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Hundreds Gather in “Old Vrindaban” to Celebrate Multiple 50th Anniversaries

ISKCON News

(iskconnews.org) – Hundreds Gather in “Old Vrindaban” to Celebrate Multiple 50th Anniversaries

All photos courtesy of Nikunja Vilasini Devi Dasi, New Vrindaban.

On June 7th, 2023, hundreds of devotees gathered in “Old Vrindaban” at the historic original farmhouse temple to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the installation of the Sri Sri Radha Vrindaban Nath Deities there in 1973. Five years earlier, in 1968, this wood-framed farmhouse was the only homestead on the 133 acres devotees leased. A year later, in 1969, Srila Prabhupada stayed in this farmhouse for over a month. This extended stay was the first of four visits he made to the fledgling farm community in rural West Virginia.

The original installation of Sri Sri Radha Vrindaban Nath happened on a very busy weekend in June 1973. That same weekend was also the groundbreaking ceremony for Prabhupada’s home, his Palace of Gold. The Sri Sri Radha Madhava Deities were also installed at the Madhuban temple just a few miles away. Madhuban was another farmhouse on an adjacent tract of land that became a temple in 1971.

The New Vrindaban Village Association working in collaboration with ISKCON New Vrindaban, organized this special day to celebrate these milestones. Over 200 devotees gathered at the farmhouse, freshly painted and decorated with flowers and banners. The land was cleared and mowed, and pandals were erected to give visiting devotees shelter and provide an intimate atmosphere for sharing memories.

The program began when the deities arrived by car and were carried by the head pujari on a palanquin toward the pandal. With loud joyous kirtan amidst a shower of flower petals thrown by the devotees, the deities were placed on a flower-decorated makeshift altar in the pandal.

Special guests Varsana Swami, Radhanath Swami, and Candramauli Swami were given seats of honor and invited to speak about the occasion’s significance. In the 1970s, Radhanath Swami had worshipped Sri Sri Radha Vrindaban Nath at the farmhouse for seven years, along with Candraumauli Swami, who served as the deity cook preparing all the daily offerings. Varsana Maharaja Swami began by relating the history of the events of the fateful weekend, and all three shared their memories of these austere but awesome years. 

After the talks, an elaborate full abhishek was performed, accompanied by non-stop melodious chanting of the holy name. The atmosphere became surcharged with the vision of the deities being bathed in specially prepared fruit juices, milk products, and honey.  All second-initiated devotees in the audience were invited and eagerly lined up to bathe Their Lordships. 

While abhishek was going on, adjacent to the pandal, under a very large old maple tree that Srila Prabhupada sat near in 1969, an outdoor kitchen was crowded with devotees preparing a feast. Giridhari Dasa, who was only a toddler when the Deities were installed in 1973, had manufactured unique “smokeless” wood-fired cooking stoves from old water heaters to prepare the prasada. This helped re-created the simplicity and austerity that marked those early years when devotees first came to the farm. 

As the feast of samosas, puris, Gauranga potatoes, pineapple chutney, subjis, halvah, and ice cream was served, the deities were brought into the farmhouse temple. They were then placed on Their beautifully decorated altar, which replicated the original altar They were worshiped on in the 1970s.

Srila Prabhupada had come to the Old Vrindaban farmhouse a final time in 1976, and a photograph displayed in the farmhouse temple room shows him taking darshan of Sri Sri Radha Vrindaban Nath there. “The atmosphere was surcharged with the spiritual family feeling we had in the old days of the Hare Krsna movement,” said Nityodita Das, Chairman of the New Vrindaban Village Council, “Many said it was the best festival they had ever attended.”

As the crowd of devotees dwindled, Radhanath Swami informally remained in the farmhouse temple room, sharing intimate sweet stories of his and other devotees’ devotional service to the deities offered in those days.

From that initial farmstead first leased in the 1960s, New Vrindaban has expanded significantly, “New Vrindaban currently stretches over 6.5 miles and has more than 250 residents,” said Temple President Jaya Krsna Das, “About 100 devotees live near the temple, either in ashrams for celibate men and women or in temple apartments. Many families own land and have built their own houses.”

According to Jaya Krsna, the farmhouse will be carefully restored beginning July 2023, with possible plans to recreate Srila Prabhupada’s living quarters as the New Vrindaban pioneers remember them.

For videos from the event, you can visit Siksastaka Dasa’s YouTube. We thank him for sharing his content and Nityodita Das for providing details of the day.

To follow other upcoming events or initiatives at New Vrindaban, visit their website, Facebook, and Instagram.

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