It’s that time of year again. Does 24 hours of non-stop, out-of-this-world kirtans, with sumptuous prasadam in the company of 100s of great souls in the serene setting of the lush Appalachian foothills sound like your kind of fun? If so, New Vrindaban’s Summer 24 Hour Kirtan is the place to be. Come Chant Hare Krishna with us & be happy!
By Madhava Smullen
For thirty years, a very special Lord Nrsimhadeva Deity has protected the devotees of New Vrindaban and all of North America, and received their love and service.
Now, residents of the West Virginia village want to invite people from all over North America to come celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of His installation, and to behold the only full-size Nrsimha Deity on the continent, on His sacred appearance day.
Sculpted by artist Soma Das in New Vrindaban and installed in 1986, the ferocious half-man, half-lion Lord with his deep black skin and golden mane stands at a towering seven feet tall next to his boy devotee Prahlad – so the celebration is sure to be an awe-inspiring spectacle.
Although the original installation was on January 6th, this year’s epic three-day anniversary festival will run from Friday May 20th – Nrsimha Chaturdasi – to Sunday May 22nd.
On the first day, all the devotees will bathe the full-size Deities with a variety of liquids including milk, yoghurt and ghee from New Vindaban’s own protected cows. During this maha-abhisekha, one thousand Nrsimha Kavachas will also be knotted together into one huge garland, and offered to the Lord.
On Saturday, the Nrsimha Kavacha mantra will be chanted 108 times during a fire sacrifice to invoke the feral Lord’s protection, and the thousand Kavachas will be distributed to the guests.
And on both days, there will be dramatic retellings of the story of Nrsimhadeva and Prahlad by award-winning storyteller Sankirtan Das; roaring kirtans, special Nrsimha aratis; and delectable feasts – with many of the community devotees bringing offerings from their homes. Sunday, meanwhile, will wrap things up with a Govardhana parikrama and Sunday Feast.
But perhaps one of the biggest treats of the festival will be the Nrsimha Katha on both Friday and Saturday. Senior Prabhupada disciples Urmila Dasi and Srutakirti Das will speak about Lord Nrsimhadeva’s loving pastimes; Soma Das and other early New Vrindaban devotees will share their memories of sculpting and installing the Lord thirty years ago.
Back then, Soma recalls, New Vrindaban devotees had longed to install Nrsimhadeva for protection for many years.
“Then one day, I was walking from Prabhupada’s Palace down to the old temple at Bahulaban,” he says. “I had already finished my japa, and I remembered reading in the Nectar of Devotion that performing service in your mind is as good as performing it in real life. I started to meditate on making a beautiful Nrsimhadeva Deity, and installing Him in a wonderful temple. So when I was asked later if I wanted to sculpt Him, I was over the moon!”
Like most of the pioneering devotees building up New Vrindaban at the time, Soma, then 32, had no professional experience or education in sculpting. Instead, he had learned on the job; his many sculptures, including a giant Gaura-Nitai and bas relief forms of Jaya and Vijaya, already adorned the community.
Beginning work on Lord Nrsimhadeva and Prahlad Maharaj in October 1985, he first formed the Lord from clay. While doing so, he consulted the Shilpa Shastra and other Vedic texts, particularly the descriptions of Nrsimha in Prabhupada’s Srimad-Bhagavatam.
He also consulted Sri Vaishnava priest Sampat Kumar Bhattacharya, head of the Tirupati temple authority TTD, who had been personally praised for his expertise by Srila Prabhupada.
It “just so happened” that as Soma was sculpting Lord Nrsimhadeva, the Bhattacharya was visiting nearby Pittsburgh to open a South Indian temple there – the first time a Sri Vaishnava priest had ever done so outside of India.
“He came by, approved my work, and answered all my questions,” Soma says. “Like the whole process, it seemed like divine arrangement. It really felt like Lord Nrsimhadeva wanted to appear in New Vrindaban, and I was just working for Him. It didn’t even feel like I made Him.”
The Deity was completed quickly, in only three months. Kumar, Sudhanu and their mold shop crew made plaster molds from Soma’s clay original and poured in epoxy resin mixed with granite dust and ground-up West Virginia coal for the jet black color. Prahlad, meanwhile, was cast out of cultured white marble.
Although the devotees were pensive because there was only one chance for the cast to work, they breathed a sigh of relief and awe when on the fateful day, Kumar opened the molds to reveal the beautiful Deities of the Lord and His devotee.
“I remember we all ran over to see Him come out of the mold,” recalls Madhurya-lila Dasi. “It was amazing.”
Meanwhile, all the different Deity worship departments at New Vrindaban were in marathon mode as the installation date loomed.
Ishani headed up the jewelry workshop with a small core group, including Madhurya-lila, Gopi, and Janaki, and got help from anyone else she could. Her team created pieces by soldering brass or copper jewelry findings together, electroplating, cutting crystals to create jewels, and hammering relief designs by hand – all of it learned through books and on the job.
“We were working from 7 in the morning until probably 10 or 11 at night,” says Madhurya-lila. “And I’m pretty sure all of us pulled at least one all-nighter.”
Despite this, Madhurya-lila – who will also create the Lord’s jewelry for the 30th anniversary — says she loved it. “There was a team spirit that I’ve rarely experienced anywhere else in my life. I would go back to that jewelry shop in a heartbeat. There’s no place I’d rather be.”
The result of all this dedicated teamwork was a gorgeous full set of golden jewelry set with red and green jewels for Prahlad and Nrsimhadeva: a large tubular crown, sudarshan chakra, conchshell, earrings, necklaces, arm and ankle bracelets, and tilak and belt. Ishani created the Lord’s eyes as well, along with Kuladri Das.
The Deity Sewing Department, headed by Adhara Dasi and her dedicated crew of women, also worked around the clock in the months leading up to the installation day, creating new outfits for the Lord and His boy devotee. These included a beautiful yellow dhoti and crimson chaddar lined with gold for the Lord, a purple dhoti with violet chaddar for Prahlad, and a velvet backdrop adorned with winding flowered vines.
For the installation on January 6th, 1986 and surrounding three-day festival, hundreds of devotees from all over North America gathered for ecstatic chanting, dancing, feasting, dramas and more – just as they will on the 30th anniversary celebration.
Gaura Keshava Das, a brahamana priest who had been trained in South India by Sampat Kumar amongst others, performed the elaborate installation rituals, including fire sacrifices in the yajnashala outside the temple, and Prana Pratistha.
“This involved touching the heart of the Deity, and inviting the Lord to please expand His heart and reside within the Deity, and accept the worship of the devotees,” Gaura Keshava recalls.
During this process, four strong devotees carried the 400-pound Lord into the temple room. A blindfold was removed and His eyes were ceremonially opened. He was then installed with much pomp upon a beautiful golden altar and throne cast by Kumar in New Vrindaban.
From then on, Lord Nrsimhadeva was very merciful to all the New Vrindaban devotees, and especially the Prahlad-like children – in the 1980s, the older gurukula boys would perform all His morning aratis, while once a week the women and younger boys and girls would worship Him.
Today, His early servants such as Srimati, Jayasri and Lokadristi continue to worship Him alongside new pujaris like Abhinandana Das.
And now, at this May’s unmissable 30th anniversary celebration, we’ll all get to feel His love and protection, as we hear from those who were there how He appeared all those years ago in New Vrindaban.
(New Vrindaban, West Virginia, March 28th, 2016)- Govinda’s Restaurant, the only vegetarian and vegan restaurant in the Ohio Valley area officially opened for the season on Friday, March 25th, to the delight of visitors and locals alike, having been closed for the winter. This hidden gem, tucked away in the serene Appalachian foothills, is definitely a must go.
Govinda’s Vegetarian Restaurant offers a wide range of menu options for its visitors. While authentic Indian cuisines is the specialty, delicious Italian dishes, including lasagna, pasta and pizza are on the menu. For the not so adventurous palate, American dishes such as veggie burgers and a Philly cheesesteak are also included. Healthier menu options like a new salad bar, green juices and smoothie bar will be added this year, as well as a variety of tasty vegan dishes, such as vegan wraps and daiya cheese pizza.
Most of the vegetables used in these delicious preparations are literally garden fresh and some produce comes directly from New Vrindaban’s organic garden, while almost all of the milk comes from New Vrindaban’s cruelty-free, protected cow program established in 1967. “We use organic, non-GMO foods as much as we can and try to use only the most natural ingredients possible”, says Vasudeva dasa, the General Manager of the restaurant. Soon, he hopes to produce enough vegetables from the local garden to supply the restaurant year round.
Govinda’s recently welcomed new kitchen manager, Dina Mani dasa, who owned two successful restaurants, and brings over 15 years of expertize to the team. He is excited about adding healthier menu options and plans to add to the already robust International menu. Guests will be pleasantly surprised with the affordable menu pricing and selection available. Don’t miss the special buffet offered on weekends priced at just $11.99.
