A Barren Land Turns into an Oasis
The Glory of Saurashtra
The inauguration ceremony of ISKCON temple in Rajkot, “The Glory of Saurashtra” was celebrated with great enthusiasm on the auspicious day of Sri Rama Navami (14th Apr 2019) in the presence of exalted sannyasis, senior disciples of Prabhupada and senior vaishnavas from across the world, presided over by ISKCON India Chairman and GBC H H Gopal Krishna Goswami Maharaj and ISKCON Gujarat Secretary and senior disciple of Srila Prabhupada, H G Yashomatinandan Prabhu. Thousands of devotees from around the world participated in the 3 days’ festivities and over 50,000 visitors thronged the temple to take darshan of Their Lordships entering into Their most opulent home. In the evening on 14th Apr the Chief Minister of Gujarat Sri Vijay Rupani and Governor of Karnataka Sri Vaju Bhai Valla graced the occasion and gave very beautiful speeches glorifying Lord Sri Krishna and Srila Prabhupada.
The Pioneer and Visionary
H H Mahavishnu Goswami Maharaj, the pioneer and visionary of Sri Sri Radha Neelmadhav temple is a well-known elderly sannyasi in ISKCON. He is famous for his love for Bhagavatam and the unique way in which he inspired everyone to take Bhagavatam as the life and soul. By his loving guidance, simple way of devotional service and practical application of the shastras in day to day life, not only many newcomers got attracted to Krishna consciousness but also the practicing devotees gained more faith and conviction in the path of bhakti. He built a beautiful stone temple for Sri Sri Rukhmini Dwarkadish in Dwarka dham in 2003 and in 2019, 9 years after he entered the eternal pastimes of Lord Krishna in 2010, this grand beautiful marble temple manifested as a result of his pure devotion, simplicity, unflinching faith in Srila Prabhupada and firm faith in Srimad Bhagavatam.
The Humble Beginning
H H Mahavishnu Goswami Maharaj and H G Yashomatinandan Prabhu were once traveling in Gujarat in the year 2002 passing by Kalawad Road in the outskirts of Rajkot and Prabhu showed a piece of land to Maharaj informing that he bought it in 1986 but it is barren and nothing could be done with it. Maharaj stopped by the land and requested Yashomatinandan Prabhu if he can do some service for Srila Prabhupada with this land. Yashomatinandan Prabhu happily gave it in the good hands of Maharaj to offer it in the service of Srila Prabhupada.
Daunting Challenges and Indomitable Spirit
When Maharaj stepped into this piece of land in Rajkot in 2002, he was 83 years of age and the land was barren with no water at all. Depending completely on Krishna, Maharaj intensely prayed hard and daily chanted Srimad Bhagavatam and the holy names in the land with a handful of devotees who would go out on harinam every day in the city. Pleased by the intense devotion of his devotee, the Lord miraculously revealed a source of water in that barren land. Maharaj then enthusiastically embarked upon the construction of a mid-size temple structure with a 20 room guest house ably assisted by a local businessman Sri Mahendrasingh Jadeja. The guesthouse was completed in 2003 and the deities’ Sri Sri Radha Neelmadhav, Sri Prahlad Nrsimhadev and Sri Sri Jagannath, Baladev Subhadra came along as They desired and were installed as per the vedic tradition. Ever since Their Lordships arrived in Rajkot in 2003, the city which was reeling under drought every summer until then, has been receiving ample rains miraculously every year to give great joy and relief to the residents.
