Vrindavan Comes to South India
Devotees from Balramdesh have created South Vrindavan in Kerala in an enchanting atmosphere with a lot of dedication. How the idea to create South Vrindavan came to their mind and how they executed it, writes Udarakirti Caitanya Das from Balramdesh-
Balramdesh congregation is very special. They run a temple with no full-time devotees. Sri Sri Krishna Balram, Sri Sri Radha Bahrineesvara, Sri Sri Gaura-Nitai and Sri Sri Prahlad Narsimha Dev are well served by the devotees. The devotees are simple and a smiling lot. After their official work , they are in the temple, cutting vegetables, cooking, cleaning…, all in bliss. There are classes in 9 different languages. It is all by the mercy of Srila Prabhupada and blessings of HH. Jayapataka Swami Maharaj, who is the spiritual master of most of the devotees and taking care of the congregation.
Being in the middle east, Friday is a Holiday, after mangal arati few devotees will go out for plucking flowers, Sudama, Udarakirti and Venu Vrijesvara were regular, early 2000, all in their early thirties, would joke, Krishna Katha and argue on philosophy were their regular fun during flower plucking. One day their discussion turned bit serious, we will lose all these wonderful lives once we leave Balramdesh. The morning mangal arati, smiling devotees around, cutting vegetables, cooking for the Lord and the devotees, the fun of flower plucking and arguments…… one of them raised the question why we cannot have a similar atmosphere in Kerala. A project where we stay together, temple, plucking flowers, devotees, cooking, cleaning ……. Every week they discussed it, the spirit was going higher and higher. They asked many senior devotees, hardly anyone encouraged, they said, “It is a tried and failed formula by many devotees”. The temple President HG Veera Krishna Das Prabhu, they saw him as very compassionate, was approached. He was very happy and encouraged,” go ahead”.
They decided to spend part of their holidays searching for land, many lands were seen in the first year, either did not like or not have the capacity to go for it. The next year they saw a land full of bush, but no one knows why everyone simply liked it. They decided to buy it, few more devotees now joined, the number increased from three to nine. They purchased that land and made the layout, 40 cents of land in the middle for the temple with 6M wide road around and surrounded by house plots for the devotees. A small temple plan was prepared, and without any resource, it was just kept as a dream. Meantime Udarakirti spoke to Pundarika Govinda Das who constructed many temples, to give some directions. He made a sketch of a much larger temple. Udarakirti, knowing well the capacity, raised the concern to Pundarika Prabhu. “ We do not have the capacity for such a big temple”, Pundarika Govind Prabhu’s reply was firm: “ You cannot construct a temple with your strength and money, only by Sri Krishna’s mercy that it can happen, just depend on Him. Udarakirti felt so convinced and said yes to it.
The dream was expanding. The next time a 3-acre neighboring land was for sale, without knowing what would be the outcome, paid the advance for the land with practically no resource in hand. A plot layout was prepared and many booked those plots. This was phase II. The members became more confident and added more land as phase 3 and phase 4, now totaling around 12 acres. The number of South Vrindavan members increased from 8 to 85. Even though peacocks are rare in Kerala, peacocks are regular visitors in South Vrindavan. It is also fascinating that this area was the place of an ancient temple, to protect the deity during Tipu sultan’s invasion, the deity was moved to Trichur and now the Lord is worshiped in the famous Thirivambadi temple. The original temple pond is still there near South Vrindavan.
The 8000 Sq feet temple construction took around 4 years, Sumadhura Caitanya Das who is an interior designer by profession and a South Vrindavan Member put his heart and soul to it. Most of the south Vrindavan members and few other well-wishers jubilantly supported the project with whatever little capacity they had. What is so special is that the temple architecture design or shape did not come from any professional, rather evolved as the construction was progressing with inputs form many, It was simply Lords mercy that the temple was built and completed.During construction practically no one was at the site for direct supervision. That was a great challenge, all control on daily phone calls from Balramdesh. An art worker suddenly came and created a sample design on a pillar. It was so attractive. Even though the plan was for a plain construction due to fund constraint, the art worker was asked to go ahead with further artworks – not knowing how the payment can be made.
It was a miracle, ultimately such a magnificent temple is manifested. The deities are Sri Sri Radha Vrindavan Krishna, Sri Sri Jagannath Baldev Subhadra, and Sri Sri Gaura Nitai. A very beautiful murti of Srila Prabhupada decorates the temple hall. There are many artworks including traditional mural art, a 10 feet tall Narsimhadev, Bhagavad Gita, Dasavatars are to name a few. On the skylight ceiling, look up, one will see Goloka Vrindavana surrounded by spiritual planets and the sides are decorated with Krishna Lila and Caitanya Lila. The realization for many is that It is an empowered project rather than a well-planned, self-motivated project. It is desire transformed to devotion being becoming tools to execute Sri Krishna's plan. Many devotees were tools in the hands of the Lord in one way or the other.
There is regular Srimad Bhagavatam and Bhagavad Gita Classes. One of the main purposes of the whole project is to disseminate Vedic knowledge far and wide, by discourses, cultural activities etc. in various parts of Kerala if not outside. Also to show by practical example a community living based on Vedic culture and adapted to today's world.
The temple which is the first Radha Krishna temple in Kerala was inaugurated in May 2016 and resident devotees are taking care of the services. Seeing the uniqueness of the project, there is an interest for similar projects by devotees both in Kerala and outside. South Vrindavan is moving forward with future plans- Guest House, Marriage hall, Prasadam hall, Ayurvedic facility, school – fully depending on Sri Krishna’s will. It is only 20 minutes’ drive from Guruvayur on the Trichur- Guruvayoor road, near Kaiparambu. It is a must for all who are visiting Kerala to see this temple, devotees, and surroundings- simply amazing.