01/12/98 - 1493

Shri Mayapur News 1/4

India (VNN) - Shri Mayapur News. Vol 1, Number 4. December 1997
by Bhagavat Dharma das

Dear Maharajs and Prabhus

Here is the December issue of Sri Mayapur News. I have mainly concentrated on the SMPDC meetings, which were held at the end of November. I hope you will find this information interesting and useful.

This month has been quite a busy one for me, and I offer my apologies to anyone who did not receive a reply from me. I hope that next year, there will be another devotee working with me and we can improve this service.

All glories to all the sankirtan devotees who are making great sacrifices for Srila Prabhupada during this time of year.

I remain your servant

Bhagavat Dharma das

Shri Mayapur News. Vol 1, Number 4. December 1997.

adbhuta mandira ei haibe prakash
gauranga nitya-seva haibe vikasa

'One astounding temple will appear, from where Lord Gauranga's
eternal service will be preached all over the world'.

Lord Nityananda in the Navadwip Mahatmya.


This month, we have a report on the recent SMPDC meetings in Radlett. This was an important meeting in terms of the progress of the Project from being a design on paper to becoming an actual construction on the ground. The meetings brought a flurry of activity to our office here and a boost for all those present. There is a growing sense of the need for a deeper commitment by everyone involved, and also a need to involve a wider public of all the devotees and supporters of ISKCON.

Personally, I found the meetings very informative and enlightening. I began to see a bigger picture of the Sri Mayapur Project, and I began to understand how important this Project is to Srila Prabhupada. I hope my meeting notes will be able to convey a little of this understanding to you.

The purpose of this newsletter is becoming more defined for us. Our goal is to inform and involve you the reader, and to channel your feedback to the managers and leaders of the Project. Our first three issues have brought a tremendous response - over 250 letters in all. A large majority of devotees tell us that they see the Sri Mayapur Project as a flagship preaching project, and they feel encouraged in their own preaching endeavours to see such a pro- active and co-operative effort. Your feedback is not only influencing the way that we are presenting the Project, but it is directly having an effect on the Project itself. Please continue to let us have your views. I apologise to anyone who I did not get back to with a proper reply. I hope next year to have some help in this service, and I promise you better communications from this end.

To complete this newsletter, I have included an article from Paramananda das about the work of the recently re-named Human Development Division, which will be working to improve the living conditions of the dham-vasis who live around our campus in Sri Mayapur. Next month we will return to our standard format.

Please keep in touch.

Your Servant

Bhagavat Dharma das

COM: Bhagavat Dharma MG


On December 17th, Pada-Sevanam das, chief designer of the Temple of the Vedic Planetarium received an award for architecture from Prince Charles, at his official residence, St. James Palace. Britain's next king and Pada-Sevanam discussed the importance of tradition based on theistic principles. The Prince then expressed a desire to visit Sri Mayapur, when there is visible work on the temple construction, on the site. The Prince then chatted with Chakrini dasi, who attended with Pada-Sevanam. They discussed traditional Indian music.


The Sri Mayapur Project Development Committee is a sub-committee of the GBC, which was formed in 1979 to carry forward Srila Prabhupada's intention to build a magnificent 'Temple of the Vedic Planetarium'. The committee, over the years, looked at various possible designs. They settled on developing a design by Pada-Sevanam das, which was approved by a unanimous vote of the GBC in 1994.

The four members, Harikesa Swami, Jayapataka Swami, Abhirama das and Naresvara
das held a meeting in Radlett over a four day period from Nov. 27th to Nov 30th. It was a four-day marathon for the members and for the managers and staff of the various divisions.

First day, Nov 27th.
The main event of the first day was a presentation by engineering consultants Alan Baxter associates. The presentation concentrated on three issues, River Engineering, Earthquake Strategy and Construction Strategy.

Several devotees have written to ask about the possibility of the Bhagirathi changing course and sweeping away the Mayapur campus. Alan Baxter and his colleagues gave an in-depth presentation on this and about ways to prevent future damage.

River Issues.

