ISKCON Boston: New Gundica

The Boston branch of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, now known as New Gundica, was one of the most prominent temples in the early years of the Hare Krishna movement. Srila Prabhupada set a number of milestones here, distinguishing the Boston yatra's position as a significant center for the development of Lord Caitanya’s Sankirtana Movement in the West.

It was on Boston’s Commonwealth Pier that Srila Prabhupada first set his lotus feet on Western soil in 1965, and it was there that he composed his prayer Markine Bhagavat Dharma, entreating Lord Krishna for the deliverance of the western countries. It was in Boston that Srila Prabhupada performed the first Brahmanical initiations not just in ISKCON, but for western men and women. It was also in Boston that Prabhupada established his original printing press for distributing transcendental literature, and instituted the worship of one of very few Deity forms of Sri Sri Radha Krishna that he personally installed.

Today ISKCON Boston is committed to providing inspiration and spiritual strength to its residents and congregational members. The devotees of New Gundica Dhama seek to fulfill their small part of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu's mission to spread Krishna consciousness throughout the greater Boston area. 


A Conversation With His Holiness Niranjana Swami

Location: Boston Commons Ratha Yatra

Date: 6/24/2023 

(See the conversation below this picture)

Pyari Mohan das (PMd): Everyone cleaned. That's why the temple was clean. Everyone had to clean one half hour of the day; everyone had a certain area that they had to do.

Questioner (Q): How did it start?

His Holiness Niranjana Swami (NRS): Not much to say except that in those days we always had to clean temples. And we spent a lot of time cleaning. It was a part of our service every morning. And I mean cleaning. I used to clean the crevices between the baseboards with knife and a cloth. We used to clean the walls every day. In Allston, at North Beacon St, I used to clean the temple room. It was broken up into 7 parts. And I would do one part each day. After a week I'd finish the whole temple room. And that included the baseboards, the molding on the ceiling, the wall and all the crevices in between.

So, we carried that over to Boston. When Aja came to become the temple president in 1975 — he came from 1975, '76, '77, and Agrani became temple president in '77 — he said let's call the Boston temple New Gundica. That came in 1975. It was actually when the Caitanya Caritamritas came out and the whole pastime was there. So he called the sankirtan newsletter because we were distributing a lot of books at that time, and he asked them to please call the Boston temple from now on New Gundica Mandir. We’re changing the name of the temple. And during those days, we used to have a maha-cleanup every month, when one day was dedicated for cleaning everywhere in the temple, including the women's quarters and the men's quarters. Everywhere. The basement. That was a full day spent for maha-cleanup which is meant to be part of the New Gundica… what should I call it?

Q: Culture? Culture?

NRS: Culture. That’s good. I like that. We used to take a throne, a palanquin… we built a palanquin for little Radha Krsna, and we'd have kirtan and carry little Radha Krsna to every single part of the temple for Them to inspect the standard of cleanliness. We did that once a month. I don’t remember when it stopped. And we’d have kirtan. The Deities went everywhere, every single room except the toilet. They went to the women's quarters, the men's quarters, the sankirtan quarters, and we had 2 buildings at that time. We had 70 Commonwealth Ave. 72 was the focus because that was the temple; 70 was sort of more residential. I can't remember if we brought the Deities into 70. I don't think we did actually. But we cleaned.

Q: Who was the temple president that named it this?

NRS: Aja das.

Q: So when you were looking for the word “culture”, you were stating that it was the culture of the temple for this cleaning, hence…

NRS: It was the culture that manifested as the change in the name of the temple to New Gundica. It was already a culture but now it was sort of like recognized.

Q: Yes, that’s it! …unless there is any extra nectar around this that you would like to share?

NRS: I just remember that when I was the temple commander, I had to clean the temple myself.

Q: Regarding the cleaning that was done over the course of the week, was it one section of the temple room per day and was it just one person doing this particular cleaning?

NRS: Just me. Yes. That was in Allston.

Q: Would you clarify whether the section you cleaned daily took an hour and a half? Would every devotee clean for an hour and a half?

NRS: I can't remember how long it was for. I thought it was more like an hour.

PMd: For cleaning there? I thought it was a half hour. Everybody in the whole temple, no matter what service you did, stopped and cleaned a half hour every morning before going on Sankirtan. We had probably 25 people; and they all had a certain area to clean. We had sponge mops and that's what we cleaned the walls with every day. We cleaned everything. We knew what to do and we cleaned. So we had it down. And there was a newspaper that sent their news people to come see us once. They said that when we eat, we just put a piece of wax paper down and we eat off the floor, and that the floor was clean enough to eat off of.

Attendee: That was the first temple?

NRS: No. That was the second temple. First temple was on Glenville Ave. That's where Prabhupada [inaudible]. That's when Satsvarupa was the temple president. He was also the president at North Beacon St. He stayed in the Tulasi's room.

Q: What was the name of the journal that was printed that Aja das requested devotees to…

NRS: No. At that time we used to have a sankirtan newsletter that would come out once a week, and a devotee whose name I can't remember used to put all the scores of the temples for book distribution. And Aja das said he put a request to call the temple from now on New Gundica Mandir.

Q: What years were you the temple president at the Boston Temple?

NRS: I was president from 1979 to 1983.

Q: So how long were you living in the Boston Temple prior?

NRS: Living in the Boston Temple from 1973 to 1977; then I was living at the Hartford Temple in 1977; then 1978 & 79 I was living in Manhattan. And then I came back to be the Boston Temple President in 1979 to 1983. And then I started traveling.

Q: Thank you.

NRS: Ok. Got what you wanted?

Q: Yes.