Iskcon (International Society for Krishna Consciousness) temples are found all over the world. They owe their origin to Swami Prabhupada who grew up in Kolkata and had a convent education. As he grew up he met Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura in 1922 and was tasked with spreading the message of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. In 1933 he became a disciple of Bhaktisiddhanta and engaged in publication work in 1944. He married and had a family but adopted the life of a swami in 1959 and started travelling all over the world, preaching the Bhagavad Gita and the practice of bhakti yoga. He founded ISKCON in 1966 and set up a chain of temples across India, some of them located in Gujarat.
ISKCON Temple, Ahmedabad
None other than Bhaktivedant Swami Prabhupada himself ordered the construction of the ISKCON Temple in Ahmedabad in 1997. Known as the Sri Radha Govind Dham, the Vaishnav Temple has idols of Lord Krishna and Radha along with those of Sita, Ram, Lakshman, Hanuman and also idols of Nityananda Prabhu, Swami Prabhupada, Bhaktisiddhanta Thakura and Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. The temple is located on Sarkhej Gandhinagar Highway at the junction of Satellite Road and it is a popular attraction not only for Krishna bhakts but also for tourists.
Beautifully constructed, this temple is a fine rendering of the Rajasthani Khamira and ancient Hindu temple architectural styles. In all there are two temples and a guest house for pilgrims in the ISKCON complex at Ahmedabad.
The Ahmedabad Shri Radha Govind Dham is professionally managed and it is a beehive of activities. Pilgrims and devotees continue to visit the temple in a never ending stream but there are also plenty of ongoing activities.
Pooja and Aarti
Spiritual activites are an ongoing part of the temple activities at ISKCON, Ahmedabad. Devotees visit the temple to participate in one or more of the aartis and poojas such as Mangala aarti at 4.30 AM, Tulsi aarti at 5 AM, Dhoop aarti at 8.30 AM, Raj Bhog aarti at 12 noon, Pushpa aarti at 4 PM and Sandhya aarti between 6.30 PM to 7 PM. Bhajans and Poona are ongoing activities such as the shringar darshan and guru pooja at 7.30 AM.
Then there are classes on Gita held at 8 AM and at 7.30 PM. These are held along with daily lectures on Bhagavad Gita in addition to seminars from time to time by experts on Vedic literature on Bhakti Yoga. From time to time the temple conducts preaching programmes at various places across the city. Devotees are free to visit the temple and watch videos and listen to audio lectures and take part in kirtans and bhajans.
One ritual that Swami Prabhupada initiated was that no devotee should be hungry. As such the temple regularly offers meals to all visitors and also distributes food to the needy. It also delivers food packets to anganwadis in the city. Festivals are organized from time to time, the chief of which is the Krishna festival.
Cows are also taken care of by the temple bhakts at the organization’s farm and goshala at Kathwada. Apart from being a spiritual centre to promote bhakti yoga, ISKCON Ahmedabad is actively engaged in social services and in teaching people to follow a holistic path. One can buy music, books and posters at the centre.
Ahmedabad is not the only place to have an ISKCON centre. There are 14 centres in Gujarat open to devotees. One is the Hare Krishna Land on Gotri Road in Vadodara. There is another centre in Dwarka, the land where Krishna settled. Then there are centres in Surat, Vapi and Valsad in the South of Gujarat, Rajkot, Jamnagar and Bhavnagar n Saurashtra, Mehsana in North Gujarat and at Vallabh Vidyanagar in Central Gujarat.
ISKCON is a global institution that does more than just focus on spirituality. It is a driving transformational force that seeks to improve lives through the path of Krishna consciousness and his teachings contained in the Bhagavad Gita. It is worth it to visit the temple in Ahmedabad when you tour the city.