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Instructions of Srila Prabhupada
During this time, Srila Prabhupada had not yet established any ISKCON temples in the spiritually significant area of Orissa. He told Srila Gour Govinda Swami on the day of his harinam-diksa in Sridham Mayapur, “You will take me to Orissa.” Orissa is the Holy place where Lord Caitanya performed His most confidential pastimes, the lila of separation. Bhubaneswar is also the gateway to Sri Jagannatha Puri dhama.
Srila Prabhupada had given Srila Gour Govinda Swami three instructions:
1. To stay in Orissa and build a temple like the Sri Jagannatha Puri temple in Bhubaneswar.
2. Translate Srila Prabhupada’s books into Oriya.
3. Accept disciples and train them and preach all over the world.
Under Srila Prabhupada’s order, Srila Gour Govinda Swami single-handedly underwent extreme hardships to begin the building of a magnificent temple. In February, 1977, the year of Srila Prabhupada’s physical disappearance, Srila Prabhupada arrived in Bhubaneswar and waited seventeen days to lay the foundation stone for the ISKCON, Sri Sri Krsna Balarama Mandir Temple Project. This would be the 108th temple and the last founded project of Srila Prabhupada. Srila Prabhupada said:
“This temple will be one of the best ISKCON temples in the world and will be the heart of the city.”
The translating of Srila Prabhupada’s books into Oriya was a daily and sacred duty. It was his policy to not eat anything until he had completed his quota of translation for the day. Even after long international flights he would insist upon first completing the translation work given to him by his spiritual master before he would eat or sleep. He maintained this practice throughout his entire life. Today, these books are printed on the temple grounds at the local BBT press and distributed all over Orissa.
In regards to accepting disciples and becoming Guru, with humility, Srila Gour Govinda Swami disclosed to Srila Prabhupada that he desired to be the tail [follower] not the head:
"Srila Prabhupada said, “You should have your own men and train them. You should accept disciples, otherwise how can you manage.” I said, “I don’t want to be the head, I want to be the tail.” Srila Prabhupada replied, “I want!” “Alright.” I know that to become head means so many beatings will come. Prabhupada said, “I want!” When ‘you want’ then I should accept all these head beatings. Alright, very good. It is pleasing to my Guru.”
Srila Gour Govinda Swami accepted formal guruship on 28th February 1985 and in 1987 became the Governing Body Commissioner for ISKCON Orissa.
Srila Prabhupada in Bhubaneswar
In February, 1977, the year of Srila Prabhupada's physical disappearance pastime, Srila Prabhupada came to stay in Bhubaneswar to lay the corner foundation stone of the new temple. At his own insistence, Srila Prabhupada refused to stay in a government guest house and spent seventeen days in the mud hut personally built for him by Srila Gour Govinda Swami, on the newly donated land in Bhubaneswar. It was an out of the way place during that time with no facility except electricity brought to the hut just for Srila Prabhupada's dictaphone machine.
Srila Prabhupada was giving Srimad-Bhagavatam class everyday and meeting many visiting people from the region. He insisted, whoever comes must be fed prasadam. Srila Gour Govinda Swami remembers:
"I have no money and thousands of people were coming everyday, how can it be done? Miraculously, all were fed. So much cooking was there. Where the money came from I couldn't think of. Every morning devotees were coming, "Gour Govinda give money! This purchase will be there!" "Alright, wait, wait, let me go out and see somewhere for donation. So many miracles, all miracles. How it was done I cannot think of!"
On the day Srila Prabhupada lay the corner foundation stone for the temple on Sri Nityananda Prabhu's Appearance day, Srila Gour Govinda Swami recalls:
Srila Prabhupada in Bhubaneswar, Feb 1977
giving class during his seventeen day visit.
"Srila Prabhupada would go out everyday for morning walks and we would go with him. So many talks come up. Some devotees said, "No, we won't construct temple here, Prabhupada, nobody will come here! It is out of the way place; a jungle. Why shall we construct a temple and spend money here; we will do it in Puri." Prabhupada insisted, "No, we want to construct a temple here!." Then he called me and drove everybody out, because every word of Prabhupada was being taped, a tape recorder was always on. In a whispering voice he said, "Gour Govinda they are objecting to build the temple here, they want it in Puri, but I said, No! I will do it here. This shall be one of the best ISKCON temples in the world, yes! You have to stay here and do this thing, yes! You should have your own men and train them. You should accept disciples, otherwise how can you manage." I said, "I don't want to be head, I want to be tail." Srila Prabhupada replied, "I want!" "Alright!" I know that to become head means so many beatings will come. Prabhupada said, "I want!" When you want, I should accept all these head beatings. Alright very good. It is pleasing to my Guru."
By the order of Srila Prabhupada, his private instructions during those seventeen days were kept confidential and Srila Gour Govinda Swami never spoke of them to anyone. Srila Gour Govinda Swami recalls what Srila Prabhupada had said about building the temple in Bhubaneswar:
Prabhupada said, "My Guru Maharaja sent me to the west, I am a complete stranger there. A complete stranger! No friends, nothing. I went with only forty rupees! Orissa is your place, why you need money and men? Go! Go!" He cited his example. "Vaisnava is not alone, Krsna is with him." He told me that time, yes. I thought, 'Oh my Guru is Vaisnava, I am not Vaisnava!' Alright my Guru Maharaja said, well that's alright, I thought in my mind. 'Alright Krsna is there, I can go. But always day and night how can I do? Yes, Prabhupada told me, he will come to Orissa. That was in 1977 and he disappeared in that year, November 1977, you see. Somehow I brought him in January. Prabhupada said, "I want a temple like Jagannatha. I will build a temple like Jagannatha Temple because Jagannatha will come, the western devotees are not allowed there. That type of temple I will build here in Bhubaneswar."
Preaching: His Life and Soul
After Srila Prabhupada's apparent disappearance in 1977 Srila Gour Govinda Swami returned to Bhubaneswar with more intensity to fulfill the order of Srila Prabhupada. There were extreme, austere conditions in Bhubaneswar during this time but he remained determined, and went through many hardships to fulfill the mission and instructions of Srila Prabhupada. He was translating Srila Prabhupada's books into Oriya and arranging for their printing and collecting donations to build the temple Srila Prabhupada had envisioned.
His routine was getting up around 3 am then bath, tilaka, gayatri and chanting his rounds. With his early devotions completed he would begin translating Srila Prabhupada's books into Oriya for about 2 hours. After this he would cook breakfast, make the offering to Sri Sri Gaura Nitai and then take prasadam and distribute to whoever might come by. By 8.30 am he was ready to go out preaching. He would walk everywhere as he did not know how to ride a bicycle. He would preach the message of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu from door-to-door, selling books and collecting donations for the temple. By 8.30 pm he would return and retire to bed around midnight sleeping only 2-3 hours a day. He also only ate once a day. When more devotees starting joining the asrama he began the morning program of Srimad Bhagavatam classes and in the evening Bhagavad-gita classes.
Srila Gour Govinda Swami Maharaja visited Sridham Mayapur for the Sri Gaura Purnima festival every year. However in 1978 during his annual visit he suddenly became ill. For many months he stayed in Mayapur, the kavirajas' could not determine his illness and his symptoms were very devotional. It was apparent that he was manifesting extreme ecstatic conditions. (For details of these pastimes please read chapter thirty-two of Krsnalingita-vigraha).
Sri Sri Krsna Balaram Mandir under construction during 1989-1990.
The hut that was personally built by Srila Gour Govinda Swami Maharaja for Srila Prabhupada at the entrance to ISKCON Sri Sri Krsna Balaram Mandir, Bhubaneswar, India.