At the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, ISKCON temples around the world closed their doors, and many found challenges in maintaining themselves without traditional in-person outreach activities.A family enjoys Sunday Brunch at their own socially-distanced table in the Prabhupada's Palace Rose Garden
By June, some had begun to reopen, with locally mandated restrictions. New Vrindaban, ISKCON’s first farm community, in West Virginia, faced particular economic challenges due to the size of the facility and its focus on serving pilgrims and tourists. Despite having to cut back in many areas, the pilgrimage site was able to survive with PPP funding from the government, and by reopening to visitors in May as an essential service with state-mandated restrictions.
While other temples maintain specific set times when visitors can register to come and take darshan (pay their respects to the Deities), New Vrindaban is open from 5am to 9pm every day.
The temple canceled its large festivals such as Festival of Colors, but is able to continue receiving guests in different safe and creative ways. Janmastami, Lord Krishna’s birthday, was celebrated with precautions and a limited number of visitors, while the 24-Hour Kirtan was a mostly online event.
Weekend retreats on yoga, meditation and ecology have been held with five to ten guests each, while a regular Sunday Brunch has been held in Srila Prabhupada’s Palace Rose Garden.
All this is possible partly due to sheer space – the temple room is vast, the community is spread out over 2,200 acres, and the core ISKCON New Vrindaban area over 525 acres, making a visit more like going to a state park. In addition, there has been a relatively low number of COVID-19 cases in Marshall County, where the pilgrimage spot is located.
More recently New Vrindaban devotees welcomed guests on Labor Day Weekend, from September 5th to 7th. As always, masks, sanitization, and social distancing were in place over the weekend – the temple room is divided into a limited number of six by six feet spaces, and a security guard was engaged to ensure proper following of the precautions both inside and outside.
The number of programs were reduced, and were largely held outside in different parts of the 2,200 acre property.
Read more: https://iskconnews.org/new-vrindaban-endures-through-covid-19-provides-visitors-with-respite-in-safe-space,7508/