The holiest of all places in entire India, Mayapur Chandrodaya Temple of ISKCON is the major reason why devotees all over the world come to this sacred land. Inside you can see the magnificent deities of Pancatattva, Lord Nrisingha Dev, Srila Prabhupada and Radha-Madhav with the Gopis. This is a place flowing with devotion like no other place on earth.
This is the largest Vedic temple built in modern history at 600,000 sq. ft./65,032 sq. m. and a height of 370 ft./113 m., with three domes and eight Chatris, encompassing a footprint of 16 acres, and has been built to last for hundreds of years.
The temple hall is the largest in the world at 2.5 acres and capable of accommodating 10,000 people. The main temple dome, at 177 ft./54 m. diameter and 114 ft./35m. height, is the largest stainless-steel dome of its kind in the world.
The solid titanium Chakras and Kalashes atop the three temple domes are the largest of any known Vedic temple, the main dome Chakra measuring at 23 ft./7 m. in diameter.
The exterior temple structure is adorned by in-house-manufactured cornices, volutes, peacock statues and other ornamental pieces, and specially crafted sky-blue ceramic tiles embellished with stars and ribbons have been mounted onto the three domes.
Immense, in-house-manufactured pillars stand throughout the interior and exterior of the temple, set with the highest quality marble in the world. 45 exquisite Jaipur-style sandstone windows have been fitted into the white-marbled exterior walls of the structure.
Inlaid marble walls and floors will cover the entire temple interior, along with beautiful, locally-made bas-relief panels and paintings on its walls.
Within the main temple hall is situated the largest Vedic altar in the world, made from the best blue and white marble with gold inlays (134 ft./41 m. long, 49 ft./15 m. tall, 48 ft./15 m. wide), giving darshan of the murtis of Radha Madhava and the Ashta-Sakhis, Pancha Tattva and the Gaudiya Vaishnava Guru Parampara.
The Deity Seva Facility (Pujari Floor) consists of 69 dedicated rooms such as kitchens, dress making and storage rooms, arati preparation rooms, festival paraphernalia rooms and flower garland making rooms, spanning an area of 2.5 acres, and is the largest of its kind in the world.
Hanging from the ceiling within the Main Temple Dome is the centerpiece of the temple, a massive rotating cosmic chandelier 200 ft./61 m. high and 100 ft./30 m. wide, depicting the universe according to Vedic authority, ascending from the material to the spiritual world.
The East Wing Dome houses the solid granite and marble-clad altar of Prahlad Nrsimhadeva embellished with gold ornamentation and decorative elements in the form of chakras, peacocks, lotuses and other floral designs, and its size is 37 ft./11 m. in length, 26.5 ft./8 m. wide and 37 ft./11 m. in height.
Under the West Wing Dome will be the 200 seat, full-dome planetarium theater which will be used for screening a range of presentations of Vedic cosmology, philosophy and science, as well as for lectures, conventions and similar events. A Science Center/Exhibition Hall will be on the lower level. Four floors of exhibits encompassing 84,000 sq. ft./7,800 m. will utilize cutting-edge technologies such as projection mapping, virtual and augmented reality, holograms, motion-based simulations and more to present various aspects of Vedic science and philosophy, challenging modern mechanistic and atheistic views of reality.
Situated on over 60 acres of land, the temple will be surrounded by gorgeous gardens and walkways, water displays, residential quarters, shops, restaurants and schools, all within the expanding Vedic City of ISKCON Mayapur.
At the foundation of every civilization lies its world-view, which inspires its art and culture. This shared perspective shapes the values and sets the direction of a society. The Temple of the Vedic Planetarium will give visitors a unique insight into the Vedic world-view which is not only spiritual, but scientific and practical as well.
Modern scientific thought asserts that creation is essentially mechanistic, impersonal, and without basis in a higher intelligence. Societies which adopt this viewpoint seek to benefit from an increased standard of living on the material level. Unfortunately, a tendency then follows to minimize or criticize religion as an impediment to progress. The results can be seen in societies both developed and developing: disintegration of the family, substance abuse, mental illness, and the general degradation of morality and culture. In a rapidly changing world that is as bewildered as it is bewildering, the Temple of the Vedic Planetarium will re-orient us to our place in the universe, and show us how to arrive at our heart’s true spiritual destination through the practice of Krishna consciousness.
How to get to Mayapur
Mayapur is located in Nadia district of West Bengal, not far from the district headquarters Krishnagar. The ISKCON complex may be visited any time of the year but the best time is between November and March. Expect quite a crowd during school holidays and festive days.
How to go
The nearest airport is the Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport in Kolkata. Mayapur is about 130km by road from the heart of Kolkata and about 117km from the airport. From Kolkata, you have to make the onward journey by road or rail. From the city’s Sealdah station, you can take alocal train (can be crowded during office hours) to Krishnagar. You may hire a private vehicle or avail a local bus for the rest of the way to Mayapur; or you may take a rickshaw to Mayapur Ghat in Swarupganj, take the local ferry to Hulor Ghat in Mayapur and then take a rickshaw to the temple complex. There are a few trains running from Howrah station (the main railway station across the Hooghly River to the west of Kolkata) to Nabadwip Dham. From Nabadwip, you may take a rickshaw to Mayapur Ghat and then same as before. If you are a first time visitor or planning a short visit, one of the most convenient ways is to take the bus operated by the organisation to and from their office in Kolkata.
Where to stay
There are privately-run hotels and resorts in Mayapur. But the most sought after place to stay are the guest houses operated by ISKCON. There are four guest houses within the ISKCON campus – Gada Bhavan, Ishodayan Bhavan, Chakra Building and Conch Building. The reception is located in Gada Bhavan, which also has a sweet and snacks corner, a restaurant, and the Prasadam Hall. The Ishodayan Bhavan is the biggest of the guest houses. You can have the Thali Prasadam for lunch and dinner. The Conch Building is behind the main temple. Room rates vary depending on the facilities provided. For example, in Gada Bhavan, room rates range between approximately Rs 500 and Rs 2700. At the Gita Bhavan, there are both rooms and dormitories; you may also avail lunchand dinner facilities at the Prasadam hall. Gauranga Kutir and Nityananda Kutir have budget rooms with common washroom facilities. Please note advance booking of rooms made only 60 days prior to the check in date will be valid. Online booking is also available. Discounted rates available for long stays. Tip: In case you have not been able to book in advance, beat the reception of Gada Bhavan at 7am and if it is your lucky day, you may be able to avail a room that has been released owing to last minute cancellations. For life members of ISKCON, there is a 20 per cent discount on accommodation round the year and free accommodation and prasadam for three days and nights. However, check with the office if discounts are available for online booking or for latest information. Outside the campus, you may also check out the accommodation provided by many of the Gaudiya Mathas. But only a few have online booking facilities; most have to be booked over telephone or in person. There are also apartments for rent in Mayapur town. However, for booking accommodations outside the campus, do check for their nearness to the ISKCON temple complex, the cleanliness and the security of the place.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Tanmoy Das is the Krishna bhakt, a professional phographer, who is presently living in Mayapur, in the service of the Lord.