Friday, March 4, 2011

Early History of ISKCON Bangalore by Shankabrit dasa

Clock wise:- Shankabrit dasa, senior pujari & Madhu pandit dasa
Around 1976, the devotees from different parts of India and the world had initiated activities of ISKCON in different parts of South India like Bangalore, Hubli, Madras, etc. Sankirtans in the streets, enrolling Life Members, arranging programs in the houses, and arranging large public programs in pandals were being conducted. Shankabrit das, Amiya Vilas das, Purna Brahma das and Ramsharaddha das, all disciples of Srila Prabhupada, were actively involved in these activities in south India. 
In 1976, Shankabrit das wrote to Srila Prabhupada about the complaints of several Life Members in South India who were not receiving the books and magazines on time. Shankabrit das also mentioned that if a centre could be opened in Bangalore, he could coordinate the smooth supply of books and periodicals to all the Life Members of South India.
Around September or October of 1976, Srila Prabhupada summoned Shankabrit das to Bombay. This suggestion to open a centre in Bangalore was not well received by the senior members of ISKCON in Hyderabad, because they saw it as some kind of “independent thinking” of Shankabrit das, who was only junior, according to them. Shankabrit das was a leading fundraiser for ISKCON Hyderabad and they did want to lose him.
But Srila Prabhupada took the communication by Shankabrit das seriously and immediately summoned him to Bombay. Srila Prabhupada heard the objections of the Hyderabad devotees, weighed the pros and cons, and overruled the objections raised by the ISKCON Hyderabad office bearers. Srila Prabhupada saw that the proposal to open a centre in Bangalore was an opportunity to expand his ISKCON mission further in South India. He did not agree that by losing Shankabrit das, the ISKCON Hyderabad project would be affected.
In that meeting, Srila Prabhupada appointed Shankabrit das as the President of ISKCON-Bangalore, and also appointed one of his senior men, Balimardan dasa, as the first GBC to oversee all activities on his behalf in South India. Srila Prabhupada separated Andhra Pradesh from the rest of South India and asked Shankabrit das if he could also revive the preaching in Madras, as Bhavabhuti das had recently left Madras and the centre was closed. Subsequently, Shankabrit das initiated the preaching activities in Madras, Thiruchirapalli and Trivandrum.
In the GBC meetings of March 1977 at Mayapur, which was attended by Srila Prabhupada, Hansadutta Goswami was appointed the GBC of South India and Sri Lanka, replacing Balimardan das. In this meeting on March 3rd, 1977, Hansadutta Goswami was authorized by a GBC resolution to open a preaching centre in Bangalore. At that time Sri Shankabrit das was actively involved in the preaching activities in Bangalore.
Around that time, Shankabrit das had come across an offer of donation of land of about 60 to 100 acres on Kanakapura Road belonging to the Maharaja of Dharampur. Shankabrit das had also approached the then Chief Minister of Karnataka, Sri Devraj Urs for allotment of land in favor of ISKCON. A meeting was convened in the chambers of Sri Devraj Urs with the Chairman of the newly formed Bangalore Development Authority (BDA) and Shankabrit das. In this meeting, Shankabrit das was informed that allotment of land to ISKCON would be considered on a priority basis by BDA only if the society was registered in Karnataka. Shankabrit das discussed this matter with Hansadutta Goswami, the GBC of South India.
Srila Prabhupada’s policy on structure of ISKCON:
Srila Prabhupada had registered a society of the name International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) in the State of New York in 1966. Many temples were opened in the next few years in different cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco, Buffalo, etc., and all of them were functioning as branches of ISKCON New York. As the temple activities expanded, it was Srila Prabhupada’s policy to incorporate separate ISKCON societies in those cities. He writes about this policy in his letter to Karandhara dasa in 1972:
“Never mind there may be botheration to register each centre, take tax certificate each, become separate corporations in each state. That will train men how to do these things, and they shall develop reliability and responsibility, that is the point.”
(Srila Prabhupada Letter to Karandhara das, Bombay, December 22, 1972)
According to this policy, ISKCON is registered in different cities separately and there are about 50 separately incorporated ISKCON societies in the US alone.
Following the same policy, Srila Prabhupada first incorporated a society in 1971 in Mumbai, and initially his plan was to conduct the activities all over India as branch of ISKCON Mumbai. However with time, as the activities expanded in different cities, he would incorporate them as separate societies. By October 1974, Srila Prabhupada had approved incorporation of a separate society in Calcutta:
30 October, 1974
To Whom It May Concern:
As the Founder-Acharya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, I authorize that the Society may incorporate under the Religious Societies Act of 1860 separately in West Bengal as the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (Calcutta) with myself as Founder-Acharya.
I also appoint the following as the Trustees: Gargamuni Swami, Bhavananda Goswami, and Jayapataka Swami.
Dated this 30th Day of October, 1974
: A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami
But for some reasons the registration of the society was not carried out.
“Do not Centralize”
Srila Prabhupada was against the principle of centralizing the control of ISKCON temples under one large corporate entity, and gave very clear directions against centralization:
“…but so far I am concerned, I have not got much stock in such centralized management or organization. I never wanted that any of my temples shall be dependent upon the other temples.” Srila Prabhupada in a letter to Damodar Das, Bombay, 9 Jan 1973
“Regarding your points about taxation, corporate status, etc., I have heard from Jayatirtha you want to make big plan for centralization of management, taxes, monies, corporate status, bookkeeping, credit, like that. I do not at all approve of such plan. Do not centralize anything. Each temple must remain independent and self-sufficient.”
(Srila Prabhupada in a letter to Karandhara das, Bombay, December 22, 1972)
Following this policy of Srila Prabhupada and considering the necessity to get land allotted by BDA, the then GBC representative of South India, Hansadutta Goswami directed Shankabrit dasa in 1978 to register a society by the name International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) in Bangalore. Please see enclosed letter by Hans Kary aka Hansaduta das of September 18, 2008.
Registration of ISKCON-Bangalore
Accordingly on May 8, 1978, the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) Bangalore was incorporated and the initial office bearers declared in the incorporation documents of ISKCON Bangalore were:
1. Shankabrit Dasa President
2. Anantha Padmanabha Das Vice President
3. Amiya Vilasa Das Secretary
4. Purna Brahma Das Treasurer
In the same year of 1978, a grand Ratha Yatra of Lord Jagannath was held for the first time on MG Road, the most prestigious road of Bangalore city. The Ratha Yatra was inaugurated by Sri Gundu Rao, the then Transport Minister. A three-day festival was also conducted near the present Chinnaswamy Stadium, next to the Gandhi Park, and nearly one lakh people attended.
The First General Body Meeting
The first General Body Meeting of the newly formed ISKCON-Bangalore society was conducted on September 1, 1979 and the following office bearers were appointed:
1. Shankabrit Das President
2. Padmanabh Das Vice President
3. Ikshvaku Das Secretary
4. Bhakta Das Treasurer
In 1979, Hansadutta Goswami was replaced by HH Jayapataka Swami as the GBC of South India. At that time, Jayapataka Swami was trying to implement and impose the Zonal Acarya System in ISKCON-Bangalore. Due to differences in opinion on the Guru issue, and disgusted by seeing Jayapataka Swami’s use of the Guru issue to divide and rule, Shankabrit das left Bangalore and moved over to Hyderabad as Regional Secretary of Andhra Pradesh (1979-80). Later in 1980, Shankabrit das moved over to Tirupathi to initiate the ISKCON-Bhaktivedanta Institute activities. He was involved in getting a piece of land allotted by Tirumala Tirupathi Devastanam (TTD) in 1982 and the installation of the Presiding Deities of Sri Radha Govinda in 1984.
By 1980, all of the above-mentioned office bearers of ISKCON-Bangalore had become involved in different activities of ISKCON in different places, and they all had left Bangalore.
In 1983, Madhu Pandit das became involved in overseeing the activities of ISKCON in Bangalore, along with his responsibilities in Trivandrum temple. At that time also the GBC representative for Bangalore was Jayapataka Swami.
In 1984, Jayapataka Swami directed Madhu Pandit das to meet Shankabrit das (who was in Tirupathi at that time) to formalize the handing over of the management of ISKCON Bangalore society to Madhu Pandit das. Subsequently a meeting was held on July 1, 1984, and all the then office bearers resigned. Those actually serving in ISKCON Bangalore were brought in as members of the society and the following office bearers were elected:
1. Madhu Pandit Das President
2. Chanchalapathi Das Vice President
3. Pranananda Das Treasurer
4. Bhanu Swami Secretary
By the year 2004, Shankabrit das, Ananta Padmanabha das, Amiya Vilas das (now a Swami) and Purnabrahma das had all become involved in different activities other than that of ISKCON Bangalore. At that time, the representatives of ISKCON Mumbai met them and wanted them to file certain statements about ISKCON Bangalore. Without paying much attention to the above facts, they signed a few papers, which were later filed in the courts by ISKCON Mumbai. Only later did they realize that the statements presented in the courts did not accurately represent the facts of the matter. Hence a short account of the actual history of ISKCON-Bangalore has been recounted here above.

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