In preparation for the busy year, the restaurant was repainted and renovated with an expanded storage room and kitchen areas, as well as a new dining section that will accommodate more guests. Beautiful new décor was added throughout the restaurant, including paintings, fabrics and elegant lotus lights, that brighten the area.
“I was happy to be greeted by such a cheerful host. I really enjoyed the ambiance and the food was astounding. I hope to get back there soon as this is the only vegetarian restaurant in the area,” says Robert Steltenpool.
From the friendly staff and stunning atmosphere to the amazing gourmet cooking, it is not hard to see why over 20,000 delighted customers visit Govinda’s annually. Govinda’s has been serving delicious international cuisine for over 20 years and is sure to have something for everyone.
Currently, Govinda’s is opened on weekends, Friday – Sunday from 3 pm – 9 pm and beginning May 1st, will be opening from 12 pm – 9 pm every day. The restaurant is conveniently located at 3759 McCrearys Ridge Rd., Moundsville, WV 26041. You can contact us at 304 843-1600 ext.101. https://www.facebook.com/Govindasnv or http://www.palacelodge.com/services.html
By Bhaktin Autumn
Lord Nityananda’s Appearance Day, also known as Nityananda Triyodasi, is celebrated all over the world by Gaudiya Vaisnavas. Lord Nityanada is the most magnanimous expansion of Lord Sri Krishna, and Who is none different from Lord Balaram. Lord Nityananda is the adi guru, the first guru, and He is worshiped as the most merciful incarnation of Godhead.
New Vrindaban devotees celebrated this most auspicious appearance day of Lord Nityananda on February 20th, 2016. Around 120 devotees from the community and the surrounding areas gathered to glorify Lord Nityananda and to seek His mercy.
The celebration began with an ecstatic morning program where devotees enthusiastically participated in chanting and dancing as if Lord Nityananda was personally present. The program continued with Guru Puja and Deity greetings followed by a wonderful Caitanaya Caritamrta class given by Sankirtan Prabhu on various pastimes of Lord Nityananda. In his class, Sankirtan Prabhu explained how Lord Nityananda showers His mercy to everyone without even considering their qualifications.
Madri devi dasi, who always relishes the Vaisnava songs, organized the community devotees to come sing bhajans for the pleasure of Lord Nityananda Prabhu. One of the many songs sung was Boro Sukher Khabor Gai by Srila Bhaktivinode Thakur. In this song Bhaktivinode Thakur writes, “Lord Nityananda is greatly merciful. Taking only one’s faith, He gives the highest ecstasy, except for the lotus feet of Lord Nityananda, there is no other shelter”.
H.G. Gaur Gopal Prabhu, one of the senior disciples of His Holiness Radhanath Swami, visited New Vrindaban Dham from ISKCON Chowpatty, India, for the first time. He gave three excellent seminars in glorification of Lord Nityananda with themes “Service: The Heart of Vaisnavism”, “The Mercy Department,” and “the Original Spiritual Master”. In his seminars, Gaur Gopal Prabhu described Lord Nityananda as an extremist, Lord Balaram as a separatist, and Lakshman as a loyalist. The reason Lord Nityananda is described as an extremist is because Lord Nityananda gives His mercy to everyone even Jagai and Madhai, who are considered to be the most sinful. Everyone appreciated Gaur Gopal Prabhu’s seminars.
Every devotee had the opportunity to bath Their Lordships Sri Sri Gaur Nitai with honey, water, fruit juice and flowers during the abhiseka.
Lakshman Isvara Prabhu led electrifying kirtan during the Gaura Aarti. Everyone ecstatically jumped, danced and chanted Nitai, Nitai, Nitai Gauranga!
The program ended with a grand feast cooked by Brhat Kirtan Prabhu and Sivaraj Prabhu, the feast included rice, dhal, subjis, dahi vara, kachori, tamarind chutney, puri, and cake baked by Lakshman Isvari Prabhu.
Jaya Nitai, Jay Nitai, Jaya Nitai!
Join us for a jubilant time pulling Lord Jagannath, Baladeva & Lady Subhadra’s cart amongst the picturesque atmosphere of New Vrindaban Dham. This country style Ratha Yatra is not to be missed. If ponds filled with lotuses, fragrant wild flowers, melodic kirtan, fresh air & pleasing the Lord by taking Him on a rural outing excites you then please come join in on the fun.