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“Metpally . . . Radha-Krishna installation . . . festival . . .” Our ashram at ISKCON Chowpatty was buzzing with this discussion last week when I visited after a gap of few days. Many brahmacharis were excited about visiting this small town in Telangana, around 800 kms from Mumbai. The temple managers were busy arranging for all the essential services that had to be taken care of in the absence of so many devotees.
Ever since lockdown was imposed in Mumbai and the rest of India, most of us couldn’t step out of our ashram for more than 10 months. All our outreach programs and book distribution were confined to video calls on Zoom. Although this was a phenomenal success, resulting in the opening of several unknown avenues, we were sorely missing personal contact with devotees and celebration of Krishna conscious festivals. Upon the arrival of this invitation, therefore, all of us were eager to come out of our virtual reality and experience the physical world outside.
Metpally is mainly an agricultural town with a population of one lakh. ISKCON’s activities began here a few years ago when His Grace Narahari Prabhu from Chowpatty started preaching here. With a small group of young boys, he began his satsanga programs, which soon attracted local villagers. Many of them started taking the process of Krishna consciousness seriously and chanted Hare Krishna on beads regularly. The Sunday festivals began to attract hundreds of devotees and prasadam distribution increased manifold. The annual Ratha-yatra festivals were a huge success, and thus Hare Krishna became a household word in the nearby villages. As expected, the need for a temple was increasingly felt so that more devotees can assemble and participate in the congregational chanting of the holy names of Krishna, the prime method of religion for this age.
On February 16th, the day of Vasanta Panchami, a grand installation of Radha-Krishna deities was performed, which was attended by thousands of devotees. With the arrival of archa-vigraha, more devotees will start thronging the temple, and many will find opportunities for service. This will expand the Krishna consciousness movement even more.
I know Narahari Prabhu as a very loving devotee, expert in various skills like cooking and deity dressing. Although strict with his vows and standards, he is very sensitive and accommodative with others. He has been tirelessly working here, almost alone, for the last several years, trying to bring the message of Krishna consciousness to everyone.
Lord Chaitanya has predicted, prthivite ache yata nagaradi grama/ sarvatra pracara haibe mora nama: “In every town and village My name will be heard.” Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura used to say, prana ache yar sei hetu prachar: “One who has life (prana), he can preach.” And Srila Prabhupada, in a letter to an acquaintance, wrote, “We are interested more in preaching members than in the sleeping members.” He wanted that every devotee preach the philosophy of Krishna consciousness and try to convince people about the importance of rejecting sinful life and following spiritual life.
I feel proud that one of my close friends and godbrothers has attained such success and glory in fulfilling the mission of Srila Prabhupada and Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Although I couldn’t attend this function due to personal commitments in Mumbai, I hope to visit this beautiful town and temple one day and relish the experience of expanding Krishna consciousness.