The semi-annual joint board meetings with ECO-Vrindaban, ISKCON New Vrindaban, and the Village Council took place recently in New Vrindaban, where members met in multiple sessions to discuss the achievements of 2023 and explored ongoing and future projects for 2024. We will look at some of the highlights from the meetings.
Following a joint board gathering on Friday night, the community meetings on Saturday included reports from the boards and other groups formed in the Spring to address specific issues at New Vrindaban. Temple President Jaya Krsna Das presented on the temple projects, growth, and outreach.
Housing for Current and Future Residents
He noted that since 2011, New Vrindaban has seen a 36% growth rate in the number of residents year over year, which has driven the need for more housing options for current residents and future expansion. Devotees are ready to move into the ten new apartments, while five new cabins are in the final stages of completion. The 25-plot Vrindaville project is currently working on water and electricity, with plans to also be ready for sale in 2024.
Improvements and Renovations
Jaya Krsna also reviewed the many ongoing infrastructure and aesthetic improvements, including a beautiful new temple lobby and bathrooms, construction of a new mail room, children’s room, deity dressing room, flower cooler, and more. New signage and new bridges to the Yoga Shala and in front of the repaired and newly painted iconic Gaura Nitai sculptures will make navigation for pilgrims and retreat guests safer and more pleasant.
Prabhupada’s Palace of Gold, Radha Gopinath Temple, and the Original Farmhouse
Srila Prabhupada’s Palace of Gold saw a staggering 53% increase in visitors. Renovations of the Palace are ongoing, with a focus on improving the bathrooms to accommodate the growing number of visitors. The popular Sunday Brunch outreach at the Palace Rose Gardens enjoyed another successful season.
Across the road, devotees are in the final construction stages of the stunning Radha Gopinath Temple, with the installation of the fiberglass dome and an inauguration date expected in the second quarter of 2024. Additionally, the original Farmhouse restoration continues.
Even with all the ongoing service in New Vrindaban, devotees have continued their traditional and creative outreach to the broader community. Nearly 8,000 books were distributed, 40 home programs were conducted, and a renewed engagement with local events is underway.
In the mood of the Sankirtan revolution begun by Lord Chaitanya, New Vrindaban is proactively going out to several communities in the Ohio Valley. “We inaugurated our plan by joining the St. Clairsville, Ohio, Christmas parade. With beautiful deities from Cincinnati carried on a Rath cart and 30 devotees who danced and sang, we were a welcomed addition to the annual event,” said Jaya Krsna Das. “We distributed 3,000 prasadam cookies to the 5,000 residents who lined the streets for the parade,” noted Anuradha Dasi, NV Director of Events and Communications. “It really showed us that this is the way to go. We plan to participate in four parades in 2024 as well as the popular regional Italian Heritage Festival and other events.” The goal is not only to go out but to invite people to visit New Vrindaban, so devotees packed the prasadam cookies in special sleeves that also served as coupons, giving the bearer half off their entrance fee to Prabhupada’s Palace of Gold.
The number of pilgrims and visitors has grown a steady 32% over the last two years. “The Palace Lodge was constantly booked on weekends from the beginning of April to the end of October, said Jaya Krsna, “Many groups and individual pilgrims could not be hosted because accommodations are already filled.” An increase in accommodation is naturally the next step. New Vrindaban is exploring architectural plans for an additional lodge to be built in the temple area, called the Grand Lodge, for now. It would provide an additional 40 guest and resident rooms.
Chaitanya Mangala Das, an advisor to ECO-Vrindaban (ECO-V), reviewed their ongoing care for over 70 cows. In 2023, the milking cows provided over 7,500 gallons of protected milk and 1,000 pounds of butter, while the gardens produced over 21,000 lbs of vegetables and 122,000 flowers locally grown for the Deities and devotees. Additionally, ECO-V has six oxen in training under the guidance of Sri Badarayani Das. The report also highlighted ECO-V’s financial support for new housing at New Vrindaban, Gopal’s Garden Homeschool Co-op, the Village Association, the Devotee-Care Team, and the New Yamuna Valley Farm projects. In particular, the 28 plots at Bahulaban Village, an ECO-V investment initiative, now have water, electricity, and road access. The goal is that the plots will be available for sale in the first quarter of 2024.
New Vrindaban Village Association
Nityodita Prabhu from the NV Village Association reported on the March 2023 Devotee Care Training and the ongoing service offered by NV’s Devotee Care Team, which included testimonials from Ramananda Gauranga and Sikhi Mahiti. He also reviewed other events they co-organized, including the 50th Anniversary of the installation of Sri Sri Radha Vrindavanath and Sri Sri Radha Madhava at Old Vrindaban with the participation of Radhanath Swami, Candramauli Swami, and Varsana Swami. The Association also hosted a summer picnic and is working closely with management on exploring home ownership options for community members.
New Yamuna Valley Project
Yudisthir Das spoke to board members and residents about the New Yamuna Valley Project, which will be developing 28.5 acres along the Big Wheeling Creek. During the first year, the project will focus on creating accessible roads to the fertile land, culverts for re-directing water, clearing the ground for planting, and installing a solar-powered irrigation system. Some of the land will also be cleared and fenced for additional grazing for ECO-V’s cows.
Devotee Relations Committee
Among the groups that presented was the Devotee Relations Committee, which has as its goal, in part, “that every devotee feels supported and is celebrated in each stage of their devotional life and other life milestones, that each devotee feels competent in navigating challenges with other devotees in a way that protects and strengthens relationships.” The group aims to accomplish this through opportunities for association outside of service, quarterly training, monthly workshops, compassion circles, and more. In 2023, they hosted a training on “Non-Violent Communications Skills,” facilitated members completing Karuna Care training, and Resolve’s Ombudsman training.
Prasadam, Afternoon “Mini-Retreat,” and Evening Entertainment
Several devotees beautifully presented prasadam for the meetings. The highlight for board members was the fantastic cookies and bundt cakes from Kalindi Devi Dasi and Bhaktin Beverly. The morning presentations were followed by an uplifting afternoon of lila, katha, and kirtan led by Gaura Vani and other kirtaneers. “He created the most incredible afternoon, speaking about the Acharyas, Panchatattva, the Five Truths, applying it all to community life and leadership,” said Anuradha Dasi.