ISKCON New Vrindaban Continues its Jubilee-Year Celebrations
On Thursday, 17 May 2018, a second VIP event was held at ISKCON New Vrindaban to celebrate its fiftieth anniversary with dignitaries, supporters, friends, and local and worldwide devotees. It was an opportunity to thank the guests for their unrelenting support during New Vrindaban’s fifty-year journey.
The pre-event began with a tour of Prabhupada’s Palace of Gold, the breathtaking memorial shrine (Smriti Samadhi) of Srila Prabhupada, while the lady guests were treated to henna tattoo art and saris to wear to the occasion.
Advaitacharya Dasa, one of Srila Prabhupada’s disciples and a resident of New Vrindaban was impressed at the devotees’ efforts in organizing the event. He said, “At the scheduled 6 p.m. start time it began to rain, and I was surprised to see devotees stationed in the parking lot, providing guests with umbrellas and escorting them to the venue. Entering the new beautifully decorated Yogashala, guests in formal attire were welcomed by bright-faced devotee hosts. While piano music softly played in the background, the guests were treated to hors ’d oeuvres of samosas, kachoris, idli, chutneys, vegetables dips, and beverages. Devotees and guests mingled while introducing themselves and looking at different poster presentations of our years here in New Vrindaban.”
Thereafter, several speakers expressed their gratitude to New Vrindaban and highlighted their experiences with its residents and followers. Jaya Krsna Dasa, the temple president of ISKCON New Vrindaban, spoke of the events planned to celebrate the Jubilee year. He expressed the mission and mood of the community and how New Vrindaban was established to mirror the holy land of Vrindavan and to offer people an alternative to modern, fast-paced, materialistic civilization with projects such as cow protection, self-sufficient agriculture, spiritual education, and a place of pilgrimage, all meant to nurture one’s love for God. He also highlighted New Vrindaban’s achievements during its fifty-year journey, including the New York Time’s description of New Vrindaban: “Welcome to Heaven.” Jaya Krsna told the audience how CNN had described Prabhupada’s Palace of Gold as one of the “eight wonders to see in the US,” how it has become internationally renowned and attracts more than 30,000 tourists and pilgrims every year.
Anuttama Dasa, New Vrindaban’s Governing Body Commissioner, spoke of the global ISKCON organization, which has grown to 650 temples worldwide and many farming communities, of which New Vrindaban has played a historical, vital, and vibrant role. He outlined how the global ISKCON community is contributing towards world peace by propagating core values such as equal vision, right action, humility, and non-violence through the preservation of all life.
Two talented ISKCON musicians, Kripamaya Dasa and Rukmini Krishna Dasa, then led the audience in a soul-stirring display of playing the karatalas accompanied by the chanting of the maha-mantra. The audience played along too, enthralled by the spiritual experience. Prasannatma Dasa, a stroke neurosurgeon, and one of New Vrindaban’s longstanding devotees and supporters, expressed how much he enjoyed receiving his personal hand-painted karatalas and joining the symphony of transcendental sound. He said, “To my astonishment, even first-time participants joined the sankirtana with great enthusiasm and expertise. A touching video presentation of New Vrindaban followed, which was a moving experience to me. It presented Srila Prabhupada’s visits to New Vrindaban and the devotees’ intense labor and austerities, even to the extent of waking at two every morning, taking cold-water baths in the freezing winters, and the women having their babies at home without doctors. It also showed the devotees’ fervent endeavors to construct Prabhupada’s Palace of Gold. Despite all of this, the devotees were happy, living a simple life in service to Krishna and Srila Prabhupada, and within ten years the community grew from 60 to 600 residents.”
In a panel discussion, three of these residents, Nityodita Dasa, Gopisa Dasa, and Gopalasyapriya Dasi reminisced about the pioneer days, sharing the joys and the trials of the time.
A musical interlude by Kripamaya Dasa and Lilasukha dasi captivated the audience as they again took up their karatalas and played to the rhythmic chanting and prayers.
The State Historic Preservation Officer, explained how New Vrindaban blends architecture and history in one place. Visiting the Palace of Gold, the beautiful gardens, the barns where the cows are taken care of, and listening to the peacocks are unique experiences that stir the soul.
In a heartfelt letter, Delegate Mike Ferro outlined his relationship with the residents of New Vrindaban and expressed his gratitude for their friendship. He said, “50 Years at New Vrindaban shows that your religion is enduring. That it remains constant and vibrant, and that it remains holy and practical to all the devotees who practice and embrace the Krishna faith. “
The final speaker was the President of West Liberty University, who spoke about the values and vision of ISKCON. He described how he had spent hours learning about the Bhakti-yoga process, which the New Vrindaban community emulates. He encouraged everyone to read Srila Prabhupada books, which elaborated on this process, and whose teachings would bring peace and harmony to the world.
The formalities ended with an entertaining Indian dance by Kumari Mayshark Patel.
On the way to the dining hall, the guests were pleasantly surprised by a Swan Boat Festival on one of New Vrindaban’s lakes. Dr. Greiner offered arati to Sri Sri Radha Vrindaban-Chandra who gazed at everyone mercifully from Their swan boat amid music, kirtana, and fireworks. The guests were given small gifts to remember the occasion—the surprise being their very own handpainted pair of karatalas, and the evening ended with a sumptuous authentic Indian feast, a perfect finish to the historic event.
Gopalasyapriya Dasi, another Srila Prabhupada disciple, was taken aback by the wonderful attendance and the overall organization of the event. She expressed, “I was able to meet and speak with numerous professors and educators from the local colleges who attended, including the president of West Liberty State University. Some of the few people I interacted with were the chief of police from Moundsville and his wife, a lawyer from Pittsburgh and her husband, and a nurse from Wheeling Health Right. I was thankful to be a part of this enlivening event, which gave me a chance to see how much our community is appreciated by many people from all walks of life in the secular world.”
She added, “It seemed everyone felt honored to have been invited, and they expressed great appreciation for our commitment to the ISKCON New Vrindaban project, for having had the wherewithal to continue through the good and bad times. I must admit, that night I felt proud to be a part of New Vrindaban.”