The Iskcon Bhagavat Library Project at Bhubaneswar

a. Background

In April 1992 Janeshwar dasa presented a paper to His Divine Grace Sri Srimad Gour Govinda Swami for his idea of establishing a library at Bhubaneswar. In this paper he expressed his opinion that because Srila Gurudeva was becoming famous world wide for teaching the Gaudiya siddhanta, for teaching ‘the tattvas’, many devotees would come to Bhubaneswar to learn from him. Bhubaneswar would become a place of learning and as such it should have all related facilities such as a library.

b. The presentation…

This library would be both for the general public and devotees, and would be a lending library as well as a research library.

As a research library it would contain every book by our acaryas, by contemporary vaisnava authors of all schools, plus any other books related to or about Gaudiya Vaisnavism.

It would also include of course all Vedic literatures and books connected to the Vedic tradition. It would have a comparative religion section, and connected sections on philosophy and so on.

As the Library would be in Orissa it would have a department of books relating to Orissa language, customs, history, traditional beliefs etc etc.

It would have not only books but also all available audio and video recordings of Srila Prabhupada and Guru Maharaja, as well as samples from other Vaisnavas’ lectures and bhajans collections.

This gives some idea of what composition of the library itself.

c. Guru Maharaja’s response…

In April 1992 His Divine Grace told Janeshwar that he very much appreciated his plan, and also was thinking of the need for such a project, but at this time it is not needed. The temple itself had not yet been completed, and that naturally was a priority. He kept hold of the papers Janeshwar had given.

Janeshwar returned to the UK where after a few months he received a call from his dear friend Guru Maharaja’s secretary Nimai pandit prabhu. Nimai told him that whilst he was in Guru Maharaja’s room one day he noticed some papers under a paper weight on his desk written in Janeshwar’s hand-writing. He asked Guru Maharaja what they were. Srila Gurudeva responded that this was an idea for the library project at Bhubaneswar and that this was for Janeshwar to do in the future.

d. So now…

Now it is 18 years on from this event.

Now it is about time that this library project began to take shape.

e. Some ideas …

The library should have some kind of board, unofficial to begin with. Later it can become a formal legal entity.

Janeshwar dasa will for now take up responsibility for getting the project up and running. I (Jd) will also be the main fund raiser at this early stage in the project’s development. I will also head up the acquisitions department.

f. The library itself…

The main ‘central’ library will be the main library in it's own separate building in Bhubaneswar City and will house the complete collection, as outlined above (see b. The Presentation).

This central library would also house a museum of prehistorical and historical artefacts, and would generally be based on our Puranic version of history (though naturally when covering more recent times the museum collection would conform to ‘western’ history). We should eventually employ a professional librarian and experienced qualified museum staff.

There should also eventually be a lecture hall, and smaller conference rooms available for use by visiting devotees.

Of course the development and expansion of the library and museum would be gradual! Initially we will begin with a few donated books in a room somewhere, and take things from there.

It is also the plan to establish smaller branch libraries throughout our Iskcon centres in Orissa, should they be needed. These branch libraries would focus on Srila Prabhupada and Srila Gour Govinda Swami's books, audio etc.

This Bhagavat Library would be a huge project glorifying our Maha Bhagavata Acharyas, our beloved Gurudeva and Srila Prabhupada, in Orissa State’s capital Bhubaneswar, through which all visitors to Puri Dhama must pass. If done well this could be great preaching, both locally within Orissa, on a national Indian level, and also amongst the international Vaisnava community!

g. What now?…

so for now we will begin fund raising, publicising the project and collecting books.

We hope that within a few months we will have permission to establish local branch libraries at least in the main Temples at Gadei giri and Bhubaneswar, and get the books to stock those.

Then we will switch our focus to stocking the shelves of the central library, which in the beginning will be situated near to the Bhubaneswar Temple itself in a rented room.

h. The Name – Iskcon Bhagavat Library

Whilst the name was never discussed with HDG…

We felt the Bhagavat Library would be a suitable name.

i. Then found this quote…

In 1975, Prabhupada outlined to me a plan for what he called “ISKCON Bhagavat College” – a university for Iskcon. On feature of this college would be a library housing a complete collection of texts from all the Vaishnava sampradayas.

(from Devotion and reflection in the Gaudiya Vaishnava tradition
by William Deadwyler III, Ph.D. (Ravindra Swarup das)
printed in India’s Spiritual Renaisance, the Life and Times of Lord Chaitanya by Steven Rosen)

ii. Srila Gurudeva himself also wanted to establish a university. On 24th December 1993 His Divine Grace visited Sripad Bhakti Carana das Babaji Maharaja in Kendarapara. After spending some time with him Srila Gurudeva left his Math and accompanied the highly respected Vaisnava research scholar Dr Fakir Mohan Das prabhu to his library, which was housed along the same lane just a few metres away. In his library the Professor showed Guru Maharaja two large double almiras stuffed with palm leaf manuscripts, and also showed him his own research. At this point Srila Gurudeva said that we should establish a university in Bhubaneswar and do research. (Naturally a library would be part of such a project).

Unfortunately due to ‘internal politics’ Guru Maharaja stopped the Vedic university program within a short time.