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The Historical Development of Vaisnavism and ISKCON

3102 BCE/BC: the end of Dvapara-yuga/beginning of Kali-yuga; the departure of Lord Krishna; the compilation of Vedic literature by Srila Vyasadeva
6th century BCE/BC: Lord Buddha, rejected the Vedas as an emergency measure to prevent indiscriminate animal slaughter, ostensibly based on concessionary injunctions of the Vedas. (6th century is the mainstream academic date, the traditional date is 12th century BCE, see Buddha)
788-820 CE/AD: Adi Sankaracarya, introduced the doctrine of advaitavada (monism) which largely replaced Buddhism in India and people re-accepted the Vedas. (Again, this is a conventional academic date, traditional date derived from the time of Buddha is 6th century BCE)
1017-1137: Ramanujacarya, visistadvaita (qualified monism), established mostly in South India
1238/9-1317/9: Madhvacarya, suddha-dvaita (pure dualism) - eternal distinction between the soul and God, prominent mainly in the state of Karnataka (Udupi)
1486-1534: Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, acintya-bhedabheda tattva (inconceivable simultaneous oneness and difference) incorporated elements from all four Vaisnava sampradayas (Madhva, Ramanuja, Nimbarka and Visnuswami). Considered an incarnation of Radha-Krisna (the Supreme Lord and His consort/sakti), He widely popularized the congregational chanting of the Hare Krisna Mantra and opposed the rigid and hereditary caste-system. His followers are known as Gaudiya Vaisnavas (from the word Gauda, the name of Western Bengal).
1534-1600: Six Goswamis of Vrindavan and other Sri Caitanya's closest followers, writing of the core Gaudiya texts, their disciples formed lineages (parivara)
17th century: Narottama dasa Thakura and other members of following generations of Gaudiya Vaisnavas
18th century: Period of decline by widespread misinterpretation of the tradition by apasampradayas (herestical lineages) but also the time of luminaries like Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura
1838-1914: Bhaktivinoda Thakura re-established the integrity of Gaudiya Vaisnavis by opposing heresies, founded Nama-hatta preaching, wrote many books and predicted the international success of the movement.
1918-1936: Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, the son of Bhaktivinoda Thakura, great scholar and renunciate, consolidated and expanded his father's work by establishing 64 centres (mathas) throughout India and abroad (Dhaka, London). On March 27 (Gaura Purnima) in 1918 he took sannyas and opened his first center - Sri Caitanya Math in Mayapur.
1920, September 6: Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura founded the Gaudiya Math which split into several maths after his demise
1896-1977: A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, Founder-Acarya of ISKCON
1944: Srila Prabhupada founded Back to Godhead magazine.
1959: Took sannyas from his Godbrother B. P. Kesava Maharaja.
1962-4: Published the 1st canto of Srimad Bhagavatam in 3 volumes ("Delhi Bhagavatam").
1965: Arrived in New York at the advanced age of 70 carrying the message of the sampradaya and 200 sets of his edition of Srimad Bhagavatam.
1966: Srila Prabhupada founded ISKCON in New York.
1968: Six of Srila Prabhupada's disciples arrived in London.
1969: Devotees with the help of George Harrison (Beatles) recorded the Hare Krisna Mantra receiving a huge success; the first temple in Britain opens in London.
1970s: Fast worldwide expansion of the Movement unprecedented by any other spiritual tradition. Sporadic visits of preachers to the Eastern Bloc countries, including Czech Republic. More regular contacts after 1976.
1973: George Harrisson donated to ISKCON Bhaktivedanta Manor in Hertfordshire near London, which is the ISKCON UK headquarters.
1977: Srila Prabhupada passes away, leaving:
- more than one hundred ashrams, temples, schools and farming communities worldwide
- more than seventy books on Vedic philosophy, religion and culture
- 10,000 initiated disciples entrusted to further the spiritual lineage
1977-87: Zonal Acarya period (11 world zones with one acarya for each), many devotees left ISKCON.
1984-7: Guru reform, abolishment of the zonal acarya system, many new gurus appointed; one diversionary reaction to the zonal acarya period was the appearance of ritvik movement, a heresy trying to eastablish SP as the only diksa guru for ISKCON in future
1996: 100th anniversary of the Founder’s birth, worldwide-scale celebrations
2016: 50th anniversary of the founding of ISKCON, whole-year worldwide-scale celebrations
2017: 40th anniversary of the Founder’s departure

Vaisnava Digdarsini (detailed Gaudiya Vaisnava timeline)
Caitanya Charan das - History of GauDIya VaiSNavism (5-part seminar, mp3)
The Persuaders (1985 TV document from Bhagavan's era; more videos at

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© 2001 - 2021 VEDA - Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, authors. CC-BY-SA J. Mares (contact)