Prime Minister Narendra Modi has released a special commemorative coin on the occasion of the 125th birth anniversary of Srila Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada at 4:30 pm on September 1. Srila Bhaktivedanta Prabhupada founded the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) commonly known as the “Hare Krishna movement”.
Further, the union government issued commemorative coins to mark the occasion and honour the ISKCON founder. These coins, meant to honour distinguished personalities for their contribution to society, have a distinctive design with reference to the occasion for which they were issued. These thematic coins are issued also to highlight ancient monuments or sites, historical personalities, fauna and flora, the culture and traditions of a country and much more.
The first commemorative coin series was issued in honour of India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru in 1964.
ISKCON has translated Shrimad Bhagavad Geeta and other Vedic literature into 89 languages, playing a stellar role in the dissemination of Vedic literature across the world.
On 1 September 1896, a day after Janmashtami or the day celebrated for the appearance of Sri Krishna, in a small house in Tollygunge of Kolkata (then Calcutta) a male child was born. His parents named him Abhay Charan or the fearless one. A birth chart was made for the newborn as was the tradition and the charts revealed that when the child reached the age of 70, he would cross the seas, become a religious teacher and establish 108 Krishna temples.
Quite true to the charts, he set out for the USA in 1965 and established the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) at age 69. On 11 July 1966, he registered ISKCON as an organisation in New York and formally founded the society. In the 11 years that followed, Srila Prabhupada travelled around the world 14 times and established over 100 Krishna temples.
Thousands of devotees joined the Krishna consciousness movement under his influence. He spread the message of devotion and opened the gates of practice for all. An enlightened spiritual leader, he realised the value of spiritual freedom. He spread his love for Krishna with tenacity and dedication. His speeches and writing attracted devotees and he soon set out to reform the Gaudiya Matha movement for change started by his guru, Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati and the father of his guru, Bhaktivinoda Thakur. The essential reform was that he lifted the barrier of lineage and birth to allow one and all to join the bhakti movement.
Much before he set out for the western shores, Prabhupada had started working on deepening his spiritual practice and perfecting his manner to deliver a message in a simple manner. His journey with Bhakti started in 1922 after a chance meeting with scholar and religious leader, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta belonged to the Gaudiya Vaishnava denomination, a monotheistic Hindu tradition and he asked Abhay to bring the teachings of Lord Krishna to the English-speaking world. Abhay became Srila Bhaktisiddhanta’s disciple in 1933. He resolved to carry out his mentor’s request.
Abhay later came to be widely known as Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. He published and distributed millions of books carrying the message of Krishna consciousness. He authored over 70 volumes on the Krishna tradition, highly respected by scholars for their authority, depth, fidelity to the tradition, and clarity. His writings have been translated into 76 languages: Bhagavad-gita As It Is, the 30-volume Srimad-Bhagavatam, and the 17-volume Sri Chaitanya-charitamrta are among his more prominent works. He was also the one who took kirtan to the world and collaborated with the Beatles. An expert at playing the mridanga, Srila Prabhupada used to play the instrument while singing kirtans. Srila Prabhupada groomed some of his disciples as leading singers and mridanga players for performing sankirtana which attracted many people to the Krishna consciousness movement.
He has been described as a charismatic leader who was successful in acquiring followers in many countries including the United States, Europe and India. His mission was to propagate throughout the world Gaudiya Vaishnavism, a school of Vaishnavite Hinduism that had been taught to him by his guru, Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati.
His sannyasa name is “Abhay Charanaravinda Bhaktivedanta Swami” or abbreviated as “A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami”.
In his 1956 and 1958 Back to Godhead (BTG) magazines, his name gets prefixed by “Goswami”. In his 1960 BTG as well as some letterheads, the honorific turns “Tridandi Goswami”. In a letter, he explains his usage of “Tridandi Goswami” for Vaisnava sannyasins. In the 1970 to present BTG as well as his books, his name was written, and continues to be written with the following honorifics: “His Divine Grace AC Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupāda: Founder-Āchārya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness”.
- His Divine Grace – Title of address bestowed by American disciples, popularised by ISKCON.
- Swāmījī – Original honorific used by American disciples.
- Śrīla Prabhupāda – Bestowed by American disciples, 1968, popularized by ISKCON. Also written as “Prabhupāda”.
- Svāmī Mahārāja – Used in his home denomination Gauḍīya Maṭha (where “Prabhupāda” is confined to Bhaktisiddhānta Gosvāmī).
- Śrīla Bhaktivedānta – Used in Chaitanya Mission / Science of Identity (where “Prabhupad” is confined to Chris Butler).
Srila Prabhupada was 81 on 14 November 1977 when he died. His message on Bhakti today is alive all over the world through the ISKCON movement, its temples, ashrams and cultural centres. After his death in 1977, ISKCON, the society he founded based on a form of Hindu Krishnaism using the Bhagavata Purana as a central scripture, continued to grow.
In February 2014, ISKCON’s news agency reported reaching a milestone of distributing over half a billion of his books since 1965. His translation of and commentary on the Bhagavad Gita, titled Bhagavad-gītā As It Is, is considered by ISKCON adherents and many Vedic scholars as the finest, bonafide translation of Vaishnava literary works.
This year, September 1 will be celebrated as Srila Prabhupada’s 125th birth anniversary. To mark the occasion, the Government of India will release a commemorative coin of the value Rs 125 in the honour of the founding acharya of ISKCON. A booklet on the contributions and achievements of Srila Prabhupada will be featured with each coin in a commemorative box. The coin will be composed of silver and copper.