By Madhava Smullen

ISKCON New Vrindaban Radha Vrindavanchandra Radhastami 2015

Sri Sri Radha Vrindavanchandra on Radhastami.

Lord Krishna’s eternal consort Srimati Radharani is known as the Queen of Vrindavan. So what better place in the Western World to celebrate Her appearance day, Radhastami, than New Vrindaban?

Described by Srila Prabhupada as “non-different” from Vrindavan in India, New Vrindaban’s Radhastami festival on September 21st 2015 drew many devotees from neighboring states, as well thirty students with their professor from nearby Christian liberal arts school Bethany College.

Favored by devotees for its particularly sweet and loving mood, the festival began with the traditional temple morning program when Sri Sri Radha-Vrindabanchandra were revealed in a stunning new dark blue and silver bespoke outfit made in Vrindavan, India.

With Radha carrying an umbrella of marigolds from New Vrindaban’s gardens, Krishna leaning on a staff entwined with flowers, and both Their heads decorated with heart-shaped flower halos, Their Lordships were breathtaking to behold. And, of course, Srimati Radharani’s lotus feet were visible throughout the day, the only day in the year when She bestows this boon upon devotees.

ISKCON New Vrindaban Hridayanada Das Goswami Radhastami 2015

Hridayananda Das Goswami giving a lecture at Radha Vrindavanchandra’s Temple.

Visiting for three days, Hridayananda Das Goswami brought his scholarly outlook to several classes explaining Radharani’s position as the feminine aspect of God, and Her qualities of compassion and devotion. He also shared memories of Srila Prabhupada’s 1972 visit to New Vrindaban during an evening program at Nityodita Das and Radha Dasi’s home.

At noon, devotees immersed themselves in the Vrindavan mood, gathering in the under-construction Radha Gopinath temple on New Vrindaban’s Govardhan Hill to sing kirtan before the small yet incredibly sweet presiding Deities.

ISKCON New Vrindaban Radha Gopinath Mandir Radhastami Varsana Swami 2015

Varsana Swami sharing the glories of Radharani at Radha Gopinath Mandir.

As in the transcendental village She reigns over, many residents of New Vrindaban offered Srimati Radharani dishes they had made with love in their own homes, such as laddhus, baklava, and fruit salad. The preparations included a strawberry-almond cake baked by Lakshman Isvara Das in the shape of a lotus with twelve petals representing the twelve forests of Vraj.

While Radha enjoyed Her offerings, longtime resident Varsana Swami gave a class full of entrancing stories and revelations about Her pastimes with Krishna, including one wherein She beat the Lord in a wrestling match and pinned Him down until He conceded, “I surrender!”

ISKCON New Vrindaban Radha Kunda Prasadam Radhastami 2015

Devotees honoring Prasadam near Radha Kunda.

As it was a beautiful day, all the devotees then sat outside on the grass of Govardhana Hill around the glittering waters of New Vrindaban’s Radha-Kunda, Shyama-Kunda and Lalita-Kund to honor a prasadam lunch prepared by the appropriately-named Radha Dasi. A bull was brought up by the resident cowherds and the recently completed ornate “moon tower,” where Radha and Krishna are said to go to survey Their subjects and property, added to the Vrindavan atmosphere.

Meanwhile back at Radha-Vrindabanchandra’s temple, two visiting sisters from Mexico, Hladini and Aindayi, were married to their respective husbands Nimai Pandit and Jacob with a fire yajna and a talk on love and marriage in Krishna consciousness by Hridayananda Goswami. With its beautiful natural surroundings and spiritual vibrations, New Vrindaban has become a popular wedding destination among devotees.

ISKCON New Vrindaban Radha Vrindavanchandra wedding Radhastami 2015

Celebrating a double wedding ceremony on Radhastami.

The evening featured an abhisekh bathing ceremony for the small Deities of Radha Vrindavan-nath, along with a New Vrindaban Radhastami special, in which each devotee gets to receive Srimati Radharani’s mercy by submitting their own individual offering to Her.

“Everyone was given the chance to offer Her a stick of incense, a ghee lamp, and a flower,” says ISKCON New Vrindaban president Jaya Krsna Das. “They then each wrote a special vow or prayer to Srimati Radharani, which were all collected and offered in a basket at Her lotus feet. Finally everyone got to take a balloon with a heart-shaped label at the end of its string, each marked with a different one of Radharani’s 1008 names, and place it on the altar.”

