Iskcon Temple, Delhi
‘Sri Sri Radha Parthasarathy Temple’ also known as ‘Hare Krishna Temple’ or the ‘Iskcon Temple’ built by The International Society for Krishna Consciousness – popularly known as ISKCON or ‘Hare Krishna Movement’ – belongs to the Gaudiya-Vaishnava sampradāya, one of the various traditions of the Hindu culture. Philosophically, this tradition is based on the Sanskrit texts Bhagavad-gītā, and the Bhagavat Purana or Srimad Bhagavatam. These historic texts fall under the ‘bhakti yoga’ tradition, literally meaning ‘devotional discipline’. They teach that the ultimate goal for all living beings is to reawaken their love for God, particularly God Krishna – the “all-attractive one”, through devotion, prayer, and meditation. Iskcon Temple was established in India in the year 1998 in Delhi.
One of the 40 temples built by the Society, it is situated in Sant Nagar area in south Delhi. Iskcon Temple has three shrines dedicated to Radha-Krishna, Sita-Ram, and Guara-Nitai. It has an air-conditioned hall that can accommodate as many as 1,500 people at a time. During the months of Saawan (July–August) and Kartik (October–November), the temple is decorated with fresh flowers. The air is thick with spiritual discourses and chants, enhancing the divine atmosphere, thus propagating the devotion to God.
ISKCON Temple complex consists of the Temple, Museum of Vedic Culture, Center for Vedic Studies, Vedic Center for the Performing Arts, Asrama, and Krishna Jayanti Park. ISKCON welcomes anybody and everybody from devotees to those who want to learn the essence of the Vedas.
Iskcon Temple History
- ISKCON was first established in New York City by His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupāda in 1966.
- In India, in Delhi, it was established in 1988 by Gopala Krishna Goswami who served Srila Prabhupada in the States.
- After several attempts to get land in Delhi, finally, in 1982 the government sanctioned land for the establishment of this “educational and cultural project.” The project was titled ‘Glory of India Vedic Cultural Center.’
- Shri A.P.Khanvinde, the recipient of the Padma Shri in 1974, was the principal architect of ISKCON Delhi.
- Since then, it has established itself as a great religious center of Hindus, especially the people of Vaishnava tradition and the devotees God Krishna.
Significance of the Iskcon Temple
- The vision of the project is to create an institution that will inspire people to dedicate their lives to the teachings of God Sri Krishna. And in keeping with this theme, the Glory of India museum and exhibition present highlights from the ancient and medieval texts, such as Mahabharata, Ramayana, Srimad-Bhagavatam, and Caitanya-caritamrta.
- Iskcon Temple architecture is a combination of the design of six-eight hundred-year-old temples and present day technology.
- The purpose of ISKCON is to serveas a center for India’s greatest glory – Vedic knowledge and culture.
- God is known across the world by many names including Allah, Jehovah, Yahweh, Rama, etc. ISKCON devotees chant God’s names in the form of the maha-mantra or the great prayer: “Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare; Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.”
- Members of ISKCON practice bhakti-yoga in their homes and also worship in temples. They also promote bhakti-yoga, or Krishna Consciousness, through festivals, the performing arts, yoga seminars, public chanting, and the distribution of the society’s literature.
Poojas and Rituals of Iskcon Temple
- Harinama Sankirtana – A procession of devotees are seen dancing and chanting the Harinama-sankirtana (the congregational chanting of the holy names of the God) on the streets, the maha-mantra “Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare; Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare” accompanied by Mridangas (two-headed drums) and Karatalas (hand cymbals).
- Aratis – Arati at various specific times of the day with the chanting of the God’s name is offered to the deities in the presence and participation of the devotees daily.
- Bhakti Yoga – ‘Bhakti’ means to offer themselves to God with love and devotion. The Sanskrit root of the word bhakti is bhaj, which means ‘loving service.’ ISKCON promotes ‘Mantra Mediation’ as one of the key practices of a bhakti yogi. This is done through japa (quiet chanting on beads) and kirtan (musical chanting of Hymns in groups). It is believed that the human being’s connection and relationship with Krishna are developed through the chanting of the maha-mantra; the chanting cleansing the heart, calming the mind, and inspiring a life of purpose and meaning.