It is important first of all to understand that the Bhagirathi has not been the main channel of the Ganges for many years. In the middle of this century, the Bhagirathi began to dry up, and only received waters from the main Ganges branch during the monsoon season. The Indian government, concerned about water levels at the port of Calcutta, built a massive dam across the Ganges, close to the Bangladesh border in northern Bengal. This dam, opened in 1974, is known as the Farrakah Barrage, and it has been a subject of constant dispute with Bangladesh over irrigation rights. The barrage can be raised for water to flow down to the Padma in Bangladesh, or it can be lowered, to channel the water, via a canal, down the Bhagirathi. A recent settlement with Bangladesh means that more water must be sent to the Padma, and consequently less down to Mayapur. The Bhagirathi is therefore not as wild as in former years.

That having been said the Bhagirathi is a very powerful river and a method was sought to protect the temple in case the course was to change. The first idea was a thick diaphragm wall, which would be placed in a trench up to 15m deep around the temple. Recent studies by Alan Baxter, on the Navadwip Bridge, showed that eddies in the current were more powerful than expected, and it was seen that the River could erode down to 25m. An alternative was needed, and after studies on other bridges and embankments in India, the engineers suggested a solution called 'riprap'. This procedure involves arranging very large boulders, larger than 2m in diameter, around the temple area. If the river approaches, the land is eroded, but such large boulders are not swept away in the current. They form a new bank and protect the area. Alan Baxter gave the example of the Paskey Bridge in Bengal, which crosses the Ganga. The bridge uses a riprap protection for pillars and columns. It has survived successfully since 1905.

Earthquake Protection.

Mayapur does not lie on a major fault, but there are occasional earth movements in the Bhagirathi basin. The engineers presented a risk assessment of the likelihood of large earthquakes in the region in the next 1000 years. They then suggested construction and protection elements for the temple accordingly.

The important construction element, which has been incorporated in the design, is to build the main masonry columns, which must take the weight of the domes, with a buttressing angle of 78 degrees. In addition, the four side domes must be built separately to the main central shikara, and all elements of the building must be free standing and not depend on each other for support.

Buttressing is always a feature of large masonry buildings that support a dome or roof. In non-technical terms it means that the base of a column is wider than the top. The rising angle of the columns gives added support. The engineers concluded after various studies on large masonry building in earthquake zones, and on technical calculations, that 78 degrees would support the additional forces generated by a moderate earthquake.

Construction Strategy.

The bedrock under Sri Mayapur is 300 meters below the ground level. Building of the temple requires, first of all, the construction of large concrete 'raft'. The engineers presented the first draft of a actual construction plan for the temple, beginning with the ground preparation and concrete raft, with appropriate balanced building on the raft in the following years. The presentation included manpower requirements for all the various stages. At the peak of building work, 1,300 people will be working on the construction, including 150 skilled masons. There was also a discussion about sourcing raw materials in the most cost-effective way.

Second Day, Nov 28th.

Akhandadhi das presented various crucial design issues to the SMPDC.


The design grew in scale since the last presentation to the SMPDC. The main reason was a decision to increase the size of the central altar. An option was presented to the SMPDC to reduce the overall size of the temple by 7 percent. They were in favour of this change.

Exhibition issues.

Various issues were raised. The designers were asked to look again at the corner areas of the temple, which would house the exhibitions. Sadaputa prabhu had expressed a need for large projection areas within the exhibition areas, of at least 5m high. There was a discussion on the inclusion of simulators, and the possible vibration and stress they would place on the building. There was also a discussion about large entrances to the temple for trucks and other vehicles. The exhibitions division will refine and present their needs more clearly within the next year.

Sacred Geometry.

There was a discussion on sacred geometry with Pada-Sevanam das, the chief designer. The temple has been designed according to the principles of Vastu as given in the Vedic scriptures. Pada-Sevanam showed that the design included ratios and measurements based on important astronomical distances. He also showed how the temple aligned with an energy pattern generated from atomic substance. He stressed that the design of a temple was meso-cosmic, an intermediate step between the micro and the macrocosm. These details were accepted as important for the Temple of the Vedic Planetarium, and more detailed work will be done in this area.

At the end of the second day, it was clear to the SMPDC members that as the actual construction approaches, a much more streamlined process would be needed for decision making. It was also clear that a more efficient system of accountability would have to be set up.

Third day, Nov. 29th.

On the third day, two parallel meetings were held. The SMPDC members, along with some of the senior managers discussed a change in approach, while the division managers discussed ways to make their presentations more efficient. In the late afternoon, both groups came together again.

The SMPDC decided to completely restructure the way they work, and each decided to make a greater commitment to the Project.

