During my student days in Lajpat Nagar (Delhi), I might have probably visited the ISKCON Temple a number of times; the purpose of my visit then was to seek solace, quietude and peace of mind, at the cost of missing out on a few of the parties and get-togethers of friends. Having stayed away from my parents for studies and later work, small things used to bother me a lot then. The only place I found solace was the temple and I used to come and spend some quiet moments in the temple to get out of that state of mind. Years later I am here in this temple again, with old memories gushing by and making me realize that time has indeed flown fast. But the temple still holds the same charm and beauty that it used to a few years back.
Sri Radha Parthasarathi Mandir, or more popularly Delhi ISKCON Temple is a famous temple dedicated to Lord Krishna and Radha. It was inaugurated way back in April 1998 by the then Indian Prime Minister Sri Atal Bihari Vajpayee on the auspicious occasion of Rama Navami. The construction on the temple began in 1991 and after almost 7 years, it was officially opened in 1998.
The place has an aura that can make even a person in distress forget his/her problems for some time and devote himself/herself to the service of the Lord. As you set your foot inside the temple grounds, a sense of spirituality takes command over your senses and the chant of the holy name of Krishna fills the air with ecstasy. A flight of stairs will take you upstairs; towards your left you will see the temple while on your exact right will be the auditorium and the Vedic Cultural Museum. A beautifully manicured garden with fountains and a statue of Lord Krishna dancing over the subdued Kaliya Naag adorn the main temple grounds. The heavily embellished deities inside the temple are placed on an equally ornamented alter and the playing of cymbals and dholak in the background bring alive an atmosphere full of devotion.
The temple remains open on all 7 days in a week, and most importantly is open for anyone who wants to come and seek blessings of Shri Krishna. The Main Mandir however remains closed between 1 – 4 PM. The Temple door closes at 9 PM and visitors are not entertained after that. There are several rounds of Aartis and Kirtans that go on during the day – the day at ISKCON starts at 4.30 AM when the Mangal Aarti is carried out; after that from 7 to 8, there will be the Darshan Aarti, Guru Puja, followed by a discourse of Srimad Bhagavatam in English. In the afternoon, the Raj Bhog Aarti and a little later around 4, the Usthapana Aarti will take place. The Sandhya Aarti starts around 7 in the evening before finally closing for the day with a discourse of Bhagvad Gita in Hindi and the Sayana Aarti. “Bhoga offerings, corresponding to the Aartis are made to the Deities,” says Vrajendra Nandan Das, Director – ISKCON National Communication. “The outfits of the Deities are changed twice every day, morning and evening. On Sundays, when visitors come in large numbers to visit the temple, the Management keeps a special program of Kirtan, Aarti, Pravashan and Prasad from 12 to 3 PM in the afternoon,” he says
If you are interested to know more about our rich Vedic heritage and philosophies and its significance in modern day life, you can pay a visit to the Vedic cultural museum (Vedic Expo) in the temple premises. Its larger-than-life depictions of various stages of life will familiarize its audience with the rich epic of Indian history. A tour through the Museum will take visitors through the timeless epics of Ramayana, Mahabharata, Srimad Bhagavatam and Chaitanya Charitamrita, with their stories brought to life through sophisticated 3D shows, narrations, lighting effects and dioramas. Interestingly, these light and sound shows were designed by devotees from countries like Russia, USA, Italy and Uzbekistan, combining Western technology with Vedic philosophies.
Not making it to the Govinda’s, ISKCON’s own Bakery and Snacks Shop to have a sumptuous vegetarian meal would leave your journey to the temple incomplete. The sight of Govindas and the beautiful delicacies displayed at the shop’s window would anyways make anyone hungry. By visiting the restaurant, you can relish Samosas, Ras Malais, Pattys, Burgers, Pizzas, Gulab Jamuns, Ladoos of wide variety, Pakodas and so on. The food is also special in a way that they are offered to the deities as bhog. Govinda’s remains open from 7.30 in the morning to 10 o‘clock at night.
The best time to visit ISKCON however is during the festivals that are celebrated all throughout the year. The whole temple premise is decked up beautifully with flowers and lights. Festivals like Sri Krishna Janmastami, Gaura Purnima (the appearance anniversary of Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu), Ram Navami, Radhaastami and Jagannath Rath Yatra are celebrated with great devotion and grandeur. ISKCON Delhi is reputed to have been celebrating one of the largest Janmashtami celebrations of its kind for the last 20 years. The festivities last for 12 days, beginning with a Srimad Bhagavat Katha for a week and then followed by a Shoba Yatra (procession outside the temple). Around 5 lakhs visitors are reported to have thronged the temple this year in Janmashtami.
Activities at ISKCON Delhi….
Among the many activities at ISKCON Delhi, “Food For Life” is an important program. Designed around the philosophy of A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, Founder Acharya of ISKCON – ‘No one within ten miles of ISKCON temple should go hungry’, it is the largest vegetarian food distribution program in over 60 countries. Under this program, Prasad is distributed to the visitors visiting the temple in the evening between 6.30 – 8.30 PM. On Sundays and during festivals, the number of visitors goes up to 10,000 and ISKCON ensures that no one goes away hungry.
ISKCON also runs a mid-day meal program for government schools across Delhi that aims to feed around 5 lakhs children. “This is a government supported initiative to eradicate malnutrition by serving cooked meals at these schools. The kitchen where the food for the mid-day meal program is prepared is at Alipore Gaon, in North-West Delhi,” says Bal Bhadra Das, Director – Food for Life.
Additionally, Food for Life has provided aid during several emergencies worldwide; the most recent being the Nepal earthquake in 2015, Jammu Kashmir floods in 2014 and the Phailin Storm in Odisha in 2013.
ISKCON also supports the ‘Aap Ki Rasoi’ scheme started by former Delhi CM Sheila Dikshit that provides one full meal to around 5,000 underprivileged people around Delhi in a day.
A visit to the temple is sure to reawaken your inner spirituality. The chanting of the Maha-Mantra is equally an act of purity and leaves a person feeling blissful. Such is the power of this Mantra that it can bond countries and bring together different communities. And this has been rightly highlighted by Shri Vajpayee in his speech during inaugurating the temple that “The Maha-mantra reverberates to the dancing feet of ISKCON devotees each morning and evening in temples from Stockholm to Sao Paulo and from Miami to Mayapur’’.
The Delhi Temple is one of the many ISKCON Temples around the globe that continues to fascinate its worshippers and kindle new hope.
HARE KRISHNA HARE KRISHNA
KRISHAN KRISHNA HARE HARE
HARE RAMA HARE RAMA
RAMA RAMA HARE HARE
About Spiritual Tour
Spirituality is deep-rooted in the rich culture of India. It is in search of this spirituality and to experience emancipation from mundane tension that people from across the globe come to this mystical land. Also the country has been the breeding ground for the birth of many important religions of the world. Our segment on Spiritual Tour intends to present before our readers every month some of those revered places of worship that have been important products of our history – be it the ancient temples, the hallowed dargahs, the sanctified monasteries or the holy gurudwaras. Besides, this section would also talk about spa retreats that can inspire the passion to live life more beautifully.
– Samrita Baruah / Anjali Sethi Joshi