The festival also included ecstatic kirtans led by Shyamala Kishori from North Carolina and Shyamasundar Das from Pittsburgh.

ISKCON New Vrindaban Altar Radha Vrindavanchandra, Gaura Nitai Gopal Nathaji Radhastami 2015.

The altar filled with balloons carrying the names of Radharani.

It concluded with a multi-course feast cooked by Sundari Dasi featuring a coconut-sauce subji with Arvi, a potato-like vegetable from India that is said to be Radharani’s favorite. There was also an oatmeal-oregano bread; a baked dish called Handvo; paneer subji; pina colada ice cream, and another jaw-dropping cake from Lakshman Iswara in the shape of the steamship Jaladuta, in honor of the recent 50th anniversary of Srila Prabhupada’s arrival in the U.S.

“Radhastami at New Vrindaban is so mellow and pleasing to the heart – hearing Radha’s pastimes and having an opportunity to make our own offerings to Her fills us with oceans of love,” says resident Autumn. “And where else in world – besides Vrindavan, India – can one spend Radhastami on the banks of Radha-Kunda?”

 Gopal's Garden Preschool at Prabhupada's Palace New Vrindaban

Gopal’s Garden Preschool, headed by New Vrindaban residents Sundari Devi Dasi and Mercy Mack, has been filled with action packed projects and fun this summer.

Starting in March of this year, the preschool began with Sundari Devi Dasi and Mercy teaming up to build a healthy and interactive place to bring their children during the daytime. Eventually, the other mothers in the community joined to support, and now there are all together 6-8 students who come regularly throughout the week.

Gopal’s Garden Preschool days include bhajan and prayers with a little dancing if the mood is right. Then they continue with playing, snacks, and indoor activities such as finger painting, coloring, and learning projects. Sundari Devi also introduces Vaisnava songs and stories towards the end of the school day before they go outside to play.

Gopal's Garden Preschool students New Vrindaban ISKCON

The outdoor activities include sandbox, swing set, and field trips out beyond the preschool.

New Vrindaban Gopal's Garden Students Prabhupada's Palace ISKCON

During this summer semester, the children got to participate in devotional and festival projects such as making Ratha Yathra Jagannath cart and holding a pushpa abhisek for Radha Krishna.

New Vrindaban Gopal's Garden Preschool ratha yatra kids ISKCON Gopal's Garden Preschool ISKCON New Vrindaban

Sundari and Mercy believe the Preschool has been a great success so far and they have had a great time putting it together. The two mothers try to teach everything with a Krishna conscious aspect to it which makes each day very special, creative and innovative. They both feel Krishna brought the two of them together to satisfy Prabhupada’s wishes for the devotee children to be cared for properly. As Srila Prabhupada mentions in a Letter written in 1972, “…If children are allowed to play just like Krishna was playing with his cowherd boyfriends, then little ABC, then see the deity and have arati, then take little prasadam; in this way if they are always diversified, they will be always jolly and become fixed-up devotees at young age. And small children, they learn better these things from their mother and women in general.”

Gopal’s Garden Preschool will commemorate in November for a sweet graduation to congratulate the children for participating in this first year’s projects! Details will be provided on the New Vrindaban website.

Both teachers thank Srila Prabhupada for all of his wonderful books and teachings he made available to pass on to the this next generation.

“We hope and pray our efforts please Srila Prabhupada!!” – Sundari and Mercy


New Vrindaban Bahulaban Pits Sobhavati, Sankirtan, Bhokta Advaita 1977 or 1978

New Vrindaban Bahulaban Pits 1977 or 1978. From left to right: Sobhavati, Sankirtan, Bhokta & Advaita.

By: Madhava Smullen

Over the years, New Vrindaban has been famous for a long list of mouthwatering prasadam dishes – Hladini’s cinnamon rolls; Radhanath Swami’s sandesh; Madri, Dharmakala and Kutila’s cheesecake; Dharmakala’s baked goods and milk sweets; Taru and Amburish’s sweet rice; Vani’s dokla and idli, and many more.

But first, no story about New Vrindaban cuisine is complete without mentioning the legendary rice and oat water breakfast introduced in early 1976 and prepared by Sankirtan Das from 1977 until 1992.

