The Story of Nueva Vraja Mandala
by Krishna Dasi
(originally appeared on dandavats.com without the photos)
There is a very, very special dhama located in central Spain about 100 kilometers east of Madrid, Spain’s capital city.
It is geographically right outside the little town of Brihuega, near Guadalajara the nearest city. It is a small farm community, complete with flower and vegetable gardens, a couple of small greenhouses, a beautiful goshala right across the road from the temple, and then a larger goshala down the road. They have 12 cows and 2 bulls. The five cows that are kept in the goshala close to the temple are definitely pampered and adored. They provide the milk for the milk-sweets and curd used in the daily Deity offerings. The farm is about 300 hectares in size and has roughly about 40 devotees living on and close to the land. But the most wonderful residents of New Vraja Mandala are Their Lordships, Sri-Sri Radha-Govinda Chandra, Sri-Sri Gaura-Nitai, and a most beautiful golden, Laksmi-Nrshingha sitting atop Ananta Sesa. Of course, we can’t forget Giri-Govardhana and also a stunning Garuda atop a pillar gazing in adoration of Their Lordships on the altar.
Although it is a struggling farm community, it is rich in both spirit and in devotional service. The Deities are always dressed in the most exquisite outfits bedecked with hand-sewn jewels and embroidery. Many of the outfits are sewn by the devotees, and some are made in India, but all are intricately designed and sewn with true Krishna Prem. All the flower garlands used in the warm seasons are from the garden, where they grow many different types of marigolds, nastursiums, zinnias, roses, and big smiling sunflowers. The altar vases are also made up from these flowers.
They have begun the Bhaktivedanta College for Vedic studies there, by the grace of Yadunandana Swami and is now in it’s second year. This is helping to bring new devotees to the farm, where they study and also participate in all the temple acitvities and perform devotional service. There is talk of adding some English classes to make the studies more available to devotees that don’t speak Spanish. And I think that will help boost the number of residents nicely.
On Janmastami, they have programs throughout the day, with readings and kirtan throughout the day. The evening brings a swan-boat ride for the small Radha-Govinda Chandra Deities on their little “ghat” – a large swimming pool. Some devotees climb in the pool to steady the swan-boat while the other devotees take turns pulling the rope on the front of the boat, while another devotee fans their Lordships from inside the pool. Of course, there is constant kirtan while this pastime takes place. This year the weather had been so hot, about 40 degrees Celsius which is in the 90’s F. so all the kids wound up in the pool alongside the swan-boat, splashing and laughing, and having a wonderful time in the association of the Vaisnavas. No one had the heart to tell the children not to be in the pool due to the heat, so a good time was had by all.
After that the temple activities begin with kirtan, plays, dancing, and abishek. Midnight finally approaches and the altar curtains open, it is filled with the offerings of all the preparations devotees had been making throughout the day, and then the midnight arotik, and finally the presentation of the Lord’s “birthday gifts.” The night ends with the taking of prasadam. This year’s feast was cooked by some visiting gurukulis and local gurukulis who both bought the bhoga and cooked the feast. Janmastami celebration Ki Jaya!!
Each year at Janmastami time, they also have a wonderful festival called – “El Dia De La Vaca”; it’s kind of like Gopastami. They start the festival by carrying Srila Prabhupada’s murti down to the goshala, accompanied by a big harinam. Then they have Guru-Puja in the Goshala, and then an arotik in honor of the Cows. Then they bring Srila Prabhupada back to the temple. There is also a huge feast offered on the day with lots of sweet rice and curd preparations in honor of the Cows. Then at night, everyone goes back down to the Goshala for the “party.” First Yadunandana Swami gives a little talk in thanks to the wonderful devotees headed by Bhakta Roberto, who take care of the cows. And then he tells about the progress over the past year, and then opens the night to entertainment, prasadam, plays, dancing, kirtan, and fundraising for the goshala. Everything sold that night is to raise laksmi for the cows, they usually have t-shirts, incense, cow chaddars, calendars, books, and misc. items along with veggie burgers, cookies in the shapes of cows, cake, drinks, and snacks. Then the fun begins with some Bharat Natyam dancing, a play and the highlight of the event, “Cows in Love” – the local Hare Krishna Band, that sing delightful Krishna music to R&B and Reggae beats. By the end of the night, no one is sitting, everyone is dancing and laughing and coming together as family under the beautiful starlight Spanish skies. Every year, I’ve been there, it has been ECSTATIC!!!!!
This year besides the joys of celebrating Janmastami, Prabhupada’s Vyasa-puja, and the Cow Festival, we had the wonderful association of Yadunandana Swami, Bhaktivaibhava Swami and Vedavyasa during the festival and then on the Dia De La Vaca, Kadamba Kanana Swami arrived to join in the celebration. The first Spanish Kirtan Festival was inaugurated by Bhaktivaibhava Swami with enlivening classes each morning and then following breakfast, the kirtan festival began for three days. We had all the swamis leading, as well as Vedavyasa das, Jagadananda das from Belgium, Krishna Das, from Mayapur, Atmarama das from Madrid, and several others. Anyway, it was an outstanding festival. I can sincerely say that visiting this very special farm community is a most wonderful way to celebrate the appearance of the Lord, and the appearance of our beloved Spiritual Acarya, Srila Prabhupada.
So I would like to invite everyone to experience one of ISKCON’s best kept secrets, Nueva Vraja Mandala, for themselves and visit. 2013 will mark the 30th anniversary of the installation of Their Lordships, Sri-Sri Radha-Govinda Chandra, so I know there are some great plans coming up. Hope to see you there.
A Friend of New Vraja Mandala