In a major international outreach to garner investments in the flagship Smart City programme, the Narendra Modi government has invited ambassadors of all 150 missions in India to a grand investment summit on May 19.
The government would pitch projects worth Rs 50,560 crore across 20 cities, chosen through a competitive process conducted all over India, to be developed as smart cities in the first phase.
According to sources, most countries have confirmed their participation in the summit, which is being held at Taj Mansingh hotel. Union urban development minister M Venkaiah Naidu would inaugurate the summit and invite countries for investment opportunities.
Dharamsala, the hill station in Himachal Pradesh that has lured hundreds of thousands of Westerners since Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama settled here, was on Tuesday again included in the central government’s list of Smart Cities.
Union Urban Development Minister M. Venkaiah Naidu announced in New Delhi the 13 winners of the Fast Track Smart Cities competition.
They are Lucknow, Warangal, Dharamsala, Chandigarh, Raipur, New Town Kolkata, Bhagalpur, Panaji, Port Blair, Imphal, Ranchi, Agartala and Faridabad.
For the first time ever, two women initiated into the Brahma-Madhva-Gaudiya Vaisnava Sampradaya have published a popular book that emphasizes the bhakti tenets in two of the world’s most revered yoga texts: theBhagavad Gita and Yoga Sutras.
The book illuminates parallels between these two texts in a practical, philosophically rich and entertaining manner, while adhering to the interpretations given to the original Sanskrit texts by ancient yoga tradition itself.
Yoga in the Gita became an Amazon bestseller in its category in the first week. The book emerged from a series of online articles that Krishna Kanta and Braja Sevaki published in a blog of the same name that they started in 2012 under the prompting of Bob Weisenberg, former yoga editor ofElephant Journal, a popular online magazine. The Yoga in the Gita blog generated hundreds of thousands of views due to a grateful readership of primarily yoga teachers, yoga practitioners, bhaktas and bhaktins. It was due to the repeated requests of the blog’s followers that the book was eventually born.
While yoga studios around the world require that their teachers-in-training study theBhagavad Gita and Yoga Sutras before becoming officially certified yoga teachers, they often resort to translations of these texts that obscure the valuable bhakti yogainsights originally found in these texts.
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Over 20000 students attended a mega youth festival organized by ISKCON Pune on 20th March to celebrate the 50th anniversary of ISKCON. The event, which was attended by principles of various colleges, political leaders from the youth community, the education commissioner of Pune and several other VIPs, was widely covered by several newspapers and broadcast on Indian’s national TV channel, Doordarshan. The theme of the event was ‘Drishti – Bharat leads the world’ and showcased India’s real spiritual wealth by means of which the country has the capacity to lead the entire world.
The Pune temple formed a steering committee of 12 youth preachers headed by Antardvipa Das who heads the city’s VOICE preaching centres for young people.
“Srila Prabhupada established ISKCON 50 years ago to fulfil the prediction of Lord Chaitanya that the holy names of Lord Krishna will be chanted all over the world,” explained Radheshyam Das, President of ISKCON Pune.
He explained that ISKCON had flourished and grown rapidly all over the world in just a few years because Srila Prabhupada was supported by many young people who had flocked to hear him in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
“Srila Prabhupada was an expert in harnessing the power of youth,” he continued. “Therefore, we decided that the best offering to Prabhupada in the 50th year of ISKCON was to bring together a large number of young people and harness their enthusiasm and energy to provide real direction and spiritual values to make their life successful.”
“Many of our working youth contributed salaries of a month or two to organize this event,” said Antardvipa Das. “We collected over 2 million Rupees from our youth congregation to organize this remarkable event, which is probably the largest gathering of young people in one city in the 50-year history of ISKCON.”
When devotees started publicizing the event, they handed out more than 135,000 passes to over 70 colleges in Pune in the very first week.
“When we approached Principals and heads of educational institutions with VIP invitations, they welcomed us wholeheartedly,” recollected Radheshyam Das. “It was almost as if they had rolled out a red-carpet for us, and gave us full access to their students. Many of them urged us to hold such events and programmes within the precincts of their campuses.”
