In July 1976, Mr. S.P. Malhotra one of Pune’s wealthiest and most respectable gentlemen had approached HH Gopal Krishna Goswami Maharaj and offered to donate a flat land measuring 35 acres atop the hill station Mahabaleshwar to Srila Prabhupada. For seeing the land, Srila Prabhupada along with HH Giriraja Swami Maharaja, HH Gopal Krishna Goswami Maharaja along with HG Hari Sauri P met Mr. Malhotra in December 1976 & visited Mahabaleshwar on 22nd / 23rd December 1976.
Giriraja suggested that it would be an ideal place for Srila Prabhupada to sit peacefully and translate his books and the devotees could farm it and the foreign devotees could use it as a place to recoup their health. Srila Prabhupada enthusiastically said he was willing to spend several lakhs of rupees there. He said residential quarters could be built and the householders from Bombay could live there.
In 1983, one of ISKCON’s well-wishers Shri. Narayan Rathi who owned a Laxmi Narayan temple, situated at Ravivar Peth, Pune, had been requested by HH Gopal Krishna Maharaj to allow a few devotees to stay there and begin some preaching activities. When Mr. Rathi agreed, a few devotees were sent from ISKCON Juhu to reside there and do the preaching. The devotees stayed in some rooms in the temple & would put up a bookstall in the evening outside the temple. They would interact with the local pious people of Pune and speak to them about Krishna Consciousness.
Later after several months, somewhere in early 1984, Mr. S. P. Malhotra inspired his good friend Mr. Anklesariya to help in opening an ISKCON Center in his abandoned bungalow situated at 4, Tarapore Road. The bungalow & its boundary walls were totally in a dilapidated state & had required maintenance. There was huge overgrown grass on the premises which was infested with snakes and rats & there was no running water or electricity. HH Gopal Krishna Maharaj agreed to take the premises on rent & like this, the first-ever center of ISKCON was established in 1984 in Pune.
Gradually many people from nearby vicinities started visiting. For overseeing the affairs of the center, HH Gopal Krishna Maharaj appointed Mauritius-born HG Kurma Das prabhu as the first president of this temple.
Initially, there was no deity, but photos of Sri Sri Radha-Rasbihari ji were kept in a makeshift temple. A small rope demarcated the temple area. A year later, HG Dadibhaksh P (ACBSP) took charge as the president of the center.
Outreach activities then included meeting some prospective donors/life members apart from a public program held in Nehru Memorial Hall, which was advertised in News Paper.
HG Dadibaksh P got some basic facilities installed. He later rented a car for Rs. 3000/month, which would be used for preaching activities.
A signboard was put outside the premises. However many people who had some work at MG Road back side of the temple would frequently use the temple premises for parking their vehicles.
A typical Sunday program would see the attendance of approx. 20-30 people, mainly from the Malhotra family. Along with him, Ramesh Thakkar was a very good supporter of ISKCON from the beginning. Malhotra ji recollects that the first Janmashtami festival celebrated in 1984 was attended by only 10 people. These were some life members made by ISKCON Bombay, who stayed in Pune.
Later, in 1986 HG Manihar Prabhu an Englishman & Srila Prabhupada disciple took over as the president. He was a Grhastha who had now adopted Vanaprastha Ashram & thus with his friend HG Rajashekhar P they took charge of the temple. HG Manihar P used to conduct some programs for families & children on Sundays. He was incharge of the temple for almost 1.5 years. Many more people started getting connected now.
In 1987, A sankirtan-bus of ISKCON Juhu temple was returning from Solapur to Mumbai via Pune. The bus housed the beautiful deities of Sri Sri Gaur Nitai. Unfortunately, the bus met with an accident near the outskirts of Pune & thus the large wooden Gaur Nitai aboard the bus was damaged. Those deities were then kept at Pune & after required repairs & worshipped by devotees. These are the same deities that adorn the altar now.
