Name: Govindadwipa Dhama
Address: Inisrath Island, Derrylin, County Fermanagh, BT92 9GN, Northern Ireland.
Phone: +44 (028) 6772 1512
Websites: www.krishnaisland.com, www.lakeisleretreats.com
Presiding Deities: Radha-Govinda, Nitai-Sachinandana.
President: Manu Dasa
Opened on: July 20th, 1986
Temple style: Victorian mansion, built in 1854.
Location: 22-acre island on Upper Lough Erne, 22 miles from Enniskillen town, rural farmland and Lakeland.
Number of residents: 7
Number of guests: 100 a week, during the summer.
Best time of year to visit: Summer, and during any Vaishnava festival throughout the year.
One of ISKCON’s most unique temples, Govindadwipa (or Inisrath island) has a fascinating history.
According to local Northern Irish historical references, there is some evidence that about 2,000 years ago, that there was indeed a “rath”—a fortified homestead of an extended family headed by a chieftain—on the “Inis,” or island. This rath offered extra protection from wolves and other aggressors, such as cattle-raiders.
In the mid-19th century, the island was part of the lands of the earl Lord Erne. Erne gifted it to his son-in-law Sir Henry Cavendish Butler, who built the existing house during the Victorian era. Used into the early 20th century as a summer house for the local gentry, it remained in the Cavendish Butler family for 100 years before being sold in the 1950s and then going though constant changes of ownership for the next 30 years.
Finally in 1984, at the height of the Northern Irish Troubles, property prices slumped in the area and ISKCON devotees purchased the island, seeing its potential as a spiritual center and retreat.
Indeed, today the island—now called Govindadwipa, or “island of Govinda”—draws many visitors and tourists with its regular varied retreats, which provide financial support as well as giving newcomers an introduction to Krishna conscious philosophy and lifestyle.
This summer’s schedule is a packed one: After Pauline Sawyer’s Yoga Teacher Training week from July 2nd to 9th, devotees will host a “Mind, Body and Spirit 5-day Adventure” from July 30th to August 3rd. As well as hiking and exploring in local natural and historical sites, visitors will do yoga every morning, learn Indian vegetarian cooking, participate in kirtans and discuss eastern philosophy with a resident monk.
A full cooking retreat, Tastes of the Orient, will be offered from August 6th to 8th, with devotees teaching Thai, Chinese and Indian cookery styles. Next, from August 13th to 15th, healer Jayadeva Dasa (John Richardson) will take visitors back with past life regression and talks about reincarnation.
Retreat-goers are ensured a comfortable and relaxing stay. Part of the mansion has been converted into a small guesthouse with four uniquely decorated rooms—Kadamba, Padma, Parijata, and Ashoka—that can altogether host groups of up to fifteen people, while Reiki, massage, aromatherapy, and reflexology are offered with many retreat packages.
In the future, devotees plan to build more guest rooms to enable facilitation of full-blown seminars.
Rural life also flourishes on the island, with gardener Ramai Pandit growing a variety of vegetables to offer to the beautiful deities of Radha Govinda in two large “polytunnels.”
Meanwhile the arrival of beekeeper Bali Maharaja four years ago brought to the community a thriving apiary of bees, which can be seen coming and going from their hives carrying pollen on their legs. At the end of the season, once the honey has been extracted and put in labeled jars, it is also offered to Radha Govinda on the altar.
Perhaps Govindadwipa’s most loved effort, however, is the Govindadwipa Vraja Mandala Parikrama, a meditation on the pilgrimages held in Vraja, India, the place of Lord Krishna’s birth.
“In 2003 our temple president Manu Dasa asked devotees to write down what they felt was the purpose of Govindadwipa,” says Maha-mantra Dasi, Radha-Govinda’s dedicated priest for nearly 25 years. “He added, ‘You can dream.’ So I did. I wrote that my dream for Govindadwipa was to turn the island into a replica of the 12 forests of Vrindavana with signposts and dioramas depicting Krishna’s pastimes. ‘Let’s do it!’ Manu responded. So with the help of donors, artists and carpenters, we began transforming the island.”
The event, now held every two or three years, launched with transcendental tour guide Deena Bandhu Dasa visiting all the way from the original Vrindavana Dhama to open the parikrama path and tell stories of Krishna’s pastimes. Radha Govinda were dressed in different outfits related to these pastimes twice a day for three days, while devotees performed dances and dramas depicting them.
Deena Bandhu will return for this summer’s Parikrama, to be held on July 23rd, 24th and 25th.
“This year’s will be a special one, as we will be celebrating Radha Govinda’s 24th birthday,” says Maha-mantra. “As a birthday offering to them, we will hold the grand opening of Vrinda Kunda, our new Tulasi garden. The Tulasi house is home to a large figure of Vrinda devi (the personification of the sacred Tulasi plant) and the garden has a swing for the small forms of Radha Govinda. It also has a pond named after Vrinda Kunda, where Vrinda devi and Paurnamasi would meet to plan the pastimes of Radha Govinda.”
She grins. “There will be some secret things unveiled on July 25th too.. but you’ll have to visit to see what they are!”