New Pune Temple Complex Will Focus on Community
An incredible two hundred thousand people are expected to flood in to ISKCON Pune’s New Vedic Cultural Centre complex for its opening on February 24th.
The huge complex is bound to wow, and is a major development for ISKCON Pune, whose growing congregation urgently needed a larger place to worship and host their community activities.
The temple itself will be built with alternating white marble and Rajasthani red stone, featuring tall domes and a Jagannath Puri architectural style.
Its ground floor will be a multi-purpose hall for lectures and cultural programs that can sit 3,000 people.
Pradakshina marg surrounding the temple
Its first floor will be the temple hall, housing three altars. Placed around the hall’s circumference, in recesses in the wall decorated with computer-controlled changing colored lights, will be murals of the twelve mahajans (great souls) mentioned in the Bhagavat Purana: Shiva, Narada, Brahma, the four Kumaras, Kapila, Manu, Prahlad, Janaka, Bhishma, Bali Maharaja, Sukadeva Goswami, and Yamaraja.
Above them, in the center of the ceiling, will be a mural of Radha and Krishna on a swing, surrounded by the eight sakhis (Radharani’s assistants) and eight peacocks.
The temple will also feature beautiful murals of Lord Krishna and Lord Chaitanya’s pastimes—including a huge piece behind the murti form of Srila Prabhupada, showing Sri Chaitanya and his associates chanting and dancing in Navadvipa.
Even outside the temple, no detail will be spared. A ‘pradakshana marg,’ a kind of path that leads devotees in respectful circumambulation around a place of worship, will surround the temple, and will feature twenty-four fiber-glass murals depicting the pastimes of the saints Prahlad and Dhruva Maharaja.
Connected to the pradakshana marg will be a bridge that leads worshippers from the Radha Vrindavanchandra temple to an entirely separate temple for Mr. Banerji’s Balaji Deity.
Inside Dome of temple
Seated atop a hillock, it will be built in typical South Indian architecture and boast steps up to it, just like the original Balaji temple in Tirupati, South India. It will also have its own separate kitchens and a pond outside where festivals for Balaji will be celebrated.
As well as these two temples, the complex will also have a prasadam hall with space for 3,000 people to eat, a residential ashram for 300 brahmacharis, and an administrative building with offices and a reception area.
But most exciting is a building for VOICE: A Vedic Oasis for Inspiration, Culture and Education. This educational wing of ISKCON Pune will feature several seminar halls of different sizes to accommodate different groups, and is one of the community’s major focuses.
“We do training programs for college youth, including a series called Essence of Bhagavad-gita,” says Radheshyam. “We do seminars for children, teenage boys and girls, and our group FOLK: Families of Lord Krishna arranges special programs for about 200 families. We also do corporate seminars that add spirituality to techniques of conflict resolution, stress management, mind management, and time management.”
“More than 300 devotees have already taken houses all around the temple, and eventually we expect there’ll be 400 to 500,” says Radheshyam.
It’s a thriving community, and at its essence community is what ISKCON Pune is all about.
“The goal of this temple is to bring about love and care for the devotee community,” Radheshyam says. “We want the temple to be a central focal point, where all the core congregation members can come together to hear and chant, and there can be a very nice loving bond between brahmacharis and grihastas.”
The temple, under the moniker New Vedic Cultural Centre, will also provide a venue where talented artists of all kinds can express their devotion to Krishna in performances that will happen nearly every day.
Meanwhile, VOICE will train and educate young devotees in Krishna consciousness, preparing them to preach in Pune, and around India and the world.
Finally, the community will also be a haven for senior citizens, where they can worship, live nearby, and spend their last days absorbed in Krishna consciousness.
“According to Vedic literature, there are five people in society who require attention: the elderly, children, women, cows and brahmanas,” says Radheshyam. “So we want our project to pay special attention to these five categories of people—to enrich and support them, so that the whole community will feel a great sense of belonging; and a great sense of confidence in practicing Krishna consciousness.”