It all began when Madhava Gosh read an article about how oat water was fed to inmates because of its energy-giving properties, and suggested it be adopted at New Vrindaban. Sudhanu Das then developed the first recipe and passed it on to fellow cook Tejomaya, who taught Sankirtan.

Oat water fueled the devotees who built New Vrindaban, and was symbolic of the austerities practiced in those early days. But, although an acquired taste, it could also be rather relishable.

“Oat water was not thick like oatmeal, but rather a savory liquid oatmeal brew,” says Sankirtan, who moved to New Vrindaban with his wife Ruci and their children on Gaura Purnima 1976. “I made it for 60 or 70 devotees, using 10 gallons of water, one gallon of oats, a cup of salt and ginger and raisins to taste.”

Sankirtan was one of those who relished oat water. “It was fantastic,” he says. “It was like having your morning cup of coffee before you got on the road. Sometimes it was sipped, and sometimes poured over the plain rice that went with it. In winter time, served hot, it warmed your insides and was a source of immediate heat against the cold.”

Just as the oat water symbolized the hardships of New Vrindaban life, it was also a challenge to cook.

From 1977 to 1979, Sankirtan prepared the rice and oat water breakfast in an outside kitchen in Bahulaban called “the pits,” which was just about as delightful as it sounds. Adjacent to the Deity kitchen, it had only a tin roof to protect one from the elements.

“I would collect my firewood the night before, because if it was wet, it would just smoke and wouldn’t ignite a decent fire to cook with,” he says. “I’d also fill the pot up with water at night.”

Bahulaban Pitts Sobhavati, Sankirtan, Bhokta, Advaita, Kutila, Kuladri 1977 or 1978

New Vrindaban Bahulaban pits 1977 or 1978. From left to right: Sobhavati, Bhokta, Advaita, Sankirtan, Kutila & Kuladri.

The next morning, Sankirtan would begin cooking at 5:00am, as in those days, devotees chanted most of their japa before mangala arati, had no japa period, and were finished the entire temple morning program and ready for breakfast by 7:00am.

The pits were literally three holes in the ground containing wood fires, with a grating over them on which the pots sat. Cooking over them was tricky.

“It was like a juggling act,” says Sankirtan. “You had to maintain a wood fire that would fluctuate if you weren’t attentive, while stirring the pot constantly so as not to burn anything. For the first few weeks until I got the hang of it, the rice was either uncooked, burnt, or mushy.”

The oat water was also a very precise recipe that could be easily ruined in a myriad of ways. At times over the years when Sankirtan was away for a few weeks, New Vrindaban residents would pray for him to return while his substitute undercooked it, oversalted it, or tossed in experimental ingredients to disastrous effect.

When each dish was done, Sankirtan struggled to lift the huge 20 gallon pots they were cooked in off the pits on his own, so that they wouldn’t burn. This left his apron covered in charcoal so black and all-encompassing that a visitor once mistook him for the mechanic.

The weather didn’t help, either.

“In the winter, it was an ordeal by both fire and ice,” Sankirtan says. “You were scorched on the side closest to the pits, but freezing cold on your back. And of course, if it rained or snowed you would be dealing with wet wood which didn’t give off too much heat but a lot of smoke.”

Sankirtan also cooked lunch six days a week, until the early 1980s. Fortunately, he had help with cutting vegetables and cleaning up from Shobavati Dasi. And in 1979, an indoor kitchen was built on the ground floor of the guest house in Bahulaban, making the cooking less challenging.

It was still hard work, however, and from 1981, what really kept Sankirtan going was pairing with fellow theater performer Lokamangala Das. Sankirtan would cook breakfast on his own, lunch with Lokamangala, and in the afternoon the two would work on developing plays.

“Sometimes we’d even rehearse our lines while cooking,” says Sankirtan. “It was kind of fun!”

Although he stopped cooking lunch when the devotee kitchen moved to the current temple complex in 1983, Sankirtan continued to cook breakfast until 1992. Both meals were plain – lunch was rice, dahl, chapatis, and later one subji too; what’s more, after lunch there was nothing to hold residents over until the next day but some leftovers.

Of course there were treats, too. On Sunday mornings, Jaya Murari would make a pancake breakfast with fresh homemade syrup. And Sunday Feasts would be a sumptuous spread, with New Vrindaban’s best cooks going all out, and families stashing the goodies for during the week.

