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The International Society for Krishna Conscious¬ness (ISKCON), founded by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, has hundreds of centers in every corner of the world, most of which are in the world's major cities where hundreds and thousands of devotees regularly congregate for spiritual upliftment. Centers have also been organized in rural areas where city dwellers can escape from the complexities of urban life and live a simple and wholesome existence, close to the land and the cows. But ISKCON has also taken up the task of construct¬ing a large temple in the remote village of Gadeigiri in the Jagatsinghpur District of east-central Orissa, for the sole purpose of glorifying the village deity, Gopal. Who is this Gopal? There are so many deities in so many remote villages of India — why all the fuss about Him? This small volume tells the story of Gopal, how He came from Vrindavan in response to the desire of His devotee Gopal Giri and has stayed with the Giri family for over 250 years. During that time Gopal has manifested many unique and amazing pastimes. The history of those pastimes as well as that of the Giri family have been passed down for the last ten generations, this narration is a collection of those accounts.As Krishna is inseparable from His devotees, this story is not only a history of Gopal but it is just as much an account of the lives of Gopal's servitors, the Giri family. Especially this book focuses on the life of His Divine Grace Gour Govinda Swami Maharaja. If it were not for Srila Gour Govinda Swami, very few persons would know anything about Gopal.
From his early childhood Gour Govinda Swami daily rendered various services to Gopal. After he left family life and became a sannyast in ISKCON, Gour Govinda Swami was sent by his spiritual master Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada to Bhubaneswar, Orissa to establish a temple. Staying there in a small mud hut Gour Govinda Swami oversaw the construction of the Sri Sri Krishna Balarama Mandir. SrUa Prabhupada also instructed Gour Govinda Swami to travel and preach. Therefore when the temple in Bhubaneswar began to manifest, Gour Govinda Swami began trav¬elling to the west for preaching. Before going on any long journey he always first took the three hour long car ride from Bhubaneswar to Gadeigiri to seek the blessings of Gopal. Wherever he went in the world he always brought a photo of Gopal with him. Upon arriving at a new place, if his servant forgot to set out the picture he would inquire, "Where is Gopal?" At the last moments of his life, while visiting Mayapur Dham on the sacred occasion of the appearance day of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, Srila Gour Govinda Swami left this world while gazing at his photo of Gopal. The last word he spoke was, "Gopal". Thus from the very begin¬ning of his life up until his last breath he was absorbed in worship and thought of Gopal.We want to thank everyone who made this book possible:
Janakinath Prabhu and the devotees of ISKCON Surinam, who kindly paid for the printing; Bhaktarupa Prabhu, for his expert editing and gentle advice; Prabhu Dr. Fakir Mohan Das, who has kept us all alive with his neciaieanhari-katha; Ghanashyam Prabhu, who turned over the worship of Gopal to our revered Guru Maharaja and who has provided the bulk of the information in this book; his cousin-brother Damodara Giri Prabhu, who is always performing kirtan for the pleasure of Gopal; Guru Charan Prabhu, Guru Maharaja's friend, who allowed us to use materials from the Oriya language biography he is writing; Chaitanya Chandra Prabhu, the temple president of ISKCON-Gadeigiri, who originally started this book and who kindly gave vis his remnants to chew on; Pradosh Prabhu, who has patiently trailated and taken care of iis in innumerable ways; Guru Ma, for giving her kind blessings for this project; Mata Mahashakti Dasi, who did the bulk of the typing and has helped with her comments and proofreading; Mata Gunacuda Dasi and Bhaktin Olwyn, for aU of their help and support; Ranjan Prabhu, who took most of the photos for the book; and especially Gopal, the beloved son of Nanda Maharaja, who has kindly given us some opportunity to humbly serve Him.