India’s premiere ticket booking websites such as bookmyshow.com and townscript.com had facilities by which students could book their passes online. Students registered their attendance through a ‘missed call service’ by ringing a number mentioned on the free pass.
“We received almost 27,000 unique missed calls,” explained Antardvipa Das. “Our publicity also included social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Whatsapp. We sent several videos and pictures out on several Whatsapp groups through which we reached out to thousands of young people. The result was that even before we opened the gates to the venue, we found 4000 students already waiting outside to be let in. With 20,000 students in attendance, this must be a record of sorts within ISKCON.”
Students were treated to a special cultural programme on a 40×60 feet stage which included a drama by Bhaktimarga Swami’s “Vande Arts”, a shadow drama on the Bhagavad-gita by students of IIT Kharagpur, short Videos on ISKCON and Srila Prabhupada, kirtans by the Vrajvadhus band from Vrindavan, and a dance-drama called “Mauli” which depicted a dialogue between the mediaeval saint Tukaram and the great Maratha warrior-king, Shivaji Maharaj.
ISKCON leaders including Gopal Krishna Goswami, Lokanatha Swami, Gauranga Das from IIT Mumbai and Gaura Gopala Das who is a Whatsapp celebrity spoke at the event. Other ISKCON leaders who attended the event included Hanumant Preshaka Swami and Bhaktivinoda Das.
“One of the highlights of the event was the number of free gifts that were given to students,” said Antardvipa Das. “Vodaphone sponsored free simcards with talktime and a data pack. Another company sponsored free fruit jellies, while others sponsored discount coupons for rental cars. We also distributed a small book by Srila Prabhupada to each participant.”
Revatipati Prabhu, Vice President of ISKCON Pune NVCC felt attracting a record number of young people to ISKCON through a single event was a significant achievement by the team of devotees that worked together so efficiently. “With our outreach programme that was a part of this event, more than 500,000 people learnt about the fiftieth anniversary of ISKCON. We certainly achieved our target,” he said.
“The hard work in areas such as fund-collection, planning, publicity, sound, lighting, stage set-up, celebrity attendance, and the hours of meetings with the core-committee was an incredible learning experience for me,” described Sonar Gauranga Das, a member of the organizing team. “I am sure that the Supreme Lord Sri Krishna will bless the entire team for their efforts to glorify Prabhupada in such an amazing manner.”
Feedback received from students who attended the event was positive and appreciative.
“I liked all the parts of the event,” said Vikrant Wadekar, a student from Pune. “But what I liked best was the fusion music performance in the end. It was electrifying.”
Mayank Jalan, a student participant who had attended an ISKCON event for the first time said, “It was simply an amazing event from start to finish. I enjoyed every single moment of this incredible conference.”
Summarising the outcomes of the conference, Toshan Nimai Das said that they had distributed one book of Srila Prabhupada to every student who attended, besides handing out thousands of Back to Godhead magazines.
“Over 1000 thousand students registered for ‘Gita Youth Society for Transformation’ an ISKCON Pune initiative for wider outreach to the student community,” he described. “More than 200 students bought copies of Bhagavad-gita as it is. We sent text messages to many of these people. Almost 500 students replied back and told us they wanted to attend future programmes. One of the best outcomes of the event was that the heads of many colleges and educational institutions became very favourably inclined to ISKCON. They have sent us invitations to host our lectures and other events in their premises.”
“I wish to thank the Conference team for their hard work, dedicated planning and powerful execution,” concluded Radhe Shayam Das. “We received many calls from ISKCON leaders in India appreciating this program and admiring its grand success.”
Fed up with cold response from district administration to their demand to declare Devbhoomi Dwarka as drought-hit, farmers on Tuesday knocked at the God’s door for help and submitted a memorandum to Lord Krishna seeking divine intervention to alleviate their sufferings.
Dozens of farmers led by NGO Khedut Hit Rakshak Samiti submitted the memorandum to the high priest of the famous Dwarkadhish temple in Devbhoomi Dwarka district, dedicated to Lord Krishna.
