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Srila Prabhupada was always eager to see Vaishnava literature published.

The Bhaktivedanta Library in Mumbai is a unique subject that inspired me to write. I have been to many ISKCON temples, along with many holy places all over India; but at ISKCON Mumbai (Shri Radha Rasa Bihari Ji) I discovered a unique and special library that has an extensive collection of books by various authors from all over the world.

The Bhaktivedanta library is a veritable treasure house of knowledge. What makes me write this article was a small advertisement pamphlet of The Bhaktivedanta Library which I got from the take-away box of the library.

This library invites the public to read wonderful books in an air-conditioned comfort zone free of charge (except for the small amount to be paid if you borrow a book from the library's lend-for-money facility to take out and read at home). The library also has a take-away box, allowing visitors to take away photos, pictures, CDs and pamphlets free of cost.

The flyer from Juhu Beach ISKCON temple publicizing the new library.

This library, which was inaugurated in January 2007, is located on the second floor, New Building, in the 'Heaven on Earth' complex at the ISKCON temple at Juhu. From a quick overview, I found the library had more than 1,800 books in English and various Indian languages.

A remarkable aspect of this library is the way it caters to children with many colouring books, comics and animations on Lord Krishna. The state-of-the-art multimedia section has 10 monitors with 18 video films, 3,000 lectures and 1,500 songs to choose from. Children are very fond of this library; I often see them around making a bit of noise and enjoying themselves. A little girl was spraying 'room freshener' everywhere in the library, to her own amusement. I always spend some time in this library whenever I go to Juhu temple and try to read and write as much as possible.

Students and scholars at large benefit from the use of the library's database, which helps to sharpen their intellect. They gain ability to focus with the best possible perspective. It is by good reading that we can develop the confidence to tackle problems in life independently, guided by authentic knowledge coming from time-tested, infallible sources; i.e., Lord Krishna and his pure devotees. It also helps to improve one's memory capacity and clarity of thought.

The library has a well-stocked media room with computers, videos, recorded music and lectures, etc.

His Grace Rasapurusha das, who is a regular visitor, says there is no other library better than this. When there is an annual conference of the ISKCON Governing Body Commission in Mumbai, this library becomes a conference hall for the GBC members. One delegate remarked that he has never seen such a library in any of the ISKCON centers in the world.

There is pin-drop silence in this library, adds Rasapurusha das. Credit for this well-maintained library goes to Ananthaprabhu das, who is the librarian here. Well-illuminated facilities and a high ceiling make reading more pleasurable. This library is kept nice and immaculately clean. Chairs are comfortable and cushioned; both the tables and chairs are decorated beautifully. All the book sections are well labelled so that the reader wastes little time in searching for the right book. This library has many book shelves storing books in Hindi, Kannada, Bengali, Marathi, Gujarati, English, Oriya, Telugu, Tamil and Malayalam.

All the walls have nicely framed large pictures of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupāda (ISKCON's Founder-Acharya) and of the pastimes of Lord Krishna. This library is a non-profit unit being operated to fulfil the desires of His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupāda to spread Vedic wisdom throughout the world.

The main stacks and reading area present the books attractively in an easy-to-find way.

Akshay, an MBBS student from Pune, said: "Rare books which are difficult to find elsewhere are found here. I find books from all sampradayas, and for example, one can find the Bible here. The book sections have been segmented by language, by name of author and by subject matter.

"Along with books, the library has an excellent collection of periodicals, papers, articles and photos. The most important thing is that the librarian (Ananthaprabhu das) is very cooperative and polite. He never makes one feel indifferent. When I come here for a while, I feel that I have been coming here for a long time. This library has audio lectures, CDs and computers too. Some of the books here are very expensive; I cannot afford to own them, so I just read them here free of cost.

"I got in contact with ISKCON through the Bhaktivriksha programme in Chennai. Now I continue with my devotional activities in Pune also. If one wants to do so, one can pay a fee and deposit the cost of the book in order to borrow the book from the library, and the deposited money will be returned on returning the book."

Akshay justified the policy, explaining that the library cannot, unfortunately, afford to operate as a free lending library: "The librarian is very tense these days as many books from this library have been stolen in the recent past."

Shambhu, a worker from Kolkata, says: "My village is in West Bengal. I get one day off on Sunday. I come to this library on Sunday morning; it opens at 10 a.m. I read these books to acquire knowledge and to search the absolute truth. I love reading the books available here."

Ananthaprabhu das, th librarian in charge, says: "After my 13 years of service in the Bhaktivedanta Institute, Juhu, I was in Mira Road for ten years, attending temple programmes and satsang." He worked in the Bhaktivedanta Hospital with Dr. Patel, campaigning with Devamrita das to try to reduce the rate of female-foetus abortions among couples who unfortunately still have a strong cultural preference for male children.

"One day in the afternoon after lecture, H.H. Gopal Krishna Goswami Maharaj called me from his car, put his hands on my shoulders and asked me to take up some responsibility, as I had been there for a long time. Maharaj had known me from 1983. I requested Maharaj to guide me. Maharaj then asked me to meet His Grace Braj Hari prabhu," Ananthaprabhu said.

"The next day I met Braja Hari prabhu in Juhu Mandir, and he put me in touch with His Grace Pundarik Govind prabhu, who had just completed library furniture arrangements. He told me I should serve in this library as I had in the Bhaktivedanta Institute library earlier and that I ought to make a system for the new library. Then in January 2007, I started going every day to Juhu. From 300 books and 60 videos, the library has now grown to 1,800 books and 9,000 videos, lectures and songs in the multimedia section.

"The numbers of readers have steadily increased; the 'lending for home reading' section has 78 regular borrowers. The library organizes community services, especially on Saturdays, of different groups like senior citizens. Senior devotees address them in such programmes. Besides the overtly spiritual books, the library also holds books on vegetarian cooking, art, songs and Sanskrit, as well as books on travel to holy places."

Library hours: Monday to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Sundays, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. For further information, please contact Ananthaprabhu das, (022) 2620 6860 (Extension 155)

Address: The Bhaktivedanta Library
Second floor, New building, Heaven on Earth Complex
ISKCON Mumbai, Shri Radha Rasa Bihari Ji Mandir
Hare Krishna Land, Juhu, Mumbai.

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