A temple was inaugurated last week on the fringes of Action Area IIIE with much fanfare. Spread over two acres, the place was being run as a cow shed of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (Iskcon) for the last three years. A spiritual retreat will also come up here, among other things in future, where people can experience life close to nature for some days, the authorities say.
“We have our main temple in Albert Road, south Kolkata for over five decades. But we came to New Town because this is where the city is expanding and a new township is coming up. And we wanted a space in the lap of nature. That would not have been possible in any other part of the city,” Acharya Ratna Das, chairman of Iskcon New Town, told The Telegraph.
The deities at the temple.Sudeshna Banerjee
The complex is located diagonally opposite Sukhobrishti. Its approach road runs along the boundary wall of New Town Heights. There are 23 cows currently being nurtured here, with just one of them being milk-bearing. “We do not rear cows for commercial reasons. Many villagers from nearby villages of Kandakeshari, Kadagram or Patharghata who are unable to look after their cows surrender them to us,” he said.
A three-day installation ceremony took place at the temple for two marble idols of Gaur and Nitai brought from Jaipur. Held between May 19 and 22, the ceremony had devotees come from nearby villages. Salt Lake and New Town, the Iskcon headquarters at Mayapur as well as all the way from Russia, which traditionally has a large congregation of devotees.
“Some of our senior-most sanyasis, like our governing body commissioner Jaypataka Swami, a direct disciple of our founder Srila Prabhupada, preached online. Radhanath Maharaj, another governing body commissioner, also attended virtually from Mumbai. Atul Krishna Prabhu flew over from Australia,” said Acharya Ratna Das.
The temple is open to visitors from 7.30am to 1pm and then 4am to 8.30pm. The temple’s activities start at 4.30am with a series of aratis, followed by a japa session and mantra meditation.
Classes are held for visitors on The Bhagavat Gita, both in the morning (8 to 9am) and in the afternoon (4 to 5pm). “We have online courses too on personality development whereby we teach family and social values, obedience, leadership and chanting based on Prabhupada’s teachings,” he added.
While the single storeyed temple is ready, an adjoining two-storeyed structure is still under construction. “We will have a guest house there for people to come and stay. We will start yoga and music classes. We have already started organic farming in a small way but we will expand it over five or six acres. We want to grow our own vegetables. The number of cows in the goshala can also be extended to 100. Visitors can experience simple living, high thinking amid nature.”
The masterplan is not yet ready for the centre but Das says a museum on the founder’s life might be built here. “We may be spread across the globe but Calcutta is special to us as this is Srila Prabhupada’s birthplace. This is the 125th anniversary year of his birth and the 100th year of his meeting with his guru who asked him to spread Krishna consciousness across the world. So this year is also special for us,” he said. Incidentally, the building in Ultadanga where the first meeting of Iskcon founder Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada with his guru Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati took place in 1922 was reinstated as a seat of Vaishnava spiritual practice this February by Iskcon.
Explaining the choice of Gaur-Nitai as the deities in the temple, Das said for a centre which has just opened this made more sense as worship of Radha Krishna involves more rules and regulations. More deities might be installed in future, he pointed out. A seated statue of the founder occupies a spot opposite the deities in the temple.
The temple authorities are also planning to do their bit for the uplift of the adjoining villages. “We want to start skill development programmes to boost their employablity, Sunday school for the village children and a medical clinic where doctors will give free service,” he said. A resident of Sunny Fort, gynaecologist Sankar Dasmahapatra, is taking the initiative for Bhakti Vedanta Clinic.
A big festival is being planned for Janmastami in August, he added.
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