In a recent TOVP video entitled, A Look Inside the Completed Temple of the Vedic Planetarium, which went quite viral on YouTube, there were a number of comments saying that the temple design looked more like a mosque or had a European or Western feel like a Cathedral or church, rather than a Vedic emphasis.
While the positive comments far outweighed the negative ones, let’s take a closer look at the causes of this division of opinion, and hear what ISKCON Founder-Acharya Srila Prabhupada had to say about the matter. Also linked below in this article is a recent report from the TOVP Architecture Department that addresses these same points in more detail.
There are, in fact, a mixture of International designs in the architectural elements of the TOVP, and this is, literally, by design. It is no accident that there are elements that appear Western, European and even Islamic in the architecture. And the reasons for this are many from both the philosophical and practical side. However, it still remains prominently Vedic in style and is true to that form.
For example, the main dome which towers 350′ into the Mayapur sky is intentionally designed after the US Capitol building in Washington, DC. And specifically, it was Srila Prabhupada’s instruction to do so:
Prabhupada: We are just attempting a big planetarium in Mayapur. We have asked government to acquire land, 350 acres. That is negotiation going on. We shall give a Vedic planetarium.
George Harrison: Is that the one you were talking about? With all the…
Prabhupada: In the Fifth Canto.
Gurudasa: The planetarium will be 350 feet high and show the cosmology of the spiritual world.
Prabhupada: The construction will be like your Washington Capitol, like that.
George Harrison: A big dome.
Prabhupada: Yes. Estimated eight crores of rupees.
Room Conversation — July 26, 1976, London
Prabhupada: …and it is a fact, he did not fix it. I wanted both of you to take various detailed photographs of that Capitol.
Yadubara: The Capitol Building. For what purpose, Srila Prabhupada?
Prabhupada: We shall have picture, planetarium in Mayapur. [aside:]
Room Conversation — July 6, 1976, Washington, D.C.
Here’s what Srila Prabhupada said about what he wanted the interior to look like:
“We must have a nice center at Mayapur because we are expecting there students from all over the world. Plans of the temple have already been made and you should have received them by now. The buildings should be exactly in the same pattern. The size may be changed according to the engineering technology. I have shown in London the Westminster Abbey to Syamasundara, Bhavananda and Nara Narayana. Perhaps you have also seen it. I want the inside just like the Westminster Abbey. You will understand from the plans what is my desire in this connection.”
Letter to: Tamala Krsna — Mombassa, Kenya 16 September, 1971
From these few examples it should clear Srila Prabhupada was not overly concerned with the temple looking 100% ‘Vedic’. His real intention was to make the TOVP an International temple by combining the best of all worlds, and thus draw the attention of the worldwide community. Based on the saying, “Build a better mousetrap, and the world will beat a path to your door”, Srila Prabhupada knew exactly what he was doing. The most important thing to him was that it present the true Vedic knowledge of the material and spiritual worlds, and the philosophy according to Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s Brahma/Gaudiya sampradaya without any change or deviation. The externals were not as important to him in that regard, but rather were a means to be innovative to attract the public.
On the practical side, there are a few reasons for the TOVP design:
1. Within the main dome will hang a gigantic, 300′ tall cosmic chandelier of the universe and the spiritual world. To fit such a model it is necessary to use a different shaped dome than most Vedic shikaras.
2. The main temple room in front of the altar must accommodate thousands of devotees and worshipers in kirtan and therefore has to be as expansive as possible.
3. The West Wing/Dome is a dedicated planetarium with multiple levels of exhibits and a sit-down planetarium theater.
4. The East Wing/Dome is the temple of Lord Nrsimhadeva and must be large enough to facilitate thousands of devotees and worshipers.
Please click the link below to access the complete TOVP Architecture Department Report on this subject:
Click here to see the Report in your browser or download a copy to your desktop for offline reading.
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