The Growing Days
By Maharaj’s purity and association, a nice congregation developed along with increasing visiting devotees from all over the world. Sunday feast very soon became popular and the entire hall was filled with hundreds of devotees singing and dancing for kirtans. Janmashtami was celebrated across 4 days with lakhs of local devotees attending the festival. Ratha yatra and all other festivals were attended by thousands of devotees. Maharaj very soon inaugurated the Gopal’s Goshala too with more than 20 cows. He inaugurated a nice Vedic school – Sri Prahlad International School in which over 120 children joined to study in a devotional atmosphere. Maharaj, being a teacher himself, loved teaching the children every day. However not one to be satisfied ever with the limits of his service, Maharaj soon revealed to us his long term vision as his life time offering to Srila Prabhupada, a huge gorgeous marble temple for Sri Sri Radha-Neelmadhav and initiated the project as ‘The Glory of Saurashtra’.
Bhumi Puja with a Difference
The Bhumi Puja for the grand temple was performed in 2007. During the Bhumi Puja, Maharaj made us do a unique service. He made all the devotees to write the Hare Krishna Mahamantra in several notebooks and fill all the pages with the holy names. Then he instructed us to place them all in the foundation along with Ananta-sesha. He then emphatically said, “The holy names will be the foundation of this temple and the holy names will build the temple. We are not building it. The only thing we have to do is sincere bhakti in the form of chanting, reading, mangala arati and service. This temple will stand on the strength of our sincere devotional service.” Then by the unlimited mercy of Supreme Lord Krishna, the temple construction began.
Fund Collection is Krishna’s Responsibility
Maharaj ensured that the construction work progressed according to the in-flow of funds. Whatever Lakshmi came in, will go into the construction 100%. At the same time, Maharaj followed a strict principle - he would never open his mouth for donation. His famous statement often rings in our ears, “Our job is to do Bhakti and it is Krishna’s job to build His temple. Why should we go and collect for His temple?” He also said once to our surprise, “If Krishna gives us money only enough to build the foundation, we will build the foundation and do our sankirtan there.” Such was his contentment in whatever Krishna reciprocates.
Maharaj instructed his disciples with three main principles for temple construction:
Never beg for Lakshmi from anyone.
Work hard to build the gorgeous marble temple for Their Lordships, Sri Sri Radha-Neelmadhav.
Practice loving dealings and serve everyone with humility. Do not serve only those who satisfy your senses.
On top of these strict principles, Maharaj also said, “At the time of inauguration, provide the best accommodation, transportation and prasadam facilities for visiting devotees and spend with a wide-heart.” How to implement these principles which are impossible to practice collectively? Maharaj showed us by his own example that the only way we can follow these principles is by developing unflinching faith and devotion at the lotus feet of the Supreme Lord. There are several instances where devotees would promise that they will give a lump sum amount but later strayed away from their promise. But Maharaj was never upset with them and always gave them the soothing shade of his loving shelter. At the same time, he would never appease some wealthy person just to get donation from them. In this regard, he would often refer to this beautiful sloka from the shastras which he practiced for life-time.
re re cātaka sāvadhāna manasā mitra kṣanam śruyatām
ambodhā bahavo vasanti gagane sarvepi naikādrśā
kecid vrṣṭibhir ārdrayanti dharani garjanti kecid vrithā
yam yam paśyasi tasya tasya purato mā brūhi dīnam vacah
Cataka is a bird that drinks only rain water and only on the swati nakshatra day. The devotee is addressing him, “My friend Cataka, please hear me for a second. Always be aware in your mind. In the sky, there are so many clouds. But not all clouds may quench your thirst. A few of them may wet the land and a few others may simply make sound and pass away. So please do not open your mouth at the sight of every cloud for want of water and utter begging words.”
There are times when devotees would repent that they could not offer any Lakshmi service. Maharaj would tell them lovingly, “Don’t worry son. No need to send any money. You send your chanting rounds to us, your rounds will build the temple. If you are in need of any Lakshmi, we will give you. Son should not hesitate to ask for any help from the father.”
Bhakti Builds the Temple
Maharaj said, ‘When we build a temple we build our devotional service. It is non-different. So the fabric of our bhakti should be the foundation of the temple.” The main temple in Rajkot was built by the tireless efforts and guidance of Maharaj. He would talk to every construction worker lovingly enquiring about their well-being, family and everything else. The workers happily remarked, “We had built many temples. But this temple is very unique because we get love along with the salary.”
