By Iskcon Bangladesh
After six years of hard struggle, patient effort, determination, heartfelt prayers and steady devotional service for the devotees of ISKCON, Netrokona-the grand opening took place on the 2nd January,2016. This marked the beginning of a new chapter for the ISKCON devotees in Bangladesh and especially for those in the Mymensingh Division. Netrakona Pouroshabha (Town of Netrakona) is an old municipal town, established in 1887 and is located only 40 kms away from the Mymensingh city (the headquarters for this division).
ISKCON devotees started preaching in this town few years back and then in October, 2010 they started a small preaching center in a small rented place. In 2011 they did the first Jagannath Ratha Yatra in Netrokona town and it was a huge success. As the number of devotees in the community grew, the need for a permanent residence for Lord Jagannatha, Baladev, Subhadra and Sudarshan became increasingly evident. The devotees began looking for suitable land nearby and when H.H. Subhag Swami Maharaj went to Netrokona in 2012, he gave his blessings for one land adjacent to the preaching center. As Srila Prabhupada once mentioned, "Because if you come to the temple, you get so many facilities to make advance in spiritual life. This is our mission. We are opening, spending so much money for opening gorgeous temple. It is not new thing. This is very, very old, coming by parampara system. There are many thousands of temples in India, very old, five thousand, three thousand years old. Why? The acaryas wanted to give facility to the common man to enter into spiritual life. That is the idea."(SB 7.9.5 Mayapur, February 12, 1976)
The local devotees headed by H.G. Joyram Prabhu, H.G. Anantadev Prabhu and H.G.Tulasi Prabhu worked very hard to collect the funds for buying this land. One year later in 2013, the devotees were able to purchase it. Then they began planning for a nice temple and an ashram for the devotees. Finally after the Ratha Yatra festival in August 2015, construction work was started in full swing and devotees were working round the clock to have the temple ready by the end of December.
The temple opening date was fixed on 2nd January, 2016. As the month of December was approaching, devotees were worried whether they would be able to finish the temple in time to welcome Their Lordships to Their new home. The devotees also started preparing for a 3-day festival for celebrating the temple inauguration, celebrating 50 years of ISKCON and 75th Vyasa Puja of H.H. Subhag Swami Maharaj from 2nd to 4th January, 2016.Invitations were being sent out to devotees all over Bangladesh and hectic last minute preparations were made to ensure the temple was ready for timely opening.
H.H. Subhag Swami Maharaj arrived with a group of devotees on 28th December to oversee the preparations for the temple opening. H.G. Caru Chandra, General Secretary of ISKCON Bangladesh, kindly agreed to preside over the 3-day festival. Devotees from across the country and abroad- namely Dhaka, Narayanganj, Barisal, Chittagong, Sylhet, Mehron, Trishal, Narsingdi, Pundarik Dham, Tangail, Coxes Bazar, Jhalokathi, Durgapur, Mymensingh, Kishorgonj, Sherpur, Jamalpur, Brahmanbariya, Mayapur and other places came for this festival.
The festival started with Mangal Arati on 2nd January at 4:30 am in the old temple. The darshan arati, Srila Prabhupada Guru Puja and the morning Srimad Bhagavatam class were held for the last time in the old place. Then H.G. Madhav Murari Prabhu, Vice-president of ISKCON Bangladesh and Head Pujari of ISKCON Dhaka, led the fire sacrifice (yajna)in the new temple premises. On the completion of yajna, devotees enthusiastically carried Their Lordships from the old temple hall to the new alter accompanied by a roaring harinaam sankirtan. In the midst of the sweet vibration of the chanting of the Holy Names, a colorful bathing (abhishek) ceremony was held for Sri Sri Jagannatha, Sri Sri Baladev, Srimati Subhadra Maharani and Sri Sri Sudarshan in the fully packed temple hall.
While the deities were being dressed, Subhag Swami gave a short lecture on the significance of having this new temple at Netrokona. Maharaj has been one of the pioneers of ISKCON preaching in Bangladesh since 1982. He shared his long cherished desire of a having a nice ISKCON temple around Netrokona and that was finally coming to fruition. While Their lordships were offered their rajbhoga (lunch), Maharaj led an enthusiastic kirtan and the devotees were wildly jumping around eager to have the first darshan of Lord Jagannath in the new alter. Soon the conch was blown and Subhag Swami offered the first Maha Arati to Sri Sri Jagannatha, Sri Sri Baladev, Srimati Subhadra Maharani and Sri Sri Sudarshan at Their new residence. Then Sri Sri Jagannatha Mahaprasad was profusely distributed to the assembled vaishnavas. Later in the evening, H.G. Madhav Murari Prabhu performed the adhivas ceremony for the 75th Vyasa Puja of H.H. Subhag Swami. This was followed by devotional cultural program.
On 3rd January, the celebrations started with a harinama procession by all the devotees through the main streets of Netrokona town in the early morning. Following the Guru Puja of Srila Prabhupada, Subhag Swami gave an enlightening Bhagavatam class explaining the real meaning of Vyasa Puja - one day in a year, on the birthday of the spiritual master, because he is representative of Vyasa, he is delivering the same knowledge which has come down by disciplic succession without any change, he is offered the respect. This is called Vyasa-puja. And the spiritual master receives all honor, all contribution, on behalf of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, not for his own self.
Around noon, H.H. Subhag Maharaj offered arati to Srila Prabhupada and personally performed colorful maha-abhisheka of the Srila Prabhupada deity which was broadcasted live on mayapur.tv and another Bangladeshi channel called Gazi Tv. Then the assembled devotees offered flowers and arati to Maharaj. Then H.H. Subhag Swami was interviewed by the Gazi Tv and later he gave the Vyasa Puja address to assembled vaishnavas. A short glorification ceremony was held to glorify Srila Prabhupada and one of his dearest sons, Subhag Swami.
A senior Srila Prabhupada disciple, H.G. Tejiyas Prabhu sent his offering online. He wrote, "The aspect of Maharaj that impresses me the most is how very very personal, and very very kind he always is and how all of his actions always are of the purest of transcendental kind. Our Srila Prabhupada has given a simple two sided formula to use as a guideline for our spiritual life, by saying that Krishna consciousness is to always remember Krishna and never forget Him. I have experienced in Maharaja's association that, even though I am such a dull person, somehow I am instantly inspired to remember Krishna and in his association I think it is impossible to ever forget Krishna even for a nimish" Some of the other devotees who spoke on this occasion included ISKCON Dhaka Temple president H.G Caru Chandra Bramhacari Prabhu; Sylhet temple president H.G. Navadwip Dvija Gauranga Prabhu; Coxes Bazar Temple President Radha Govinda Prabhu;Narsingdi Temple President Prahalad Prabhu. Subhag Swami concluded with a sweet kirtan and a nice feast was served to all. Then there was more glorification, drama and tribal dance in the evening. The next day the devotees went for a spiritual retreat nearby along the bank of a river for chanting, dancing, harikatha and feast at the end. We pray that Srila Prabhupada shower his profuse mercy on the devotees who worked so hard for making this festival a grand success. In the words of His Divine Grace, "I thank you so much for the new temples that are opening. Please conduct them nicely and enthuse the people to stick to the chanting of the Hare Krsna mantra and follow the rules and regulations. Then they will be strong enough to manage things very nicely. Other things will be supplied by Krsna." (SPL to Tamala Krsna, 18th October, 1969)