DHTML Menu, (c)2004 Apycom
  Volume 3 - Issue 2,
FEB 2005



[ This page has lots of Graphics. Allow time for the images to download. ]

Heightened view

Devotees coming to Prashanti Nilayam always make it a point to visit the Chaintanya Jyoti Museum. Capturing devotees' hearts at first sight, Chaintanya Jyoti attracts all who view it to come closer and wonder at its sublime beauty. The building is like a gift-wrapped present from Swami to His devotees. One cannot resist the temptation to step inside and unwrap this wonderful gift of the Lord. Inside this magnificent gift are wonders to behold - breathtaking visual treats for the eye and entrancing music for the ears; wisdom for the mind and sustenance for the soul.

Walking through the Museum is like walking with Swami at your side - nay inside. Many declare how the experience is ecstatic, transforming and moves them to tears.

This second part of the Cover Story will introduce to you how this magnificent edifice came into being, the designs, the building process, the problems encountered and of course Swami's divine guidance and involvement, for it is He who inspired this living testament to the Divine.

The Chaitanya Jyoti Museum was planned to commemorate Bhagavan's 75th Birthday as a fitting tribute to the Lord's Life, Work and Teachings.

At the beginning

Various designs from all over the world were submitted to Swami at the time of Gurupoornima 1999. Swami chose the design that came from Malaysia and said that "It will be the wonder of the 21st century." The building proposed would be 75 feet high and form 8 levels. There was one year and 3 months to be ready for the Avatar's 75th Birthday, on 23rd November 2000, which was less than half the time estimated by the architect to complete the project.

The Lord performs Bhoomi Pooja

Swami suggested the auspicious date of 25th August 1999 for the Bhoomi Pooja (ground breaking ceremony) and performed the ceremony even as the architect finalized the drawings for the construction. The engineers of ECC, a division of Larsen & Tourbro worked overtime to translate the architectural drawings into those needed for construction at the site. In the meantime, Swami selected a very experienced and dedicated engineer, Col. S. K. Bose to look after the construction. Col. Bose shifted his home from Delhi to Prashanti Nilayam in 10 days.

The Work Begins

The plot required 65m x 60m of levelled ground. The contractor found huge granite hillsides and massive boulders which posed a great problem. It took about two months for the main portions of the rock to be cleared away. Blasting of the rock had to be undertaken in controlled conditions to preserve the sanctity of the holy place. Where this was not possible the building’s reinforced columns were anchored to the rock. Due to the nature of the terrain the construction was not able to proceed at the necessary pace and this led to the building being undertaken from right to left. However this departure from the conventional system did not affect the overall schedule.

The right section was built first

Devotees from Malaysia and Singapore took responsibility for the custom-made roof tiles, decorative items and curved stone balustrades. This involved travelling to China, locating the materials, and having a selection of the Museum's decorative features crafted in China. The rest were assembled at Prashanti Nilayam and worked at on site.

A swan being crafted in China for the Stupa

22 containers of these materials had to be located, fashioned and dispatched from China. This seemingly routine arrangement turned into a frantic last rush. Let's now turn to the architect himself, Mr. Gopal Goh Say Tong, for the complete account:

The Stupa's lotus stem in progress

The first 13 containers that arrived at the Chennai Port were duly cleared and transported to the site without hassle. Somehow, this gave us assurance that we would not encounter any further problems, as the initial items were delivered to the site smoothly. However, this was not the case with the last nine containers, which coincidentally contained the major portion of the decorative components! Worst still, it was less than a month until the inauguration of the building. Somehow, the containers could not be located, despite repeated checks of the documents and verification of delivery by the dispatcher in China - the containers had seemingly disappeared. The team prayed for Baba's help. Miraculously, the containers were found and finally reached the work site on 6 November 2000, just 12 days before the inauguration date of 18 November 2000. The specialist and main contractors rushed to assemble the final items into place. Strangely, there was no panic on the ground. Everything fell into place and all the pieces fitted nicely without much hassle or changes. Everyone played his/her part perfectly.

The architect inspecting the work in China

Included in the last 9 containers was the Stupa, which was a major item as it was one of the focal points of the design concept. 36 feet tall, the Stupa was imported in parts and made of a special material moulded in sections; these parts were supposed to encase concrete columns cast on site to combine as a single structure. However, the parts arrived late due to the delay, and work started immediately as the assembling of the Stupa involved several steps, all of which needed sufficient time to complete. It was the 9th of November 2000.

Component sections were unpacked and dimensions matched to the location base. The main and specialist contractors immediately prepared reinforcement bars for the column structure. Unfortunately, we could not obtain a crane, which was crucial for lifting, positioning and maintaining the verticality of the heavy upper sections of the Stupa. We managed by lifting the first and second sections of the mold into place. Baba's Vibhooti was applied at each section. Thereafter, we somehow got a crane that was originally used for lifting the stone balustrades. Using this crane, we manipulated the third, fourth and fifth sections into place. However, the crane could not go higher for the final two sections, which needed to be lifted up and positioned together as a single piece. No other cranes were available and the nearest suitable one had to be ordered from Bangalore; time was running out.