During 1988, HG Manihar P left the seva due to some personal reasons & HG Vrajendra Nandan P of Delhi was requested to take charge of the temple.
HH Gopal Krishna Maharaj used to frequently visit Pune, almost 5-6 times a year. That time he used to travel by car from the old-Mumbai highway. Devotees were taken to ISKCON Juhu for initiation. The first initiation ceremony in ISKCON Pune premises was conducted much later in 1997 by HH Gopal Krishna Maharaj.
While the temple activities had expanded and preaching had started to flourish, the then temple president HG Vrajendra Nandan P had to leave his services due to health reasons.
In 1990, HG Krishna Nam P, who was a Maharashtrian disciple of Srila Prabhupada took charge as the president. The temple which was with a huge debt of approx. 5.5 Lakhs when he took over, but by his extensive preaching & connecting many life members, it came in a positive balance. He connected some very important donors with the temple. He was doing extensive traveling & Bhagavad Katha for raising laxmi.
HG Krishna Naam P was also instrumental in installing the deities of Shri Shri Radha Kunjabihari ji. These deities belonged to Ramesh Thakkar ji & were lying at his home. Malhotra ji had seen those deities and insisted that such beautiful deities needed a better standard of seva. Thus Thakkar ji considered handing over the deities to ISKCON. They were brought in 1990 but wrapped in cloth till about Gaur Purnima of 1992.
A grand shobha yatra on two-horse carts carrying deities of Radha-Kunjabihari ji & Gaur-Nitai ji was celebrated & then the deities arrived at the temple & a maha-abhishekam was performed for welcoming the deities.
In 1994, HG Jagjivan P (ISKCON Bhayander – Mumbai temple president then) took over charge of ISKCON Pune center. HG Gudakesh P also regularly visited the center. HH Gopal Krishna Maharaj then requested HH Radhanath Swami Maharaj to kindly send a few devotees for running the center.
Thus, in 1995 HH Vrindavan Swami took charge of running the center, but was later posted elsewhere for other responsibilities. So from the beginning of 1996 till early 1997, HG Krishnanand P was made the president. He took major responsibility to celebrate Srila Prabhupada centennial festival at ISKCON Pune. There was pada-yatra observed for 7 days from 2nd June onwards.
Daily Kirtans were held in different areas of Pune. More than 15000 boondi packets were distributed during this event and Srila Prabhupada was bathed with Sahastra Tirtha jal with the Sponsorship of Rs.3501/-. During his presidency, Iskcon Pune observed strict discipline. He used to stress a lot about Sadhana Bhakti.
Finally, in 1997 HG Radheshyam P (M.Tech, IIT Mumbai) took charge as the president. He has been the president since then and the temple has grown leaps and bounds under his leadership. After HG Radheshyam P came in, the youth preaching and activities at the temple multiplied. Being very disciplined and educated his association was the source of inspiration for many. Much educated youths became full-time monks and many families got introduced, took initiation, and became well-connected congregation members. Many festivals including grand Janmashtami & Gaur Purnima, annual Bhagavat Katha by HH Lokanath Swami Maharaj, and youth camps began under his leadership that attracted thousands.
With over a decade of preaching efforts, a growing need for more space was felt. Thus the new temple land (ISKCON NVCC) was procured in 2007 and bhumi pujan was done by the hands of HH Jaiadvait Swami Maharaj & HH Gopal Krishna Goswami Maharaj. Construction work began for a mega 40-crore temple complex; spread over 6 acres of land.
In spite of several breaks along the journey, the project was completed by HG Sri Guru Charan P and his team of dedicated devotees. The ISKCON NVCC was formally inaugurated on 23rd February 2013 by the then Hon’ble President of India Shri Pranav Mukherjee, HH Gopal Krishna Goswami Maharaj, HH Radhanath Swami Maharaj, HH Lokanath Swami Maharaj, HG BasuGhosh P, HG Devakinandan P.