Why are the Jindals of JSW group of companies, the Goenkas of Welspun group and Goels of Essel group making a beeline to the world headquarters of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (Iskcon) at Mayapur in West Bengal, the birthplace of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu?
It is raining US dollars here from all over the globe – with $30 million from Alfred Ford, the great grandson of Henry Ford, another $30 million from international volunteers and more expected in the days and months to come. All this, towards setting up the Sri Chaitanya Cultural World Heritage Centre (SCCWHC). The 700-acre Iskcon temple complex will house a Rs 3,000 crore World Heritage Centre, a new grand temple, the Temple of the Vedic Planetarium (TOVP) and educational institutions that will impart not just science and humanities but spiritual knowledge and values, ethics and morals, too. The grand project is expected to be readied by the year 2022.
The 68-year-old Alfred Ford (aka Ambarish Das), disciple of Iskcon founder AC Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada since 1975, is currently in India, using his good offices to inspire volunteers to give what they can for the Mayapur project. Speaking to TOI, Ford said, “In this day and age, people need inspiration from spiritually advanced people; they cannot become spiritual on their own. I try to serve my spiritual master; don’t we do that in the corporate world as well, serving our bosses?”
Ford recalls being asked why he was willing to spend millions on a temple, why couldn’t he build hospitals instead? His response was, “The best thing you can give someone is spiritual knowledge. Hospitals and food are temporary. But spiritual knowledge transforms your life — then maybe you will have less need for hospitals! Your life changes for the better. That is what the temple is all about. You will discard all your unhealthy habits and with a positive lifestyle, there is healing of mind, body and soul. There will be peace and harmony. Less greed and more selfless service.”
Ford says Mamata Banerjee was the first CM of West Bengal to visit Mayapur and she has promised all help in the making of the Centre.
“The earlier regimes didn’t want to have anything to do with the Temple. Mamata Banerjee was very openminded; she even made dinner offering to the deities. We were facing land issues and she has been helpful there and also in terms of putting in place infrastructure. She says she wants to make Mayapur a leading tourism/pilgrimage destination in the world,” he says.
On February 26, PM Narendra Modi unveiled the world’s largest Gita weighing some 800 kg, at the Iskcon temple situated in East of Kailash, New Delhi. Alfred Ford and other prominent industrialists and devotees participated in the festive occasion.