But on an average week day, it was the oat water that woke the devotees up in the morning, and gave them the energy to go out and work hard to build Srila Prabhupada’s Palace, Sri Sri Radha Vrindabanchandra’s temple, the Palace Lodge, the residential cabins, vegetable and flower gardens, cow barns and everything else we think of as ISKCON New Vrindaban today.

“In the early days , devotees were performing austerities on a lot of different levels – the oat water was part of them,” says Sankirtan. “And personally I think that’s what built New Vrindaban. Everyone was performing the same austerities; we were all in it together. And that’s why, in one sense, there is a kind of comraderie between the older devotees here.”

Of his part, Sankirtan says, “I wasn’t a cook by nature. But I relished cooking because it was both a form of surrender for me, and a service to the devotees. And in that, I felt that I was helping to build New Vrindaban.”

We’ve modified the recipes for rice and oat water for home cooking and shared them with you below. Try them out and let us know how they inspire you with a flavor of that classic “Brijabasi Spirit!”

Rice (Serves 2)

2 cups of water
1 cup of rice
1 teaspoon ghee (butter, or ghee impurities)
1/4 teaspoon of salt

(Approximate cooking time: 15 to 25 minutes)

1. Bring the water to boil in a sauce pan.
2. When the water boils, stir in the rice, salt, and ghee (if using), and bring it to a gentle simmer.
3. Cover the pot and turn the heat down low.
4. Start checking the rice around 15 minutes.

5. When done, the rice will be firm but tender, and no longer crunchy.

Oat Water (Serves 2)


8 cups of water

1 cup of rolled oats

1 teaspoon ghee (butter, or ghee impurities)

1/4 teaspoon salt

Raisins & fresh ginger – to taste

(Approximate cooking time: 30 minutes)

1. Bring the water and salt to boil in a sauce pan.
2. When the water boils, stir in the oats, fresh ginger and ghee (if using) and bring it to a gentle simmer.

3. Stir occasionally and cook for approximately 30 minutes at a simmer.
4. The oat water is ready when the oats lose their form and become creamy.
5. Towards the end, add a few raisins so they get cooked enough to soften and plump up.

The cover of the recent Time is intriguing - The Answers Issue - with dozens of little cubes, each asking questions about some of today’s most important concerns, and looking like some information terminal.  I thought that this would surely be a breakthrough in journalism. I thought that maybe I could find some answers to our troubled existence and why so many of us feel burdened all the time,  or about breakthroughs in curing the common cold and societal ills, especially the perpetual political and economic problems which plague us today. 

SPOILER ALERT!!! The magazine contains no real answers.  The issue is just mostly filled with data and statistics, as if they could provide any real solutions to problems (or answers to life’s persistent questions – sorry, Guy Noir). 
But if you want to know what outer space smells like, or the average distance of a home run, or the best cities for singles, or if you like to dream about what you could buy with $18 trillion (our national debt), The Answers Issue is for you.
If you’re planning a trip to the beach, the mag will let you know the best ones. It will also be comforting to know that hardly anybody dies of shark attacks, but that each year 200,000 deaths are attributed to snails and 755,000 to mosquitoes. So watch out for those snails and mosquitoes.
The Effective Workout page is promising but skimpy. And two whole pages are dedicated to the likely ways we can die at different ages in our lives. I guess that’s good to know since we’re all going to die sooner or later.
The Answers Issue might make you feel guilty if you drive over 13,400 miles a year (the average), since it claims that car emission is the biggest factor to our individual carbon footprints.  Eating meat comes in second. Something to consider for those who want to make an impact on their carbon footprint but can’t bring themselves to give up driving.  Other lessor categories are our use of air conditioning, air travel and beer drinking, etc.  The interesting thing is that the mag is silent on the carbon footprint of our purchases of goods from overseas, since we can hardly buy anything that’s’ manufactured in America anymore.
If you’re a filmmaker or singer, it might be important to know of potential movie remakes people are eager to see, or the makings of a great summer song. You’ll find that in the mag.  And for those who are planning to cut school budgets, you can read about how art and theater can change our lives for the better.
And maybe it’s important to know that you can’t buy alcohol in Indiana on Sundays, or that Mississippi gives the biggest tax refunds, or that Texas has the largest bat colony,  and that California is the biggest supplier of milk and New Mexico has the most wanted bank robbers – 59 (although the mag neglects to mention how many bank robbers actually work in banks, whether in New Mexico, Wall Street, or elsewhere).  But I guess these are all good things to know if  you’re planning a move or a career change.
The most fundamental questions asked in The Answers Issue:  Is world peace possible? Questions we should be asking? What defines us?  In regards to the latter two, the subsequent questions posed for consideration are dismal.  It’s seems that journalists nowadays don’t know how, or feel too uncomfortable asking the probing questions that should be asked. Or is it because they don’t understand the nature of the problems to begin with? 
As for the first question - Is world peace possible? - rather than look at the sacred literatures of the world, the best they could come up  with are a few random quotes from contemporary thinkers. Yoko Ono thinks it’s possible “if all of us think it is possible.”  Someone else says it’s ‘theoretically possible.”  By far the best was a quote by James Baldwin – “Not everything that is faced can be changed; but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” OK. The Answers Issue has spoken. Now what?
Unfortunately there was no deeper probing of the core problems to world peace. Our misidentification with the body, our unregulated senses, our personal and corporate greed, the wholesale slaughter of animals, our inability to view the world around us as personal & sentient and  that we all spring from a common source and have a common father are all ignored. 
Ultimately, The Answers Issue does not provide the reader with any real knowledge. On the other hand, a few simple verses chosen from Sri Isopanisad immediately addresses the question of world peace:   
“Everything animate or inanimate that is within the universe is controlled and owned by the Lord. One should therefore accept only those things necessary for himself, which are set aside as his quota, and one should not accept other things, knowing well to whom they belong.” Mantra 1

