only once major progress had been made in that area did he plan to build a temple and worship Deities.
Today, his plan is perfectly on track.
Goura-Vrindavana has become financially self-sufficient through two ingenious initiatives: a guesthouse, and its very own dried banana factory.
“We have a banana plantation, and we grow, collect and dry the bananas ourselves,” explains president Achyutananda Dasa. “We then sell them to many stores in Rio de Janeiro and other cities, and they distribute them.
“Our guest house, Dharmashala, also brings us income, as people interested in eco-villages come and rent a room for some time, while they learn about simple-living and explore the beautiful forest and waterfalls. We also have a yoga studio which different yoga instructors from all over the country rent for retreats. Many of the people attending these are very receptive to Krishna consciousness—they go to the temple, listen to the classes and kirtan, and eat sanctified vegetarian food.”
The Goura-Vrindavana farm also produces nearly all of its own energy—the public area of the community is powered by a hydroelectric mill in a nearby river, with only families’ private homes using local electrical services.
“We are not one hundred per cent self-sufficient food-wise, because there are some things we cannot plant here, but we’re close,” Achyutananda says. “The devotees, and a few employees, plant sweet potatoes, carrots, zucchini, many herbs, and local roots such as Mandioca—which is also known as Cassava root—and Imhame, a kind of yam. We also grow fruit like papayas, oranges, bananas, and avocados.”
The community completely eschews use of machines—all farming is done by hand or with the assistance of bullock carts. Some fruit, such as lemon, jackfruit, peaches and berries grow naturally in the surrounding forest, and can simply be collected.
Until now, the community has been worshipping very small, uninstalled deities of Radha Krishna, Pancha-Tattva, and Gaura Nitai. But with this steady foundation of self-sufficiency in place, devotees began building a new temple in 2007. They plan to inaugurate it, with large installed deities of Radha Vrindavana-chandra and Gaura Nitai, in 2011.
“The temple will be 100 square metres, built all in stone, and feature an oriental-style roof,” says Achyutananda. “It will have four rooms and a kitchen to be used by the priests, and there will be a large area around it where we will plant fruits for the deities.”
The devotees at Goura-Vrindavana plan to keep increasing their sustainable income in the future by selling natural self-made products such as sugarcane molasses, and to improve tourism and access roads. They also plan to build a gurukula school for their children. But in the meantime, it’s already one of the most unique temples in ISKCON and an exciting place to visit.
“Goura Vrindavan is a spiritual and ecological sanctuary—a place where you can experience peace and quiet, go deep into spiritual practice, and explore the raw nature and beautiful waterfalls,” Achyutanda says. “And of course, it’s the only ISKCON temple right in the middle of the rainforest!”
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