(Dandavats.com) – the saga of ISKCON Ludhiana, over 15 years in the making
By Pavni Gaurangi
A grand temple project reaches its completion to help the people of Ludhiana, Punjab, serve the Lord better.
Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Thakur, the Spiritual Master of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, wanted him to preach the holy name, far and wide. This gave birth to his mission of introducing ancient vedic wisdom to a global audience and Srila Prabhupada founded the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON). He saw it grow into a worldwide confederation of more than 100 temples, ashrams and cultural centers. In a letter written in 1968 to his disciple Mukunda Dasa, Srila Prabhupada says “Yes, it is a very good idea to build a nice Temple for Krishna, and apply all energy for Krishna.” Thus, simply by building temples it can be ensured that the transcendental holy name is chanted in one’s surroundings constantly, that devotees can serve the lotus feet of the Lord, offer the Lord respectful worship, offer prayers to the Lord and become His eternal servants. Once a temple is present one can associate with pure devotees whose association is important for making progress on the path of Bhakti. Thus, a great step in this direction, by the mercy of Krishna, the ISKCON Janpath temple, Ludhiana was finally inaugurated on the 23rd and 24th October this year.
Right at the heart of Punjab, its largest city, Ludhiana is not only famous for its hosiery and cycle industries but also has a deep connection with spirituality. An evidence of this deep connect, Shri Mahinder Goyal, Shri Mahesh Goyal, Shri Jagdeep Singhal and Shri Vinay Singhal donated a 4.25 acre space, a mere 15 k.m. from the Ludhiana railway station to ISKCON in 2007 as they hoped for a grand temple be constructed there. Putting together the pieces of a puzzle Turning the dream into a reality was not easy as there were a lot of obstacles that occurred. However, the first was a strange challenge because the land was in an unusual shape, making it difficult to construct a well connected temple complex. However, rather than letting this situation discourage them, by Krishna’s mercy, the devotees who led this project thought of a unique idea to fix this issue – land exchange! The idea was simple yet intelligent: to rearrange the temple’s proposed location with a piece of land next to it, creating a proper space for construction. Once this was done successfully, the deity of Ananta Sesa was installed on the auspicious occasion of Akshaya Tritiya, 24th April 2012 by the blessings of His Holiness Gopal Krishna Goswami Maharaja.
The temple’s construction began in full swing and His Holiness Bhakti Rakshak Gokulanand Maharaja guided the project team led by HG Rakshanath Das, alongside his brothers HG Acintya Tattva Das and HG Vishnu Gaura Das. They took upon themselves the responsibility of constructing the temple. They personally supervised the entire construction work apart from a 5000 sq feet chunk which was done by a contractor. This not only helped save cost but ensured attention to detail. They dedicated extensive time and effort, being present at the Temple’s construction site, ensuring that every little element was taken care of. However, to everyone’s shock, the project came to a stop, suddenly, when both of the temple’s roofs, on the first and the second floors, sank around 9 inches. With its devastating impact, it drove the heartbroken devotees to approach HH Gopal Krishna Goswami Maharaja for help. When Maharaja learned this, he encouraged the devotees by saying that they mustn’t give up. He asked them, “if this happened in your own factories, would you let the production stop?” Everyone agreed that they wouldn’t. Drawing a comparison, Maharaja thus instructed them to treat the temple project like they would treat their own livelihoods and push the work forward, come what may. Krishna’s Will
The circumstances were worrisome to say the least but like he promises in the Bhagwad Gita, verse 9.22, Krishna ensured that despite the monumental damage caused, it ultimately led the project to blossom into an even better version of itself. Help arrived quickly as HH Gopal Krishna Goswami Maharaja sent over HG Murlidhar Gopinath Das, a noted structural consultant to assess the underlying cause of the damage caused to the temple. Further, experts from the Guru Nanak Dev Engineering University also assessed the faults and opined that there was a lack of steel usage in the structure.
Climbing the mountain, yet again
After extensive analysis, the consensus was that the causal factors were rooted in structural fault. Hence, the structural plan of the temple was revised, despite a lot of construction already having been completed. Retrofitting was incorporated and it seemed as if things were back to the drawing boards since all of the columns were redug to help fix the structure. Additionally, the octagonal structure was rebarred and modified to a rectangular one, with the temple’s total covered area finally amounting to over 100,000 sq feet.
The Lord arrives
With these iterations taking place, it was going to be a long time before the temple became fully functional, thus, the Temple Festival Committee in Ludhiana requested the Deity Ministry to help explore the possibility of installing deities in the temple in early 2018. With regular Sunday festivals already being held in the premises, HG Seva Tulya Dasji visited Ludhiana in response to this request. During his visit, he came across the deities of Sri Jagannath, Baladeva and Subhadra that had been installed at HG Rakshanath Das’ place in 2007, who were coincidentally around the same time as the land for this temple project had been acquired. HG Seva Tulya Das recommended that these deities be installed at the temple and to this day, they are being worshiped there, now to be accompanied by their lordships Sri Sri Radha Gopinath.
The Lord’s majestic abode
Having finally been completed after over a decade and full of ups and downs, the Sri Radha Gopinath Temple, Janpath, Ludhiana is a sight worth beholding. Built in a majestic, Rajasthani architectural style, it reveals itself to the visitors in layers, block by block. With a beautiful approach road, the temple’s entrance makes way for ‘Pankaj Sarovar’ lined with water fountains. Beside this is the ‘Pushpa Vatika’ a delightful garden, while opposite to the sarovar is an amphitheater with a seating capacity of over 500 devotees. In the next block is the ‘Tulasi Prangan’ followed by a plaza housing 6 shops which lead the way into the temple. A perfect place for performing deity worship according to the Narada Pancaratra tradition, the temple complex with a capacity for over 2500 devotees, houses three palace like altars in a temple hall featuring marble wall sculptures of the dasavataras. The altars are by 3 spacious changing rooms for deities and one transfer room. To house the brahmacharis, six dormitories have been constructed inside the premises to accommodate 36 devotees. These are accompanied by a well equipped guest house and a resplendent 17,000 sq ft banquet hall to host spiritual events and celebrate important milestones in devotees’ lives. Gathering funds and Dedication of devotees The project cost totalled to INR 30 crore over 10 crore of which was contributed by HG Rakshanath Das, HG Acintya Tatva Das and HG Vishnu Gaur Das. Engrossed in the service of the lord, these three brothers and their families made an exemplary contribution to the temple project. They left no stone unturned by devoting not only their resources but all of their time and energy over a period of almost fifteen years to ensure that the temple saw the light of day. They also helped put together the ISKCON Mandir Steering Board, Ludhiana, a body which helped generate the remaining half of the funds. Here, devotees such as Shri Rajesh Dhanda, Shri Ajay
Singhania, Shri Rajesh Newtia, Shri Rajesh Gupta, Shri Alok Ajwani and Shri Saurabh Grag stepped up to solicit contributions and contributed relentlessly. HG Rakshanath Das, President, ISKCON Janpath, Ludhiana says, “The project was nothing short of a rollercoaster ride. The COVID came in between which affected the speed of construction. But miraculously, the services kept continuing. At various points of time, we felt lost and discouraged, but Gopal Krishna Maharaja was always there to push us. We have no doubt that the project could proceed further and be completed by transcendental desires and effort of maharaja.”
The entire project was a huge team effort of numerous devotees and their families. HG Rantidev Das HG Shakti man Shyam Das, HV Dev Narhari Das, HG Yamal Arjuna Das along with their families made a significant contribution to the project.
A majestic, two day inaugural ceremony took place at the temple premises in the presence of HH Gopala Krishna Goswami Maharaja, HH Bhanu Swami Maharaja, HH Prabhodananda Saraswati Maharaja, HH Bhakti Rakshak Gokulananda Maharaja and HH Bhakti Anugraha Janardana Maharaja and HH Bhakti Karunanay Vanmali Maharaja. Several Prabhupada disciples and senior Vaisnavas such as HG Mahaman Das, HG Sarvadrik Das, HG Shri Dhama Das, HG Devakinandan Das, HG Umapati Das (Kenya), HG Brajendra Nandan Das, HG Rukmini Krishna Das and HG Amogh Lila Das were also present and doled out their blessings for the new beginnings. Panjab Chief Minister Sardar Bhagwant Singh Mann also graced the occasion as devotees from Delhi -NCR, Punjab, Haryana, Bahadurgarh, etc assembled to celebrate. A Vishnava Homa took place in the afternoon and followed by the Netronmilan ceremony on the 23rd evening. During this, a cloth which had been gently fastened around the deities’ eyes was untied and Sri Sri Radha Gopinath opened their eyes for the first time. This was followed by the Vandapanam ceremony where the deities were shown auspicious articles and the Shayana Adhivasa through which Sri Sri Radha Gopinath were put to rest for the night. The next day began with a Nyasadi Homa followed by the Maha Abhishek where their lordships bathed in fresh juices, honey, milk and other nectarian liquids. This led to the final Prana Pratishta where the Lord’s senses were awakened and they were finally installed in the sanctum sanctorum, finally blessing the devotees with their first darshan as the presiding deities.
A Glance at the future
Moving forward, as the host to one of the world’s largest Rathayatra, the Ludhiana temple aspires to strengthen the devotee community, conduct better, grander Rathayatras in the coming years while expanding its structure. As of now, the vision is to create a bigger guest house and more classrooms which serve as the space for the first and the most important process of Bhakti, sravanam. When asked about the future of the temple HG Acintya Tatva Das, the Vice President, ISKCON Janpath, Ludhiana, “I am feeling immensely grateful, humbled and indebted to Krishna that this project has finally been completed. I welcome everyone to taste the nectar of Krishna Consciousness and am hopeful that the temple will help contribute to a better future for the residents of Ludhiana by standing with the community in all times to come.”
A place for the people
The temple currently has a vibrant community of over 600 devotee families who have actively helped run the Food for Life program since COVID-19. With around 8 to 10 thousand meals being distributed daily and over 5 lakh meals being distributed to date, the temple aspires to be a center for spiritual development, community enrichment and a force of positive socio-spiritual change, guiding the youth of Punjab to a brighter tomorrow. The two ISKCON Temples in Ludhiana and their Jagannath connect Even the deities installed at the ISKCON center at Bindraban Road, Ludhiana have a special story. When this temple was being built in 2003, HG Rakshanath Dasji was looking for deities to be installed there. Their Lorships would have it, HH Bhakti Ashraya Vaishnav Swami Maharaj recommended a set of Jagannath, Baladev, Subhadra Deities. These were built using the remnants of the materials used in the Jagannath Puri temple deities that were installed after the Nabakalebar 1996. Consequently, these deities made their way to ISKCON Jagannath Temple, Bindraban Road, Ludhiana and they can still be visited for Darshan.
By Pavni Gaurangi
Currently building her start up focused on K-12 education, Pavni is a trained linguist and pedagogical researcher. In her time off, she loves going on dham yatras and plays the mirdangam.