Massive New Temple in Canning, West Bengal Offers Abundant Opportunities for Book Distribution
Written by Kundalata dasi
Known as the gateway to the Sundarbans, the intriguing mangrove forest that is home to the Royal Bengal Tiger, Canning, whose name originates from the period of British rule in India, is a growing rural community of half a million people in the South 24 Parganas district of the state of West Bengal. It is connected to the nearby metropolitan city of Kolkata by train and road.
Canning’s newest claim to fame is the “Sri Sri Narayan Gosvami Gaudiya Sevasram,” a reinauguration and transformation of an already existing temple complex called the Canning Hari Sabha, which was first built in 1983. When it was known as the Canning Hari Sabha, it was visited annually by Srila Bhaktivedanta Vaman Gosvami Maharaja from 1986 to 1997 and once by Srila Bhaktivedanta Narayan Gosvami Maharaja in 2006. In recent years, the temple and surrounding compound had fallen into disrepair, so in the summer of 2010 the previous management offered the huge complex into the care of Srila Bhaktivedanta Narayan Gosvami Maharaja. Srila Gurudeva then conferred the responsibility of managing the large new temple upon his diligent and industrious sevaka, Tamal Krsna dasa Brahmacari, who was already engaged in preaching within the Canning area and who was instrumental in the previous management’s decision to present their temple to Srila Gurudeva.
A native of the 24 Parganas region, Tamal Krsna Prabhu had the desire to learn how to sing kirtans glorifying the Lord from the time he was very young. After completing his education, he renounced his home and went to Sri Navadvipa Dhama to fully dedicate himself toward that goal. 1n 1999, by the mercy of the vaisnavas, he had his first darshan of his initiating spiritual master, Srila Bhaktivedanta Vaman Gosvami Maharaja, and of his non-different instructing spiritual master, Srila Bhaktivedanta Narayan Gosvami Maharaja. When he first offered his prostrated obeisances to Srila Gurudeva’s divine, effulgent form, Srila Gurudeva placed his lotus hand upon his head and blessed him. He told Tamal Krsna Prabhu to remain with him always and never fear anything.
Taking this instruction to heart, Tamal Krsna Prabhu followed Srila Gurudeva to Sri Mathura Dhama and joined Sri Kesavaji Gaudiya Matha, where he received training from Sripad Premananda Prabhu. Under Srila Gurudeva’s guidance, Tamal Krsna Prabhu’s ability to perform kirtan flourished. Although he never made any professional recordings, admiring devotees made live recordings of his kirtans during parikramas and other occasions, and these can be heard in temples, centers, and homes around the world. He considers it Srila Gurudeva’s great benediction that he would be able to play even a miniscule role in helping to spread the mission of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.
In 2000, Srila Gurudeva ordered Tamal Krsna Prabhu to assist Sripad Bhaktivedanta Tirtha Maharaja with preaching in Bengal, and five years later, directed him to join Sripad Bhaktivedanta Janardana Maharaja’s party of preachers in a separate region. Starting in 2005, Tamal Krsna Prabhu accompanied Sripad Janardana Maharaja to Canning and its surrounding areas yearly, holding programs and developing relationships with the local people. As a result, the previous management of the Canning Hari Sabha came to revere Srila Gurudeva and eventually became inspired to offer their temple for his mission.
Tamal Krsna Prabhu hopes to develop Srila Gurudeva’s new temple, the “Sri Sri Narayan Gosvami Gaudiya Sevasram,” into a dynamic preaching center. There is a plan to create living quarters for sannyasis and brahmacaris, an international guesthouse, an office and library, a free medical clinic, and a bookstore on the premises. He has already opened a gurukula, with four young boys presently enrolled.
There is excellent scope for book distribution in Canning. Many of the locals living around the temple are well-educated and have appreciation for Gaudiya Vaisnava literature. Until a permanent bookstore can be established, temple devotees have been setting up a large table of books and other devotional paraphernalia near the front entrance of the complex. Preachers also take books with them when they go out for programs. Tamal Krsna Prabhu estimates that several hundred books and posters have been distributed over the past few years and aims to keep improving those statistics. A large proportion of the books distributed in Bengal have been donated through the GVP Book Distribution Sponsorship Program. This allows book distributors to give books to genuinely interested persons even if they do not have the means to pay full price, a common circumstance given the widespread poverty in rural Bengal. In addition, the sales of sponsored books assists brahmacaris with their travel costs and allows them to preach in remote areas far from established temples and centers.
Thus far, donations to the GVP Sponsorship Program have helped with the printing of 10,000 copies of The Way of Love (known in Bengali as Premera Patha), 15,000 copies of Secrets of the Undiscovered Self (Atmara Gopaniya Rahasya), and 10,000 copies of The Butter Thief (Makhana Cora). Through your generous pledge to the program, Srila Gurudeva’s books will continue to be printed for distribution to fortunate souls throughout Bengal, India, and the world.