Krishna’s expansion Sri Balarama wants to serve Krishna in all possible ways. Sri Balarama becomes Krishna’s abode, His bed, His seat, His sandals, His garments, His pillow, His umbrella, His ornaments and so forth. Therefore Balarama’s another name is Shesha (literally meaning Lord’s leftover). The Altar is thus a manifestation of Sri Balarama to offer continuous service to Krishna.
Govardhan Eco Village was preparing for the grand opening of the new stone temple, one of its kind inISKCON. ISKCON temples have always had very beautiful altars. So a grand temple opening and deity installation wouldn’t be completed without a beautiful altar for their lordships Sri Sri Radha Vrindaban Behari. So a team of devotees at GEV was up to the task of making a beautiful altar at par with ISKCON standards.
The ideas for altar design were taken from three different Swaminarayan Temples and drawn by a designer in Ahmadabad. After a series of modifications, the design was finalized and the carving the altar commenced. The altar was designed big enough to accommodate Sri Sri Radha Vrindaban Behari and Lord Gauranga Mahaprabhu. The altar was being made in Ahmadabad from BTC wood and would have four pillars, backdrop, one carving slab placed on the four pillars and five domes on top, all hand carved. The entire work was expected to be completed in 3 months just before the temple opening and deity installation scheduled on 14-15th April 2014. But due to the intricate design and carvings the altar was only half finished. So only the lower half of the altar was used in the deity installation after which the altar was sent back to Ahmadabad. Now after 3 more months the work finally got completed and now we have a magnificent altar which has creepers, flowers and over a 120 peacocks all exquisitely hand carved. The altar has five domes, 1 big dome in the center, flanked by 4 small ones on the sides. The domes have pearl carvings on them. The whole altar has been given a lacquer wood finishing which gives it a natural look. Manmohan das, a resident monk at GEV who spearheaded the whole plan, would visit Ahmadabad every coupe of weeks for 6 months to track the progress and the quality of work.
To set up the new altar on the marble vedhi, was another interesting challenge as it was to prepare it. The difficulty was that the deities were already installed and thus couldn’t be moved. So the installation of the new altar had to be done while the deities were present. The whole altar had 12 parts – 4 pillars, backdrop in 2 pieces, 5 domes and 1 slab – the biggest and heaviest piece amongst them. All these parts were to be joined with the help of screws. So the team of devotees planned to make a thick wooden enclosure, which would protect the deities from all thesides while the altar was being set up. The enclosure was prepared in such a way that the deities’ lotus faces would be visible for anyone who came to take darshan and also to the pujaris who came to offer various services. Finallywith great expertise and patience the devotees set up the new altar for Sri Sri Radha Vrindaban Behari in a few hours.
HH Radhanath Swami on his visit to GEV on 6-7 October 2014 appreciated the new altar and recommended the same team to prepare a similar altar for Srila Prabhupada with a different theme – elephants carved on it. He also asked them to design and make the main doors to the temple based on Vrindavan theme.