Harikesa Swami, as Chairman of the Board of Directors is responsible for vision and overall co-ordination, In addition, he heads the Human Development Division and the Exhibitions Division.

Jayapataka Swami is now the Design Director. He is empowered by the SMPDC to make design and concept decisions, for the Temple Design, The Master Plan and the Exhibition concepts.

Abhirama das, previously a developer for a major hotel chain in India, was appointed as full-time Managing Director. He will now work closely to oversee and support the work of the Project Management. He will work with the Project Management to look for ways to rationalise the structure of the Project.

Naresvara das is the Director of Administration. He will oversee all financial decisions, including budgeting and cash flow. He will also oversee all legal affairs, contracts and archiving.

In the afternoon, there was a fast moving meeting, chaired by Harikesa Maharaj, which went over various issues. It was decided to establish a West Bengal Support campaign to gather political support for the Project on the local, district and state level in West Bengal. Abhirama das and Rajarama das were deputed to put together a workable system for building permits in the township. There was a discussion about landfill. Gaura Shakti das, head of construction presented a plan to fill the entire area of construction up to a level of 6.5m above the river level. This will be decided at a later date. A group was formed to arrange a presence at Expo 2000, a large millennium exhibition in Hannover. It was decided that the Mayapur Gurukula will have to be re-located. Abhirama das and Rajarama das will look at the various options.

There was a discussion about Communications. Akhandadhi das presented feedback we have received. There was a discussion about the nature of the township. It was agreed that there must be opportunities for independent economic development for the residents. The Master Planning team will look to co- operate with the ISKCON Social Development group. Some devotees have expressed the view that Srila Prabhupada, given the history of ISKCON's development, may have chosen to emphasise Varnasrama development now, rather than the construction of a new large temple. Harikesa Maharaj spoke of how Srila Prabhupada sent him off to the fields to begin the temple building. Jayapataka Maharaj related that Srila Prabhupada said that the temple must be started as soon as possible, while he was still present. It was agreed that the Project would bring many benefits to ISKCON on a world-wide basis. It will show that ISKCON has a historical and cultural weight, and is not a 'new religious movement'.

Fourth day, Nov 30th.

On the fourth day, the SMPDC went into various aspects of the Master Plan. Abhirama das, aided by Samba das presented the most recent development map, which now includes new land in the north east of the Temple. It was agreed that the overall purpose of the Project should be defined as educational. The Temple itself is designed to teach visitors that there is an alternative to the empirical western view of life and the universe. There will be many teaching institutions in the new township.

There was a discussion about tree planting. It was agreed to set up a tree nursery when the requirements are fully understood. The members looked at a new road scheme started by the West Bengal government, which is a four-lane highway from Calcutta to Siliguri via the Navadwip side of the river.

The meeting ended on a Sunday evening, and all the devotees returned to their various services in the following days. In many ways, this was a ground- breaking meeting. The proximity of the start date of construction is focusing the minds of everyone, especially the SMPDC themselves. The SMPDC members have realised that their responsibility requires them to be more directly involved in the day-to-day running of the design and construction teams, and they are requiring more efficient management and accountability. The next meeting of the SMPDC will be in Mayapur during the Gaura Purnima festival.

========== THE HUMAN DEVELOPMENT DIVISION. ============

What is the Human Development Division?

In building a beautiful temple and temple town in Sri Mayapur, we must be very conscious of our effect on the local region. The Human Development Division is our effort to improve the lives of those who will be living close to the Project. We want to bring in planned changes, in partnership with local authorities and stakeholders. We particularly want to avoid typical unplanned shantytowns around Sri Mayapur built of oil drums, bamboo and old sacks.

At this point we have little or no influence on the area around our ISKCON campus. We have no means to steer the direction of -development around us. The purpose of the Human Development Division is to develop relationships with local forces and exert a positive influence. We will work with landlords, business owners, politicians and other stakeholders who will be influenced by, and who can influence, the development of the region of greater Mayapur.

Our partnerships must be built on a win-win basis. We cannot expect others to join wholeheartedly with us where only ISKCON benefits. We want all partners to see the planned sustainable development of Sri Mayapur as their personal concern. For a long time, we have been able to offer help to the region in times of crisis, especially during floods. Now our policy is to develop permanent welfare and social improvement programmes.

Healthcare and Education.

