Is this matrix of stones at GEV depicting an impeccable blend of grandeur, beauty and wisdom is just another monument or an art piece? Amazing, of course, is the intricate carvings and the art work, but what’s great in adding a small stone structure to the unending list of stunning monuments, antique towers and intricate art works scattered all over India?
Stunning Monuments! Antique Towers! Caves with intricate art works! These are all great pieces of art, grandeur and beauty, but they are all like a decorated body without life.
However this beautiful matrix of red sandstones at the Govardhan Eco Village is not just another art piece, it’s the spiritual world unfolding before our eyes to transport us to another world full of eternal life.
The Vedic Cultural and Educational Centre (VCEC) at GEV presented this wonderful structure for the pleasure of Their Lordships Sri Sri Radha Vrindaban Behari on 15th April 2014. The amazing work behind this brilliant manifestation is worth knowing.
A Stone Temple
One important practical activity in the service of God that not only engages few persons but a large number of people and utilizes various skills they have is to build a majestic temple for the Lord. It’s for this reason that in Vedic culture kings considered it an honour to have an opportunity to build a temple for the Lord. The work was so huge and magnificent that it would span for several generations.
In sharp contrast the stone temple of Sri Sri Radha Vrindaban Behari was completed in six months. The pace at which the temple was built does not mean that it’s a set of stones arranged quickly to create a structure. Rather the temple is built in a unique way by not only utilising the strength and stability which different types of stones offer but also artistically using the stones to carve out designs and pastimes of the Lord from Srimad Bhagavatam. The pastimes of the Lord are not just some fictitious stories that had happened in the past times but these depictions prove that if one is totally absorbed in the pastimes with devotion, they will be enacted in one’s heart in real time in the present time and are powerful enough to take one beyond time. The carvings have the unique advantage of providing a three-dimensional view of the Lord’s pastimes. This raises an interesting question of how the pastimes of the Lord have manifested so nicely in the carvings. The answer to this question will bring out in detail how, where and when the carvings were made.
Manifestation of Pastime Carvings
Srila Prabhupada gave lot of emphasis for having nicely drawn pictures of Lord’s pastimes in his books. According to him the pictures in his books are the windows to the spiritual world. The same pictures acted as the starting point of inspiration for the pastime carvings on Sri Sri Radha Vrindavan bihari temple Mandovar (the outer walls of the garbhagriha). The BBT pictures were first pencil drawn on a paper, then a carbon paper was placed between the paper with the picture and the stone. The image was redrawn making an impression on the stone. After the rough image was created on the stone, the first category of carving artist, with chisel and hammer created dots depicting a rough image on the stone. Then the second category of artist removed the unwanted portion of the stone. The main artist brings out the rough image of the characters of the pastime with three dimensional features like depth. Once the characters of the pastime become more prominent, the artist who does the jewellery design did his part. The main artist came back again to bring out finer personal features like eyes, hands, legs and fingers. Along with the artists, a very crucial role was played by Anupam Gauranga das, a resident monk at GEV who was overseeing the whole process. As he knows all the details of the pastimes he had to educate the artists about the pastimes and the emotions of the characters. He had to give crucial inputs and correct deviations before it was too late.
After seeing how the pastimes in the pictures were made into carvings, another interesting question that arises is where the carvings fitted in the entire temple structure. Just as a diamond is placed in gold to make a complete ornament, the pastimes carvings which are like diamonds are placed above the artistic carvings. Traditionally the walls are called as Mandovar and the sixth and seventh layer of the stone Grabhagriha are called as Janghi patta and Janghi respectively. The artistic carvings were arranged in the Mandovar with the pastimes of Lord Krsna in Vrindavan acting as the Janghi patta and the important pastimes from all the twelve cantos of Srimad Bhagavatam acting as Janghi. Since carving is a special skill not commonly found, the pastime carving artists were chosen from specialists in Orissa and the artistic carvings were done in Bhayana Rajasthan. Anupam Gauranga das had to travel to Rajasthan stay with the carving artists and coordinate the work and also monitor the work in Rajasthan and coordinated with the devotees at Govardhan Eco Village. He sent carved images electronically to GEV and suggestions made were incorporated. After the carvings were finished they were transported to GEV and the outer structure of the temple construction started. Along with the carvings, Orrisa artists also came to GEV to carve the finer details.
The main sanctum sanctorum (Garbhagriha) is a structure completely made of pink sand stone from Rajasthan, India. 4500 cubic feet of stone was used to make the Garbhagriha and it is 30 ft in height, 22 ft in length and 12 ft in breadth. The inner sanctum’s roof is also artistically designed. The marble ceiling is carved in such a way that a person looking up the ceiling will get a picture of an inverted flower with different layers of petals. Each layer of petal again has got intricate carvings in them.
The ceiling is strongly supported by beams made of ‘kumari’ type of marble stone which is known for its durability. As it was black in color, it was ‘cladded’ with white marble. Cladding basically means binding two types of stones. In this case the binding of black and white marbles were done by putting copper rods in different angles in such a way to make sure that marbles don’t fall off. With many enlightening carvings, the ornate exterior wall of the Temple (mandovar), depicts pastimes of Lord Krishna and other pastimes from Srimad Bhagavatam. The temple structure, is a fine example of the rich traditions of Indian Architecture.