In response to Tattvavit and Janaki Rama Prabhus’ effort to have a GBC resolution to change the design of the Temple of the Vedic Planetarium (ToVP), Sriman Ambarisa wrote a heartfelt response, which you can read here.
My first impression on reading his response was of empathy. I put myself in his shoes and felt the exasperation and impatience of having spent millions (!!!) of US dollars on a project that turned out to be unusable, and now another several hundred thousands US dollars, to again hear cries for change. I completely identified with his message of “hey, look, this is what we’re doing, and if you don’t like it, find someone else to do it!”. I personally feel that I would have walked off the program several hundreds of thousands of dollars ago. So, in the end, my respect and appreciation for his service increased even more.
Having said that, he did seem to open a window of opportunity for some change on the design, in regards to exterior facade, dome shapes, etc. (though he seemed quite adamant in not changing the structural aspect or footprint of the design, which, I believe, will influence the GBC to NOT request a significant change of the design, despite popular appeals).
So, I pray that Krishna grant him and his team the extra patience and insight to at least re-design the exterior of the current project, taking into consideration public opinion. After all, there is no such thing as serving Prabhupada, if you don’t also satisfy Prabhupada’s servants. People from all around the world, from GBC’s to bhaktas, from scholars to simple folks, are requesting a change of the design. To ignore this, seems to me, to risk staining the herculean task Sriman Ambarisa has taken on.
What kinds of change? Well, for one, many people have remarked that the current domes look very “mosque-ish”. Prabhupada did not approve of this. Here is the exact reference from Vedabase:
“My Dear Kirtanananda,
Please accept my blessings. I am in due receipt of your letter dated January 20th. and February first along with your enclosed plans of the Radha Govindaji Temple in New Vrindaban. From these plans everything seems to be in order except the domes are making the temple look like a mosque.
Therefore you please eliminate these domes and consult the Mayapur plan which can be obtained by writing Calcutta for design of the domes. ”
– Letter to: Kirtanananda — Sydney 18 February, 1973
I thus suggest that Ambarisa Prabhu and his team take seriously the popular outcry for change and accommodate it in their service, within the boundaries of their patience and the reality on the ground. They should propose new exterior designs, show it to the public, ask for their opinions, etc. A website could be set up, where the public could vote on different design choices created by his team. They could open a direct channel to the general public, where devotees could send in their comments and suggestions on different aspects of the design. By taking this approach they would have very little to lose and a lot to gain.