Tens of thousands of devotees and members of the public attended the recent opening of the grand new Sri Sri Radha Madhava Mandir in Kanpur, India – the second largest ISKCON temple in the world after the society’s headquarters in Mayapur, West Bengal.
Among the guests in attendance were Uttar Pradesh Governor Sri Ram Naik and Nagaland Governor Sri Padmanabh Acharya, who presided over the inaugural ceremony.
ISKCON VIPs present included Governing Body Commissioners Gopal Krishna Goswami, Bhakti Charu Swami, Radhanath Swami and Anuttama Das; senior Prabhupada disciples such as Bhurijana Das, Deena Bandhu Das, and Lokanath Swami; and zonal secretary Devakinandana Das, who realized the project and oversaw the grand opening.
Gathering in the grand temple hall
The epic festival ran from October 1st to 5th, with guests arriving on the 1st, while on the 2nd the Deities of Sri Sri Nitai Gaurasundara, Sri Sri Radha Madhava, and Sri Sri Sita Rama Lakshman Hanuman were moved from Their old temple room on the same property to the huge new temple hall with great pomp and circumstance.
On October 3rd, the auspicious day of Sri Ram Vijaya Dashami, better known in India as Dusshera, the main installation ceremony was held.
An elaborate yajna, or fire ceremony, began at 8:00am and was accompanied by chanting of Vedic and Upanishadic mantras. This was followed by a two-hour abhisekh (bathing ceremony).
The altar was then closed while the Deities were dressed, as dignitaries gave a series of speeches. After these, at 2:00pm, Their Lordships were revealed in Their gorgeous new outfits on Their new altar for the first time.
Other events throughout the festival included lectures and kirtans by senior leaders every evening, as well as several different cultural stage programs, such as a drama on the ancient epic Ramayana.
A particular highlight was an elaborate dance presentation on Lord Krishna’s pastimes and the great saint Mirabai by Hema Malini. A longtime Krishna devotee and supporter of ISKCON, Malini is a legendary Bollywood actress and a Member of Parliament for Mathura, Lord Krishna’s birthplace.
There was also a special kids’ festival dubbed “Natkhat Gopal Mela” which was organized from October 1st to 3rd by ISKCON Mumbai’s Krishnamayi Dasi and proved extremely popular, drawing 1,500 to 2,000 people daily.
Meanwhile delicious Prasad (sanctified food) was served to all, courtesy of head chef Gauranga Das of ISKCON Chowpatty.
“Donors and other guests liked the festival very much, calling it the grandest festival in the history of Kanpur,” says temple president Premharinam Das. “They especially liked the yajna kunda (fire pit) prepared by the pujari (priest) department. And devotees were also appreciating the opening ceremony very much and were grateful to be a part of it.”
With the opening festival now behind it, construction of the first phase of the mega Sri Sri Radha Madhava temple complex, designed by renowned Mumbai architect Prem Nathji, is expected to be completed within the next four to six months.
It will include not only the 160,000 square-foot white marble temple with three majestic domes, but also a Vedic ashram with space for 200 resident monks, a guest house, Food For Life center, community hall, Vaishnava training academy for youth, gift shop, Govinda’s restaurant, a Goshala for cow protection, and a Bhaktivedanta Book Library with a conference hall.
The complex sprawls across fifteen acres of gardens and ponds, and is located on the banks of the Ganges, near Bithoor, close to the birthplace of the great boy devotee Dhruva Maharaja and the ashram of Ramayana author Valmiki Muni.
Today, devotees in Kanpur – one of the industrial and educational hubs of India -- are already realizing a lot of projects close to Srila Prabhupada’s heart.
They are caring for sixty cows in the Goshala; distributing “Food for Life” in neighboring villages; preaching to youth at many major Kanpur universities, and running sumper camps for children as well as life patron and congregation programs.
“During our inauguration, Gopal Krishna Goswami told us how Srila Prabhupada looked forward to Kanpur being the spiritual hub for Northern India,” says Premharinam. “So in turn we look forward to taking Srila Prabhupada’s movement to the people.”
“Furthermore,” he adds, “Lokanath Swami has predicted that Kanpur will emerge as a global center from where the Holy Names of the Lord will reach out to the world. So our long term plans for the Kanpur temple are centered around fulfilling these prophecies by the Vaishnavas, with Srila Prabhupada’s desire at the core.”[ kanpur ]