All glories to Sri Guru and Sri Gauranga

Experiencing 'Villa Govinda Ashram'
Srila Gurudev's Center near Milan
by Vrindavanesvari Devi Dasi
Reporting from Italy on the 20th World Tour of
Srila Bhakti Sundar Govinda Dev-Goswami Maharaj

An enchanting place

Villa Govinda is an enchanting place in the summertime. Located just outside of Milan in a small town called Merate, it sits atop a hill that overlooks green cornfields, grassy meadows, lush hillsides spotted with terracotta-roofed houses and one majestic church. The clock tower of this church rises high as the central beacon of the skyline.

Srila Gurudeva often gives afternoon darshan outdoors against the backdrop of this stunning view. Every hour the bell from the tower tolls, its sweet, sonorous pitch resonating throughout the valley. Once, Srila Gurudev smiled at the sound and said, "This is your time. Arise, awake and search for Sri Krishna, Reality the Beautiful. That bell is very nicely giving some remembrance."

Sounds of the countryside fill the air at Villa Govinda. Roosters from a small farm next door wake everyone at 5:30 in the morning with their familiar call. The birds that nest in the evergreen, apricot, hazelnut, fig, and persimmon trees in the backyard are lively singers during the day. And at night, the cornfields and bushes come alive with the buzzing of crickets; their steady hum almost seems to make the ground vibrate.

Sleepy town wakes to The Call
  Most of all, the continuous chanting of the Holy Names of the Lord amplifies all of this natural beauty. Morning, noon, and evening Kirtan rings from the Villa at the top of the hill and purifies the atmosphere in the surrounding neighborhoods when the devotees go out on Harinam Sankirtan. The sleepy town is finally waking up to the real call of the spirit.

Everyone is honoring prasadam very happily because the cooks at this Italian ashram, needless to say, really know how to make Italian food. The kitchen is always exuding aromas of fresh herbs from the garden like sage, basil, parsley, mint and rosemary. Bright red tomatoes, eggplants, zucchinis, and all types of pasta are the staples of almost every meal, not to mention a generous amount of fresh feta and mozzarella cheese. On some days, the cooks bake giant loaves of fresh bread spread with olive oil and pesto.

The lovely environment and the sumptuous prasadam help to create a pleasant, peaceful mood. Most devotees are staying in tents or crowded rooms, and over 100 people are sharing three bathrooms. But somehow everyone is living harmoniously like a massive, internationally populated family. All are relishing the nourishing presence of our Srila Gurudeva and the constant association of other devotees.

Guests share their impressions of Villa Govinda:

"The environment is supportive of religious life. There’s just something in the air, like when we go out on Harinam, people come out of their houses and wave to us. It’s an interesting marriage, the Italian way of life and our way of life. I feel it’s like a retreat, a place to go and be nourished. I am so grateful just to be with all these nice devotees and get a chance to harmonize with everyone. This place is such a gift, such a blessing."
-Divya Sari Devi Dasi, U.K.
"In a lot of temples the environment is austere and you have to search your heart to notice the beauty. But in Italy everything is beautiful, and every service becomes amplified because of the surroundings. I feel inspired just by the surroundings. The devotees are really nice to be around, and they make it really easy to do service."
-Vaidehi Devi Dasi, U.S.A.
"It’s really informal and more close-knit than a lot of places. Like in the evening, many people are lined up on the stairs chatting, and some are walking around in their pajamas with their toothbrushes in hand. It’s like being at home."
-Asha Purna Devi Dasi, U.K.
"I feel very much at home in the association of the devotees. The ashram is a beautiful place, just a perfect arrangement, though there could be one or two more bathrooms. The grace of Gurudeva and all of the his affectionate followers make the atmosphere lovely."
-Sundar Krsna Prabhu, Ireland
"Villa Govinda is probably one of the most beautiful countryside backgrounds that you could ever hope for. I am here overlooking hills and farmland, and I feel kind of like I am sitting in the front yard of an emperor’s palace. The devotees are all very sweet; I have had no problems even when I sleep in their beds or they accidentally steal my shoes. The Prasadam is always good and there’s never any lack of it. You must experience this place yourself because no words can fully describe it."
-Balarama Prabhu, U.S.A.

What's New? - World Tour Information

Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math, Nabadwip: