Monday, May 26, 2008

India’s Religious Tapestry: Bangalore’s Krishna Temple and Beyond

During my first week in Bangalore, I wanted to experience a piece of Hindu India. What better place to do that than a visit to the ISKCON Temple (International Society for Krishna Consciousness, also known as the Hare Krishna movement.) It is one of 40 temples that have been built by the organization, founded in 1966 in New York City by A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Devotees worship Krishna as the highest form of God.

The temple visit is free, unless you choose to take the paid route that separates you from the majority of the pilgrims. I chose to take the mainstream path where I saw no other westerners. The first thing everyone must do is leave behind all large bags (cameras are forbidden) and shoes. Part of the procedure involves giving the men in charge your name and cell phone number, both of which go on a flimsy pink receipt which must be returned, along with a numbered token, at the end of the visit in order to retrieve your belongings.

The path leads to viewings of gold encrusted, flower-bedecked statues, to the recorded background chant of “Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna, Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare” Since I couldn’t photograph inside the temple, you can get a feel for what it was like (complete with chanting) by going to the web site:

After passing through the temple, I entered the commercial area where I bought some beads, a hand made cell phone case, and t shirts with stylized drawings of Krishna on the front and “I Lost My heart in Vrindavana” on the back. I also got some delicious spiced (masala) cashews.

I understand that the temple promotes the protection of cows, seen as important for a prosperous and healthy society. The milk of 40 cows (maintained by the community) is used in the making of the sweet delicacies sold here. The large kitchen producing the snacks has the capacity to provide food for two thousand visitors per hour.

Preparation and distribution of vegetarian foods offered to Lord Krishna (prasadam) have always been an essential part of the Vedic culture. In over 40 years, ISKCON has served over 150 million nourishing free dinners, opened over thirty vegetarian restaurants, and widely publicized the value of a spiritual vegetarian diet through printed materials and films. To commemorate this philosophy, each temple visitor is offered a bowl of Kichri (a combination of rice and other ingredients) at the end of the tour.

Here are some photos of other places of worship or religious symbols I took in Northeast India and Delhi.

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