for ISKCON News on March 24, 2012
Chateau D’Oublaise, 36360 Lucay le Male, France
+33 254 40 2395
Sri Sri Gaura Nitai, Sri Sri Krishna Balarama, Sri Sri Radha Govinda Madhava, Laksmi Nrisimhadeva, and Giri Govardhana.
: An historic early 20th century chateau, surrounded by 80 hectares of forests and pasture. Srila Prabhupada’s original quarters where he stayed during his visits to New Mayapur in the 1970s are preserved in the temple.
Rural area, about one hour’s drive from the major tourist attraction Loire Valley, famous for its historic towns, vineyards, and architecture including an abundance of beautiful chateaus.
Being a good place for learning and practicing Deity worship at a high standard. Also a good location for practicing a self-sufficient lifestyle of simple living and high thinking advocated by Srila Prabhupada during his two visits to New Mayapur in 1975 and 1976.
Number of residents:
Sixteen full-time devotees, and thirty congregation members living within a 30 kilometer radius of the temple.
New Mayapur is a peaceful, quiet rural community, with few regular visitors—although guests do come for festivals, seminars and retreats.
Best time of year to visit:
Between May and the end of October.
Between 1970 and 1974 ISKCON in France was rapidly expanding, along with the rest of Srila Prabhupada’s worldwide movement.
Seeing this, Prabhupada told the local management to acquire a rural property connected to the city temple in Paris. He wanted a place that would house the increasing number of devotee families under conditions favorable to their spirituality and public reception.
In July 1974, after visiting several properties in France, Srila Prabhupada personally chose the field of Oublaisse. Upon it sat a beautiful chateau that had been built in 1905.
“This property will be perfect for the devotees,” he said. With his usual charm, he soon convinced the owner to sell it to him cheaply, and used the proceeds from the sales of his books by the French devotees to make the payment.
Devotees moved to the property that fall, and installed Deities of Sri Sri Gaura Nitai in the winter. In Their honor, and in honor of the sacred West Bengal town They appeared in in the fifteenth century, he named the new community “New Mayapur.”
Srila Prabhupada visited twice more, during the summers of 1975 and 1976. In 1976, he installed Deities of Sri Sri Krishna Balarama at the Balarama Jayanti festival, the appearance day of Lord Balarama.
On the occasion of Janmastami, Krishna’s appearance, in 1979—after Srila Prabhupada had passed away—the beautiful Sri Sri Radha Govinda-Madhava were installed. Later that year, Deities of Laksmi Nrsimha, the Lord’s half-man half-lion form and His consort, also graced the community with Their presence.
“If you visit New Mayapur, you’ll also see two Govardhana Shilas, or sacred stones from the hill Govardhana that Krishna frequented during His pastimes on earth,” says temple president Gaudamandala Dasa. “The larger one was given to Srila Prabhupada as a gift, and in turn he gave it to New Mayapur. The smaller one was given to Indradyumna Swami when he visited the house of the Vaishnava saint Jagadananda Pandit, which is still preserved in Jagannath Puri.”
Indradyumna Swami, Gaudamandala explains, was temple president of New Mayapur for four years. And when he left, he entrusted the shila to his first initiated disciple, Nrsimhananda Dasa, who continues to be a loyal priest to the New Mayapur Deities after over thirty years of service.
Over the years, after the Deities were installed, millions of Prabhupada’s books were distributed in France. “People here are receptive to our message of spirituality and Vaishnavism,” says Gaudamandala. At the height of the community’s success, 200 devotees lived in the temple.
As the 1980s made way for the 1990s, New Mayapur endured struggles, and the property was nearly lost to ISKCON. But through the efforts of local and worldwide devotees, headed by Bhakti Charu Swami and Advaita Acharya Dasa, the beautiful chateau and land were saved.
Today, New Mayapur is a quiet, peaceful place run by a handful of dedicated devotees. But it is growing into its own as a rural retreat for spirituality and living off the land.
