ISKCON India has approximately 400 registered centers.  Last week, on Sunday, March 20th, I was fortunate to attend the grand opening of the latest one – the ISKCON Kada Extension Center.  Jagannatha Prabhu from Ahmednagar invited me.  His father, HG Mukundsanjay Prabhu, is one of the main organizers of this new center.  The center is in a village in Ashti District, on the highway between Ahmednagar and Beed.

My long-time associate, HG Dharmaraj Prabhu, accompanied me as a translator. We’ve known each other for more than twenty-five years. He was a great dancer. Now he has issues with his back and limited mobility. Please pray for him to recover quickly.

We left our base at ISKCON Pandharpur after breakfast. After four hours of driving, we saw a signboard advertising the program.

 There was a traditional warm welcome with kirtan, flowers, and smiling devotees.  After taking a bath and lunch prasadam, we proceed to the stage.  The sound system was very simple.  We did our best to have a soundcheck.  I played the harmonium, and we rehearsed the Marathi Bhajan “Sundara Te Dhyana” – “Oh Beautiful Meditation’ – about the beautiful transcendental form of Lord Vitthala in Sridham Pandharpur.  

“The object of my meditation is stunning.  Lord Vitthala is standing on a brick with His hands placed on his waist.  Around His neck gracefully hangs a garland of Tulasi leaves.  He has a brilliant yellow silken dhoti wrapped around His waist.  I adore this vision which is my constant meditation.  Hanging from His ears are brilliantly shining crocodile-shaped earrings.  The famous Kaustubha jewel regally bedecks His chest.  Tukaram Maharaja, the author of this song, says, “My only happiness is to constantly meditate on the face of this beautiful form with ever-increasing attraction.”’

The program opened with a ribbon-cutting by the Village Chief, the “Sarpanch,” Anil Tattya Dhobale, and the principal donor for the project, Mr. Rajusheth Pokharna, and myself.  Around 50 devotees came from Ahmadnagar, including HG Girivaradhari Prabhu, the community leader.  Bhakta Mahadev Prabhu donated the land for the Extension Center. HG Mukundsanjay Prabhu and HG Aditisuta Prabhu are Co-Managers for the new Extension Center.

Later, the response was overwhelming when we performed “Sundara Te Dhyana” for the 1000 villagers that turned up for the event.  They were pleased to see someone from America singing in their local language, Marathi.  I gave a lecture in English and spoke about Shivaji Maharaja, the great king who rid the land of India of the foreign mogul invasion.  Shivaji Maharaja was spiritually inclined and received the shelter of his guru, Tukaram Maharaja.  I encouraged the audience also to seek that spiritual shelter.  Thanks to Dhamaraj Prabhu’s expert translation, no one left during the lecture and the lively question and answer session.  We distributed thirty-five Bhagavad Gitas from the stage to eager recipients.  

The festival shifted to the new Extension Center, with beautiful photos of Sri Sri Radha Vrndavana Chandra (ISKCON Pune).  We had blissful kirtan for more than an hour and a half.  The devotees playing the drums had to keep rotating. At the conclusion of the program, the devotees offered me a cake to celebrate my one-year anniversary.

Dharmaraj Prabhu and I stayed overnight in a computer coaching facility.  The next morning, local devotees shared that as Aditisuta Prabhu was heading home the night before at 12:30 am, he saw someone drunk was trying to steal the hoarding on the road. Aditisuta Prabhu chased him away.  Devotees came and secured the hoarding in the Extension Center.  The next morning Aditisuta Prabhu returned by 5 am to the Extension Center, after sleeping only 2 hours!  Devotees were all praising him for all the hard work he did to arrange the new Extension Center.  

It was a beautiful festival and I am very grateful that I had the opportunity to participate in it.  After meeting all the devotees in the morning, Dharmaraj Prabhu and I got in the car and traveled to an international school nearby  to see the students, and their cows.  The students are taught Sanskrit and vedic mathematics along with academic subjects.  I took a refreshing dip in their swimming pool.  Then we started the 4 hour journey back to Sridham Pandharpur.

Srila Prabhupada Ki Jaya!

Harinam Sankirtan Ki Jaya!

ISKCON Kada Extension Center Ki Jaya!