When the ordered crane finally arrived, another crisis occurred; the extension arm was not the right type! This was when things got a little frantic; the arm had to be extended, and extended fast. By then, it was the late afternoon of the 17th of November. Somehow, the modification was made possible by combining the booms of both of the cranes on site, using welding equipment belonging to the fencing contractor, who was also coincidentally on site. Apparently, all the tools we needed were on site to make the miraculous happen! The final placement of the lotus hand and the sphere took place at 9.45 PM, with concreting work still to be done. By the time the entire structure was assembled, it was just a few minutes before midnight. The concreting had only 8 hours to set fully before the inauguration took place at 8.00 am on 18 November 2000. Baba's Grace completed the Stupa just in the nick of time.

The Touch of the Divine
That the Museum was finished in less than half the time believed to be necessary by the architect and in spite of scores of challenges, was only possible due to Swami's Grace. In fact the chief engineer told Heart to Heart that he never believed that the Museum would finish on schedule.

At one point Col. Bose, was despairing over the amount of rock that they were encountering. He mentioned this to Swami who said casually "Yes, I know, many rocks". However, after this point the clearance went on apace and the previous problems disappeared.

Indeed there were other points where the lack of time was mentioned even by the Lord Himself. Witness this divine conversation that Swami held with one of the project managers, on 30th October 2000.
"Will there be the inauguration on 18th November?"
"Swami, it is your Sankalpa"
"But there is too much work remaining"
"We will complete it with Your Grace."
"Time is short"
"We will work day and night"
Swami smiled and said "Manchidi" meaning "Very well" in Telugu.

Swami visited the site twice during construction to sanctify the work and bless the artisans. He admired the craftsmen's progress, giving encouragement and valuable suggestions to be taken up. He also saw the exhibits on a number of occasions making valuable comments on how to improve them.

The door that shattered

On one such occasion five days before the inauguration, on the 13th November 2000, Swami was entering the building when the glass front door shattered into a myriad pieces. This was because of people pressing against it to see Bhagavan. None were injured and Swami waited for the glass to be cleared up before proceeding. This took a full five minutes, but in the meantime Swami waited - the Embodiment of Patience and Tranquillity. He then walked through as if nothing had happened. Of course, a new door had to be ordered at breakneck speed to be ready for the opening ceremony.

One might be forgiven for seeing this as a negative incident. But the Chinese present were able to shed a different light. They pointed to their traditional belief that such an occurrence was actually auspicious. For it heralded the absorption by the Divine of any negative Karma, leaving only positive energy.

There is a Chinese saying "All the pieces that touch the ground will bloom into flowers and shall bear fruits". And this is indeed what happens when the Divine touches our lives - the negative becomes positive. There were indeed no more problems leading up to the Museum’s opening. Thus, the Chaitanya Jyoti Museum was inaugurated on the 18th November 2000, and Bhagavan thereby bestowed a new and sacred gift upon His devotees.

Swami's Visits after Inauguration
Swami visited the building twice after 18th November 2000. The first occasion was on 19th February 2001. The Avatar sanctified the finished building, imbuing all the exhibits with His Divine Consciousness. It was an intimate tour. Swami spent 45 minutes viewing the exhibits with only 5 people at His side and an hour in total at the Museum.

Later, Bhagavan said in all graciousness "I did not have time to read everything. You need two days to see everything".

The second time was on the first anniversary, 18th November 2001, when Swami blessed the staff who have the treasured role of maintaining the building and exhibits. The staff are after all most precious, for the Museum will last hundreds of years and millions will behold this testament to the Avatar. One of the building's purposes is to preserve for future generations the experience of the Divine Embodiment that the contemporaries of the Avatar are able to enjoy.

Bhajans in the Meditation Hall

To say that Bhagavan is omni-faceted means that only a building of this architectural and aesthetic value with its ninety illuminating exhibits, its educational and inspirational features can attempt, in however small a manner, to do justice to His Glory - now and for future generations. Of course, even the Museum falls short of the depiction - which is why the devotees’ journey culminates at the Chaitanya Jyoti Meditation Hall. This affirms to the visitor that having viewed the enchanting Museum’s edifying contents, we must learn from one of its messages. For it is when we See Always Inside - SAI - that the real gift of Chaitanya Jyoti is experienced.


Note: Heart to Heart is planning to start a serial in the near future which will take you through various sections of this wonderful museum.

Optimized for Netscape and Firefox. Best viewed in Internet Explorer - 1024 x 768 resolution.