ISKCON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness) is a cultural hubbub for devotees of Lord Krishna from Hindu Mythology. Society still stands as a glorious monument of devotion. The temple’s rich culture and history draw devotees from India and abroad.
Ironically, this society did not take its roots in India. It was founded in 1966 in New York City by A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. However, the main headquarters are in India, specifically in Mayapur, West Bengal. The influence of this religious movement spread from the USA to England. I know you will have difficulty believing me when I tell you that George Harrison from the Beatles got influenced by it and ended up including the Mahamantra in his hit track “My Sweet Lord.”
The establishment of the first ISKCON center in India took place in 1970. The location was in Kolkata at 3C Albert Road, Kolkata – 700017. It was a strange sight for many people to see Westerners coming to India with attire of saffron robes and chanting verses in Sanskrit for the praise of an inherently Hindu God. However, the movement continued to spread its branches all over India, drawing in scores of people with their preaching.
Tour of the ISKCON Temple Headquarters
As has already been stated, the current headquarters of the ISKCON movement is in Mayapur, West Bengal. The beauty of the temple is unmatched. I was a snot-nosed brat when I first visited this temple, riding along my parents’ coattails and throwing tantrums. However, I clearly remember the peaceful nature of the place. To make such an impact on a young mind, the ISKCON Temple is truly a work of art.
The temple is pretty clean, and you won’t face-plant yourself on the floor since the floors are not slippery with a mixture of water and sludge, unlike other places. You must have an extended window period for your visit since it will take some time to enter the main temple. You will not be allowed to bring electronic gadgets or shoes to the main temple. Security checks will be there, so please add a note not to carry electronic devices inside the temple.
The deities of Sri Krishnachandra, Sri Krishna Balarama, and Sri Nitai Gauranga are present in the main temple. Srila Prabhupada, the deity of Iskcon, is also placed in the main temple’s hall and can get the main temple’s blessings of Sri Srinivasa Govinda, Sri Prahlada Narasimha, Sri Hanuman, and Garuda Dev. Hence the main temple is where you have a beautiful view of the eight deities mentioned above.
The word beautiful is not sufficient to describe the beauty of the deities. They connect you with the supernatural and find solace in a serene yet spiritually invoking environment. Finally, end the tour by browsing through the curio shops around the area, where you can buy knick-knacks and religious books to remember this pleasant experience.
Notable ISKCON Temples in India to visit
Note that we do not include the temple at Mayapur since we have already talked about it at length, and being the headquarters, it is one of the most popular sites for a pilgrimage.
ISKCON Temple, Bangalore
(Image Source: Iskcon Temple Bangalore)
This is the largest ISKCON temple in India. It is a wondrous sight to behold, and every year, they have this ritual of painting it with a fresh coat of paint during the Janmashtami, the day of Lord Krishna’s birth. It makes sense since we all want something special for a birthday, right?
ISKCON Temple, Vrindavan
(Image Source: Iskcon Vrindavan)
Since we have discussed the biggest, let’s talk about the first ISKCON temple in India. Hindu mythology tells us that this is where Lord Krishna grew up, so this is a sacred land.
ISKCON Temple, Hyderabad
(Image Source: Iskcon Hyderabad)
This one is the alleged headquarters of the ISKCON community in South India.
ISKCON Temple, Ujjain
(Image Source: Iskcon Ujjain)
This temple is known for its intricate and delicate architecture.
ISKCON Temple, Haridwar
(Image Source: Iskcon Centres)
Haridwar is a spiritual place where pilgrims gather due to various religious festivities like the Kumbh Mela. Besides, the site’s location – besides the holy Ganges is also rudimentary for the city’s popularity. The ISKCON temple is like the cherry on top of the cake.
I feel that ISKCON started for a particular sect but has reached beyond the initial stages to involve many people from different cultures. Not to mention, the temples are all works of art that must be revered and admired. Take a step towards understanding true spirituality and art at the ISKCON temple.