An Exalted Vaishnava Returns to Krishna’s Abode
On Jan 25, 2010, Maharaj wound up his pastimes in the material world at the age of 91 and entered into the eternal abode of Lord Krishna. Although Maharaj left our mundane vision, we could feel Maharaj’s presence in every step of the development of ISKCON Rajkot. He left the service of completing the ‘Glory of Saurashtra’ project in the hands of his disciples, ably led by H G Devakinandan das (Singapore) and H G Vaishnava Seva das. As years went along, the donations were coming mainly in trickles from a handful of Maharaj’s disciples. As Maharaj taught us that the natural outcome of Bhagavatam study must be detachment, some of the disciples gave their entire inheritance, savings and earnings to push the project to completion and many others in different parts of the world began to contribute according to their individual capacity.
H G Vaishnava Seva das managed the administration of the temple construction along with running the Sri Prahlad School, Goshala and the Congregation expertly, guided by H G Devakinandan das, following the instructions of Maharaj. Many times they had to deal with critical health issues, lack of funds, lack of man power and various other challenges but their unflinching determination in fulfilling Maharaj’s desire along with the sacrifices and contributions of various disciples and well-wishers around the world made this unique offering of Maharaj to Srila Prabhupada a reality.
Krishna Builds His Own Temple
The temple construction service picked up speed around 2014. The original plan made for the temple and the current majestic form that has manifested in front of our eyes are unimaginably different. Even the architect and structural engineers themselves are wonderstruck by this outcome. This obviously proves that an impossible construction has become possible because of Maharaj’s purity and intense desire to please Krishna. By the blessings of exalted vaishnavas such as H H Gopal Krishna Goswami and H G Yashomatinandan Prabhu and many other sincere well-wishers in Srila Prabhupada’s transcendental family, the huge gorgeous temple, fully cladded with marble was inaugurated on the most auspicious day of Sri Rama Navami with the installation of Sri Sri Sita Rama Lakshman Hanuman.
Current and Future Preaching Programs
By the hard work and endeavors of H G Vaishnava Seva das and his team of devotees following in the footsteps of H H Mahavishnu Goswami Maharaj, a nice congregation has been developed over the years and many new devotees keep joining the family of devotees regularly. By Krishna’s causeless mercy a nice weekly youth program is conducted for the students in the nearby colleges who are attracted to the temple environment, prasadam and engage in various service. With a number of colleges in the vicinity of Rajkot, many systematic programs are being organized to attract the youths to Krishna consciousness. There is also a weekly Radharani Sabha for matajis in the congregation. On a regular basis visiting devotees give Bhagavad-gita and Bhagavatam classes which encourage the devotees to take up study of Srila Prabhupada’s books seriously.
In the upcoming days, the following projects will be launched by the blessings of Sri Sri Radha-Neelmadhav.
Annamrta Seva – Thousands of Government school children in Rajkot will be fed lunch every day.
Goshala expansion – The current goshala will be expanded to include 50 more cows and calves and their products will be utilized to propagate a vedic life style.
Govinda’s Restaurant – A nice sophisticated Govinda’s restaurant is being launched to distribute prasadam to visitors as desired by Srila Prabhupada.
Ayurvedic hospital – A nice Ayurvedic hospital is planned to be launched to serve patients with natural medicines.
Vedic Library – A Vedic library comprising of all ancient books, Srila Prabhupada’s books and all our acaryas’ compositions is planned in the temple campus.
In the future, the Glory of Saurashtra ISKCON temple will become an important place of visit in the entire state of Gujarat. This is now the largest temple in Gujarat. This temple is a boon for all the pious people of Rajkot. In fact, it is not just for the residents of Rajkot alone, this would be a great cultural center, par excellence that would help in the material and spiritual progress of all mankind.
- Kalacakra Krishna das.