The Govardhana Retreat has been going on since 2000 – the first with only thirty students under the trees surrounding Giriraja (we still remember having to crawl under a barbed wire fence to get to our spot!), the most recent with almost a thousand students, now at a rented ashram.
As the number of students has grown, so too has our desire to serve this ever-expanding community of devotees by building our own center at Govardhana, along with our awareness that we needed our own place to house and host the devotees, and to give them a quiet place to actually retreat from the busy-ness of their lives.
For me, the Bhumi-puja was a monumental event, like a first mango flower finally blossoming on a tree planted twelve long years earlier. We have been patient. The original Land had initially been procured near Govardhana Hill in 2004, and added three more small pieces gradually over the next eight years. Finally, two years ago, we added a large two-and-a-half-big-hectare plot, making the final size of the plot land for the Govardhana Retreat Center at five acres. Finally, we had enough land to allow our center to be un-cramped, un-built-up, and to possess the natural and simple meditational ambiance we desired.
After we have spent another year acquiring legal approval from the local council (MVDA), we were ready to build. Interestingly and perhaps even mystically, that approval arrived suddenly while three hundred devotees were chanting Krishna’s holy names in a colorful Pandal at Govardhana during an unseasonal rainstorm during the 2015 Holy Name Retreat.
And now, on February 3rd, 2016, at an auspicious moment, two hundred meters from Govardhana Hill, we performed the Bhumi-puja and the initial construction of the VIHE Govardhana Retreat Center officially started.
That moment was sweet. It reminded me of the sweetness that descends during the Govardhana retreats when all the devotees present are absorbed in hearing and chanting about Krishna. That sweetness, I take it, results from Giriraja Govardhana’s pleasure, for Krishna is being glorified in the association of devotees in Vrindavana. And that is the essence of our endeavor to construct a retreat center in this holy land. We wish to make this offering to Srila Prabhupada: May his followers, both individually and in groups, retreat at least for some time from the lands where Maya’s influence dominates, and approach the shelter of Giriraja Govardhana to gain deep nourishment by practicing absorbed hearing and chanting about Krishna in Vraja.
As Srila Prabhupada said in his purport to Srimad-Bhagavatam 3.21.17: “Only by drinking the nectar of chanting and hearing the pastimes of the Lord can one forget the intoxication of material existence.” And in a 1972 lecture in Vrindavana: “So we must be inquisitive. We must be very eager. That eagerness should be aroused: “
“Where Krishna-katha is being taught, let me go there, let me hear.”
We pray that within the protected and serene atmosphere of the Govardhana Retreat Center, devotees will experience Krishna’s potent presence through hearing and chanting His glories amplified by Giriraja Govardhana’s soothing shelter. The Bhumi-puja was highlighted by the presence of many kind-hearted sannyasis and other senior disciples and followers of Srila Prabhupada. (We also received the distant, recorded well-wishes from a number of others.) Their words highlighted their own hopes for the quick and successful completion of the center. We pray that you add your prayers to theirs.
For further information and more photos about the VIHE Govardhana Retreat Center, the Govardhana Retreats, and to see photos of the just-completed Bhumi- puja, please click here.
Your servants, Sacinandana Swami and Bhurijana dasa