Early days Bhubaneswar

 There was Nothing Here

Selected quotes from
Kṛṣṇāliṅgita-vigraha, Volume one
The authorised biography of His Divine Grace, Śrīla Ācārya Ṭhākura,
Gour Govinda Swami.

The hut (right) and the rented tents (left) in the middle of no where.

Bhāgavata dāsa
At that time we were preparing to install the Ananta-śeṣa deity for the new temple to be constructed in Bhubaneswar. I remember Gour Govinda Mahārāja would go into the room with Prabhupāda, and they would sit for a long time and talk about many things. Prabhupāda was giving him special instructions. Actually there was nothing here, only a mud hut. You could look for miles in every direction and there was just vacant land.

All these big GBCs and Mahārājas’, who came to be with Prabhupāda, were saying to him, ‘This place is useless. It’s just a mud hut in the middle of the desert. There is nothing here. We should simply close this down and build something in Purī. Why are we wasting our time and money here?’
Prabhupāda looked at them and shook his head, and said, ‘You do not understand. Someday, this temple will be in the centre of the city and it will be one of the most important temples in our whole movement.’

Jayadharma dāsa
So that was a wonderful time in Purī [with Śrīla Prabhupāda]. Then we went back to Bhubaneswar, and it was very austere, passing stool in the open paddocks, bathing under a pump, and eating in the open, sleeping on the ground. For us Westerners we were really finished. It was really difficult. I think that bodily distress was so great that it really clouded the intelligence at that time, it was so austere!
In retrospect, [1991] for Gour Govinda Mahārāja to stay there on that piece of land, living in that mud hut and building that wonderful temple under such harsh conditions, he must be a great Vaiṣṇava! This is not a normal occurrence. The vision for the temple was Gour Govinda Mahārāja and Śrīla Prabhupāda’s, and no one else was into it.

Devadharma dasa
I met for the first time His Holiness Gour Govinda Mahārāja. I could immediately appreciate that here is a true Vaiṣṇava. His whole appearance, his humility, his tone of voice, everything about him made me feel relieved and happy.
This Mahārāja was different from any previous sannyāsīs that I had met. He did not demand anything from me, not even to wash his clothes or cook for him. Simply I was encouraged to go out and try to sell some magazines and books. Orissa is a very poor place and not knowing the language didn’t help either. But whatever little effort I made was always appreciated by him. I didn’t remember even once being chastised by the Mahārāja for not doing enough service or not collecting enough money.

Srila Prabhupada giving class in Bhubaneswar 1977.

Upanananda dāsa
Whilst Śrīla Prabhupāda was in Bhubaneswar he poked his cane into the ground three times, and said, “I leave all my mercy here. I leave all my mercy here. I leave all my mercy here.

Laguḍi dāsa
Gour Govinda Mahārāja would eat only plain food, once or twice a day, very simple prasāda, khicarī once or twice a day. He never asked for sweets, he never demanded anything. I could stand it, but others could not live like this. The Western devotees would come, sannyāsīs would come and ask for milk and halavā, ‘Where is it?’ they would ask. We had no money, how could we live like in the West?

Srila Gour Govinda Swami Maharaja

How could we prepare feasts? The Western devotees could not keep up with Gour Govinda Mahārāja’s austerities; they just came to enjoy.

Śrīla Gour Govinda Swami
Sometimes when it was too hot, Laguḍi would sleep outside, but the noise of the trucks from the highway was too loud for him, so he would wrap a piece of cloth around his head and then put a pot over his head to keep out the noise of the trucks, and in this way he would sleep.

Laguḍi dāsa
I was most upset when Śrīla Prabhupāda left us; we all went into the room and heard on the telephone the news that Śrīla Prabhupāda had left. It was a great shock for me. Then Gour Govinda Mahārāja said, “Laguḍi we need not lament too much, we have to follow Śrīla Prabhupāda’s instructions. Do not be despondent now. Go on saṅkīrtana, go and preach, do not be despondent now.” He encouraged me. I was in māyā, I would have left the movement if I had not had Gour Govinda Mahārāja’s association.