Who can possibly know the desire of the Lord and who can change what is destined to happen? And so it happened that the whole world has been going through a tough time due to the CoronaVirus Pandemic and the difficulties that have arisen due to the disease itself and the lockdowns. And living within this material world, the devotees have not been able to escape the effects either. Yet, although it may appear to be the same, the way that devotees deal with such testing times is different than those who are oblivious of the higher plan of God. Although challenging, the devotees took this opportunity to increase their surrender and faith in the Supreme Lord. However, testing times these were and we at ISKCON Vrindavan also had to face numerous challenges.
Being one of the biggest temples, Krishna Balaram Mandir was faced with the huge challenge of managing all the services for the Lord and the finances to maintain the temple when the Lockdown in India started in March. The service of making garlands which was generally done by 50-60 matajis was now to be done by just 8-10. The Pujaris who were staying outside the temple were not allowed to enter, meaning that the brahmacharis and a few others devotees, who moved into the temple guesthouse, had to cover up all the services. Everyone was engaged full time. The temple devotees had to take up more responsibility to help in all the different services to be done. Add to it the Prasadam distribution that the temple was performing and there was a lot more service to be done. This certainly kept all the managers busy all day long, trying to cover up all the services in the temple while still keeping the morale high of all the devotees, both those who were locked inside and had tons of service to do and those who were locked outside and were greatly unhappy, not being able to go to the temple and perform their services for the pleasure of the Lord.
As if this were not enough, the financial situation of the temple was also under strain as no pilgrims meant no donations collected and yet the expenses had hardly gone down. Krishna certainly wished us all to surrender unto him and pray for his protection. Sri Krishna is the only true protector and maintainer of all, and what to speak of his devotees, he is certainly most concerned about their well being and sure enough, although extremely tough, things were somehow going on. Eventually, seeing the eagerness of the devotees to come and take darshan of Sri Sri Gaur Nitai, Sri Sri Krishna Balaram and Sri Sri Radha Shyamsundar, the temple doors were opened for two hours in the morning and two hours in the afternoon to allow the devotees to take darshan while maintaining proper social distancing and following all precautionary measures.
Despite all endeavors to avoid an outbreak of the disease in the temple, by the will of providence, a few devotees tested positive during the tests that were carried out after one devotee was diagnosed with the disease. Thereafter what happened was very saddening for the congregational devotees. The temple was completely locked down with no darshans allowed and arranging all the services again proved to be a challenge as some of the devotees who had tested positive were moved to another facility of the temple in order to prevent further spreading of the disease and to give proper care to the devotees who had contracted the disease. After the 2-3 week intense period, during which the festivals of Janmashtami and Radhashtami also had to be celebrated in the simplest manner in the temple history due to the current situation, the devotees who had been experiencing mild symptoms completely recovered and even the elderly couple who had contracted the disease and had to be admitted in the hospital due to complications were able to completely recover with the mercy of the Lord.
After the intensity of the situation subsided to some extent and things came back to the new normal, the temple was opened again for the short darshans in the mornings and afternoons. The generous donations of devotees from a few European countries has helped the temple greatly during these tough times but that source shall dry up soon as well and therefore efforts are being made to raise funds for the smooth running of the services. We therefore request all the devotees to come forward and help the temple in keeping up the high standards of services performed for the pleasure of their Lordships Sri Sri Gaur Nitai, Sri Sri Krishna Balaram and Sri Sri Radha Shyamsundar by donating generously, spreading the word and encouraging others to support the temple.