Temple Profile: ISKCON Netrakona, Bangladesh
By Nila Kamal das
Name: Sri Sri Jagannath Vallabha Mandir
Address: Netrakona, Bangladesh. 20.8823147
Presiding Deities: Jagannath, Baladeva and Subhadra, Gour Nitai and Radha Govinda.
Temple Management: Jay Ram das, Anantadev das and Tulsi das.
When did it open? The official opening of the temple was on the 2nd of January 2016.
Location: Netrakona is located in the Northern part of Bangladesh near the Meghalaya border. The population here is around 70% Hindu whilst the rest are Muslim.
Known for: It’s hard working brahmacari ashram. There is also a wonderful training system in the brahmacari ashram in which the senior devotees mentor the other devotees with their spiritual insights and exemplary behaviour and etiquette.
Number of residents: 26 full time saffron brahmacaris.
Number of visitors: 10 to 15 on weekdays. 100 on Fridays and Sundays and up to 4000 on festival days.
Best time to visit: Ratha Yatra (July), it attracts near to 4000 individuals from all around Bangladesh.
HH Subhag Swami sent three of his brahmacari disciples in 2010 to go to Netrakona. From there they rented a small place and started preaching. They organised the first Ratha Yatra in 2011 and it turned out to be a huge success. As the number of congregation devotees increased, the need for a permanent residence for Jagannath was clearly evident. The devotees began looking for land nearby and when Subhag Swami visited Netrakona in 2012, he suggested that the land opposite the preaching centre was suitable.
Local devotees headed by Jay Ram das, Anantadev das and Tulsi das worked extremely hard day and night collecting funds for the land. At times they would eat very meagrely and that too only after returning from completing their daily quota. (It should be noted that these three brahmacaris were based in India for a number of years prior to coming to Bangladesh. They came to a foreign land and that too without a single penny in their pocket.) By Krishna’s mercy, they were able to purchase that land in 2013. After a lot of planning, finally in August 2015 construction started. Resident devotees worked round the clock, with each and every brahmacari helping in the construction work. The grand opening of the temple was set for the 2nd of January 2016, where Netrakona devotees celebrated the 50th anniversary of ISKCON and the 75th Vyasa Puja of Subhag Swami. The opening of the temple attracted near to 3000 devotees from all over Bangladesh.
Now Sri Sri Jagannath Vallabha Mandir is a fully fledged ISKCON temple with devotees from across India and Bangladesh visiting regularly. The brahmacaris are actively preaching in college and universities and they visit on a weekly basis several Nama Hattas locally.