In July 2022, Ford that linked Detroit to Chennai for 25 years shut down its production unit in India for having accumulated operating losses of over $2bn since 2012. But the Ford scion, Ambarish Das – the great grandson of legendary Henry Ford – is still in India, not as a corporate honcho but a disciple of Srila Prabhupada Maharaj, the founder of ISKCON. He is busy shaping up his guru’s vision of the world’s largest Radha-Krishna temple – the Temple of Vedic Planetarium – in Mayapur, the ultimate destination for divine love in rural Bengal.
Alfred Brush Ford, who is the chairman of the $100M project and donated over $30 million for it, took up the Hindu name, Ambarish Das, after being initiated by Swami Prabhupada on their first meeting in Dallas, Texas in 1974. He accompanied Swami Prabhupada on his first trip to India from the US in 1975, which led the course of his life towards the ocean of devotion and spirituality. He took a plunge into the deepest recess of Krishna consciousness and came out wearing a chandan tilak on his forehead, like millions of ISKCON devotees.
Located on the Ganges whose holy water seems to be washing the feet of Krishna, the Temple of Vedic Planetarium is on the verge of completion under Alfred Ford’s supervision, though the mighty construction began in 2008. Spread over more than a half of the ISKCON Mayapur campus, the Vedic Temple – also known as Mayapur Chandrodaya Mandir – is bigger than the Taj Mahal, London’s St Paul Cathedral, and the Hagia Sophia mosque in Istanbul.
Inspired by the design of the US Capitol building, India’s first religious monument of Vedic science and culture can accommodate 10,000 people together in its main prayer hall sprawling 1.5 acres. The 113-m high dome over the main temple hall is the second tallest in the world, next to the dome of St Peter’s Basilica Church in the Vatican. The dome features a grand chandelier depicting a rotating 3-dimensional model of the universe as described in the Vedic scriptures, including the Srimad Bhagavatam. The cosmic chandelier is designed in a way so as to show the hierarchy of the universe from different levels of escalators.
Not only Ambarish Das, but also his Indian American wife, Sharmila Bhattacharya from Bengal, and their two daughters who live in Florida are invested in the construction of the ISKCON Temple of Vedic Planetarium. The couple made a whopping donation from their personal wealth and collected funds from different parts of India for the temple. Anisha Ford, one of their two daughters, received a gift of $1 million from her grandmother after having earned a master’s degree from Harvard University. She donated the gift money for the construction of Mayapur Chandrodaya Mandir.
The meticulous use of Bolivian blue marble sourced from Vietnam and South America has lent pristine blue luster to the three domes of temple. The planetarium wing on the east side of the world’s biggest religious monument in Bengal will house a state-of-the-art theatre with seating capacity for 200 viewers. The large domed screen of the theatre will demonstrate India’s Vedic science of the cosmos. Exhibits to be displayed across the four floors of the planetarium wing will give an educational experience of Vedic Cosmology.
The west side of the Mayapur Temple of Vedic Planetarium houses a magnificent temple dedicated to Lord Narsimha. The five levels of the Narsimha Temple will be adorned with marvelous artworks depicting the stories of Bhakta Prahalad and Lord Narsimha. The ceiling of the Narsimha temple dome will feature nearly 450 diamond-like coffer panels with gold leaves. The divine spectacle of this wing will be complemented by ten 7-meter tall ‘deva murtis’ which will be placed in such a way so as to bow to the Lord, with their hands folded in reverence. Reportedly, the gates to the Narsimha wing will open in October 2023.
80 miles from Kolkata, Mayapur – the birthplace of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, a 15th century Vaishnava saint – will become a spiritual Disneyland with various facilities for devotees of different age-groups after the grand opening of the temple early in 2024. The world’s largest temple with the biggest dome in Bengal will house a Vedic science center, an institute for science and spirituality, a world-class research center, and an institute for higher studies.
Fabulous, magnificent and grand temple. Long live the couple who made this possible for us – our prayers to the lovely couple for healthy and a dedicated life.
Hello Dr. Bhatia! It’s good to know about your view on the temple and the devoted couple behind the construction.