In the memorandum addressed Lord Krishna, the farmers pleaded for help and said they have come to him “as a last resort” after getting tired of approaching Government officials with their list of demands.
They listed their demands before the God, which included declaring the district as drought-affected, setting up cattle camps, providing water for drinking and irrigation and reducing power connection tariff.
Recently, the BJP Government in Gujarat declared parts of district as drought-hit.
“We have come to you as a last resort…the present government, elected from farmers’ votes, is working for the industrialists. Government invest crore of rupees to organise farmer programmes but refuses to address our problems. Leaders and government officials are corrupt, and we farmers are crying for help,” the memorandum stated.
“Government is not thinking of waiving interest on crop loan for the current year. Nothing is being done to ensure water supply for irrigation…the CM calls herself farmer’s daughter, but makes hollow promises in the name of farmer welfare,” it stated.
Prabhupada is discussing the real meaning of going to a sacred place in India.
One should go to a sacred place in order to find some intelligent scholar in spiritual knowledge living there and make association with him. Just like I … My residence is at Vrindavana. So, at Vrindavana, there are many big scholars and saintly persons living. So one should go to such holy places, not simply to take bath in the water. One must be intelligent enough to find some spiritually advanced man living there and take instruction from him and be benefited by that. If a man has no attraction for hearing from learned people there, he is considered to be an ass. (He laughs.) So, the whole civilization is moving like a civilization of cows and asses. Everyone is identifying with the body … Yes, you want to speak?
Woman: In the places known as secret places –
Prabhupada: Sacred. Yes.
Woman: Is it “sacred” places?
Woman: Isn’t it also a fact that there is more magnetism because of the meeting of saints and more advanced people?
Prabhupada: Oh yes. Certainly. Certainly. Therefore the place itself has got some magnetism.
Woman: Yes, and when –
Prabhupada: Just like at Vrindavana – that is practical. Here I am now sitting in New York, the world’s greatest city, such a magnificent city, but my heart is always hankering after that Vrindavana.
No One Has Seen a Picture of Krishna
Prabhupada is speaking: We should always remember that He is God. He is all-powerful. In strength, no one could conquer Him. In beauty – as far as beauty is concerned – when He was on the battlefield … Have any of you seen a picture of Krishna? Have any of you ever seen Krishna? Oh … no?
Prahbupada’s voice fades as he pauses, looking out at his audience. No one has ever seen Krishna. None of them have the slightest previous knowledge of Lord Krishna. In India, hundreds of millions worship Lord Krishna daily as the eternal form of all beauty and truth, and view His graceful form in sculpture, painting and dance. His philosophical teachings inBhagavad-gita are all famous. And Prabhupada is His intimate emissary. Yet the ladies and gentlemen in Room 307 look back at the Swami blankly.
On the auspicious occasion of the appearance day of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Dr Sahadeva Das offers two Esraj songs unto His divine lotus feet. These songs, ‘Ujjvala Varana Gaura Vara Deham’ and ‘Nava Gaura Varam’ were composed by Srila Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya. The melody has been taken from the albums of Bhakti Charu Swami.
Esraj is an important instrument in traditional vaisnava music and by the 1980s the instrument was nearly extinct. Of late, this instrument is seeing some revival. However only a handful players remain all over the world. The Esraj played here is carved out of a century old block of Burma teakwood. No effects or reverb have been added to the sound of the instrument.
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“We Cannot Help You”
He wrote again to Sri Padmapat Singhania, requesting him to send a man from India to supervise work on the temple in New York, as Mr. Singhania had previously suggested.
There is no record of any reply to this request.
Prabhupada wrote again to Sumati Morarji, requesting her to please send him a mrdanga to accompany his chanting of the Hare Krishna mantra. He also requested her that in the future, when he would send many men from India, she oblige by giving them free passage on Scindia Steamship Lines.
As his financial situation became more urgent and his hopes more strained, his support from India withdrew in silence. His unanswered correspondence was itself a kind of message, loud and clear: “We cannot help you.”