“He who sees everything in relation to the Supreme Lord, who sees all living entities as His parts and parcels, and who sees the Supreme Lord within everything never hates anything or any being.” Mantra 6

“One who always sees all living entities as spiritual sparks, in quality one with the Lord, becomes a true knower of things. What, then, can be illusion or anxiety for him?” Mantra 7

We all have the same hopes and joys and fears. We all breathe the same air and make use of the earth’s God given resources. We are all truly connected.  And indeed, we are all spiritual beings. Such knowledge is liberating. With knowledge, we can become proactive. In contrast to the flimsy, scattered approach of The Answers Issues, the Vedic literatures – the Bhagavad Gita, Srimad Bhagavatam, Mahabharata, and Sri Isopanisad – understand that our time is precious.  Thus, they provide concise knowledge in a tangible, straight forward way for our consideration.  It is up to us to simply apply it in our lives.

See about my award-winning book Mahabharata; The Eternal Quest

Second anniversary of  my award-winning book is coming up. Below is praise from around ISKCON Also hailed by scholars from around the USA -  see more at


“Wonderful! Your storytelling art – which quickly gets to the essence of everything – has opened the world of Mahabharata to me , for it has opened up the world of the feelings and emotions of Mahabharata.” Sacinandana Swami

“Got the books. Already finished the first chapter....really nice. Have a friend who teaches comparative religion classes at the University here, I'll give her a copy.” Trivikrama Swami, FL

“Andy Fraenkel's very readable and insightful narrative allows immediate entrance into the Mahabharata, an epic known for its inscrutability. His deliciously distinct version of this martial text conjures up images of an ancient storyteller, sitting at a campfire surrounded by listeners who rightfully hang on his every word. Not to be missed!” --Steven J. Rosen (Satyaraja Dasa), author of 31 books & founding editor of the Journal of Vaishnava Studies,

“Andy Fraenkel provides us with a remarkable story in his adaptation of Mahabharata. . . He captures the essence of the epic and relates the unfolding action in a most interesting and exciting way.”  Stephen Knapp, Author (Books on India’s ancient Vedic culture)& founder of Vedic Friends Association,

“Such a great job – deep and flowing. You are truly gifted to share this profound story the way you have. Outstanding!” Krsnanandini Dasi, Author & Workshop Leader

“(This is) The first Mahabharata I can read aloud, placing me in the drama with Krishna, Arjuna, et al. Andy Fraenkel is today’s Sanjaya, the Gita’s reteller and seer of the Kuruksetra War. The book is lyrical.  I am reminded of the verse in CC Adi-lila 1:106 -  ‘Essential truth spoken concisely is true eloquence.’ The path to transcendence has never been brighter!” Suresvara Das, Workshop Leader

This book is an incredible rendition of one of the oldest written books on the planet. I highly recommend it if you want to immerse yourself in the most amazing drama and intrigue ever recorded.” Darrell Martin, Blue Boy Herbs, 

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