“The temple is moving towards self-sufficiency,” says Gaudamandala. “Our main ‘Krishna Balarama’ garden lies just 100 meters from the temple and covers one hectare. It consists of several small gardens and a large greenhouse. In the gardens, we have 1,000 rose bushes, which have been lovingly cared for by gardener Giri Govardhana Dasa, his wife Sri Rama Vijaya Dasi, and his son Uddhava Dasa for many years. In the greenhouse, we grow many varieties of vegetables, flowers, and herbs. During the year we produce over twenty-five kinds of vegetables such as chard, lettuce, tomatoes, beets, cabbage, eggplant, and peppers.”
Outside the Krishna Balarama garden, New Mayapur devotees cultivate a further two acres of vegetables, tilled mainly by their own oxen, and free of chemicals to preserve the purity of the earth. Meanwhile, the acres of fields surrounding New Mayapur are used primarily for cow grazing and for hay, as well as to grow the community’s own wheat.
New Mayapur has been protecting cows since its establishment in 1974. But in 1993, devotees started l'Association Labourage et Pâturage (ALP), translated as the Association for Ploughing and Grazing. Suported by a French law, its purpose is to protect cows until their natural death and to promote the development of animal traction.
“In summer 2009, two pairs of oxen, Massey, Ferguson, Samba and Deva, joined our community with their master Jaladuta Dasa,” Gaudamandala says. “Since their presence in New Mayapur, we have improved our vision and our results, and feel very encouraged to continue to do so. In summer 2010, we also welcomed three new cows from the Ardeche in South Central France—Maya, Ganga and Indriya—to keep our old cows, Gita, Varuni and Surabhi company.”
These cows provide high quality violence-free milk that is a perfect offering for the Deities. In the meantime, the ALP’s 24-year old President Ram Gopal Dasa works with the cows full-time, in particular training the young oxen under Jaladuta Dasa’s expert guidance.
The youth of France and the rest of Europe contribute in various other ways to the New Mayapur community. In 2010, they organized a five-day Kuli Mela (a gathering of the second generation community) at New Mayapur, with ecologically-themed seminars on spiritual economics, climate change, and resisting globalization. They even learned how to recognize, choose and pick wild herbs in New Mayapur’s fifty hectares of beautiful forest with French devotee and herbalist Prema Rasa Dasa.
“Every August, the European Vaishnava youth also organize our Balarama Jayanti festival,” says Gaudamandala. “It’s a special day for our community, as it is was on this day in 1976 that Srila Prabhupada installed our Krishna Balarama Deities, still the only ones in Europe.”
This year, the event will be held from July 30th to August 2nd, and will feature seminars with Sacinandana Swami and others, daily Jhulan Yatra (swing festival for the Deities) bhajan and kirtan singing, youth activities, a kids’ camp, spiritual entertainment in the evenings, and of course a delicious feast in honor of Lord Balarama.
New Mayapur also offers facilities for seminars and retreats throughout the rest of the summer and springtime, at its fifty-room guesthouse with adjoining conference room.
For guests interested in a more rustic, natural lifestyle, the community also offers a weekend experience whereby visitors can stay in a forest cottage, in exchange for three hours of manual work in the garden per day. The cottage is built entirely with natural materials and facilities—there’s mud walls, a straw bed, and an oil lamp. Guests dine on vegetarian meals in the chateau, and can also choose to receive an intrdoction to Bhakti yoga.
In the future, the new Mayapur devotees hope to offer more retreats and seminars, and to increase their self-sufficiency.
“We also want to create facilities for and attract more families to the community, and systematically organize top quality reception for newcomers,” Gaudamandala says. “If guests are received properly, many souls will come to take shelter in New Mayapur, which can offer them the simple living, high thinking way of life.”
For more information on New Mayapur, visit http://www.newmayapur.fr. To find out more about the ALP’s work with cows and bulls, visit http://association-labourage-et-paturage.fr. (Both sites are in French)
For more information about the Balarama Jayanti festival coming up this July/August, please visit the English language site