In the beginning we will develop health care services and education. ISKCON currently runs two clinics (At Swarupganj and in the temple compound), and one village school (at Balaldighi). Working with a specialist charity, we plan to launch an ambitious and sophisticated programme to improve mother and child health. We will develop our clinics and begin a desperately needed local ambulance service.

The Balaldighi village school program will be upgraded and we intend to start vocational education to help lower the unemployment in the region. In due course we will go into economic development with a micro-credit bank of the type that has been so successful in Bangladesh. Care will be taken that all our development is done with a concern for nature and in accordance with the United Nations principles of sustainable development.

The future.

At first the partnerships will be formed around specific issues, but in the future we will try to form a permanent body to channel the co-operative spirit. In principle it shouldn't be difficult. The development of Mayapur concerns everyone living in the area. It is in everyone's interest that it is done nicely. In real life it will obviously be very difficult since there is always a lot of suspicion between various interest groups. The crux is to foster an understanding that everyone will benefit from co-operation, and of course that is something we must deeply understand ourselves...

The success of these development programs will obviously depend on our funding. To pay for all of this we have two schemes:

1. Through partnership with international development agencies, primarily government agencies. We have built some relationships over the last year.

2. Through an international fund raising organisation. We have begun our work in the UK, and we now employ Divya Simha das to lay the foundation for a program that later can be exported to other countries, beginning with USA, Germany and Italy.

For the work in Mayapur we are currently looking for an executive manager. Do you know anyone suitable to manage the Mayapur charity work, or someone willing to help in some other capacity? Please let us know. At the end of this newsletter there is an advert that for some time has been passed around in development circles in Calcutta.

The easiest way to contact me is here on COM,

Thank you!

Hare Krishna

Paramananda Das


A consultation meeting was held in Sri Mayapur on December 14th, between representatives from the local region, ISKCON, various charities and the UN Development Programme. Here are some excerpts from an excited letter we just received from Paramananda das....

Dear Maharajs and Prabhus.

Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.

It went fantastic! It turned out that one after the other was praising ISKCON and the work ISKCON is doing for the local people. The purpose of the meeting with the locals was to find out what their real needs are. We got a lot, and I mean A LOT, of information. The United Nations people and others were surprised at how much valuable information we managed to get. The points that came up as the most urgent were exactly the ones that we are planning to address first: ambulance and mother-child health...

There were a number of politicians and officials present, all of them also speaking very nicely about ISKCON. The Panchayat Pradhan of Belpukur said that you are doing so nicely in Balaldighi with health camp and school, why can't you do it in my village. I said that in Balaldighi we have a man that is co- operating nicely with us, so there it is possible for us to work. If you want to work with us, then we can do something at your place as well. He said, "You can set up a health camp in the Panchayat building. I am the Pradhan, I will take care of you." We are going to act on this within a week

Dr. Sudarshan, of the UNDP, appeared to be very pleased with everything. Now he said that he definitely wants to work with us on an ongoing basis.

Jayapataka Maharaja took part the second day when we discussed future co- operation. Maharaja displayed very nicely his fatherly attitude to the locals by telling the story of when Srila Prabhupada gave the famous instruction that nobody should go hungry within a 10 mile radius. I am very grateful that he came.

Conclusion: This meeting was clearly a milestone, a major leap ahead. It is now just a matter of formulating our program, something that will take two or three months. This text is obviously not a proper report, rather an exclamation of ecstasy. Preparation and printing of a proper report will take about a month.

Your servant

Paramananda Das

========= SERVICE OPPORTUNITIES. ==========

The Radlett Design office needs a qualified Executive Architect, with 15 years experience, and an Architect with 5 years experience. Applicants should be ready to start early in 1998. Salary will be according to experience.

Please contact; COM Bhagavat Dharma MG Internet

========== COPYRIGHT. ==========

This is an internal newsletter for devotees and supporters of ISKCON. The copyright holder of this newsletter is Mayapur Developments, a company registered in London, UK. Permission for reproduction is hereby given to all publications, e.mail lists and web-sites that have as their primary purpose the promotion of the ISKCON mission of His Divine Grace Srila A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, under the direction of the ISKCON Governing Body Commission. Permission for reproduction in all other circumstances should first be sought from the copyright holder. Enquiries may be directed to, or

========== ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS. =========

I would like to thank the following devotees who helped with this issue: Harikesa Swami, Rajarama das, Paramananda das, Divya Simha das, Pada-Sevanam das.


© 1997 VNN