Activities at Iskcon Temple
The Society believes in serving God through serving mankind. It organizes many programmes in this regard.
- ‘Food for life’–Relief Programme – It is a free food distribution programme, which provides vegetarian meals for everyone. Every day ISKCON distributes prasad to more than seven thousand visitors. During Festivals and Sundays, it is distributed to around 10,000 people. ISKCON devotees and volunteers also go to old-age homes and orphanages to help the residents by distributing prasad. In addition to regular distribution in low-income areas, Food for Life has provided aid during several catastrophic emergencies worldwide.
- Prison programmes – ISKCON has been tending to the spiritual needs of Prison inmates all over the world for over 30 years. A widely appreciated programme by the Prison officials and the inmates, this programme has helped transform the lives of many individuals. The ISKCON Prison Programmes in ‘Tihar Jail’ offer several services such as spiritual counseling and guidance, the Art of Mind control seminars, providing literature which teaches about living a holistic life, and Japa
- Corporate Seminars – Through its corporate training wing V-SERVE, ISKCON Delhi reaches out to the professionals to help them in leading a better and holistic life. V-SERVE strives to bring ethics and spiritual values into the workplace with ‘Life Style Management Techniques’ and ‘Transformation in Consciousness through Behavioral Training’ seminars, workshops, and Experiential Learning which leads to:
- Increased productivity.
- Employee retention, interpersonal relationships and team bonding,
- Role clarity and employee engagement.
- Personal Management: Stress Management , Anger Management, Work-Life Balance
- Relationship Management: Conflict Resolution, The Art of Delegation, Team Work, Effective Communication, Ethical Leadership
- Inner-Self Management: Embracing Change, MAP – Mental Awarenes Program, Wellness, Morality
ISKCON members have also opened hospitals, schools, colleges, eco-villages, free food distribution projects, and other institutions as a practical application of the path of devotional yoga.
Special activities and projects such as dramas, exhibitions, workshops, community projects and cultural presentations — by volunteers — are shared with the community and the general public.
Festivals Celebrated at Iskcon Temple
Festivals are a vital part of community life at ISKCON Delhi, involving large numbers of volunteers.
- Gaura Purnima – It is the appearance anniversary of God Chaitanya Mahaprabhu (1486-1534) who is Radha and Krishna combined. On this a full-moon day, everyone fasts till moonrise, and devotees visit the temple to see the Deities of the God. The devotees present dramas and lectures about Lord Chaitanya’s activities. The idols of Gaura-Nitai are adorned with new clothes, and the devotees engage in extra Kirtan (Hymns). At moonrise, a prasad feast (sanctified vegetarian food) is served.
- Ramnavami – Ramnavami observes the birth of God Rama, and is one of the most auspicious days in the Vaisnava calendar. At ISKCON Delhi, celebrations include special decorations, drama, and discussion of God Rama’s pastimes and a ‘Hari Nama’ chanting procession in the surrounding areas. The day also includes Maha Abhishek, the drama by Vaikuntha Players, Lectures on God Rama, and a feast for all the devotees.
- Sri Krishna Janmashtami – The auspicious day of the appearance of God Krishna is celebrated as Sri Krishna Janmashtami. ISKCON Delhi is reputed to celebrate one of the largest Janmashtami celebrations of its kind. The festivities last for 12 days beginning with a Srimad Bhagavat Katha for a week, followed by a Shobha yatra (procession outside the temple).
- Radhashtami – It is the celebration day of Srimati Radharani’s appearance. Radharani is the consort of Krishna. She appeared to Vrishabhanu Maharaj (her father) in the village of Rawal, a fortnight after Krishna’s appearance. Radharani is the best devotee of Krishna; Krishna, therefore, loves her the most. On the festival day, devotees seeking Krishna’s grace will ask her to grant them devotion to her beloved God. On Radhastami, Sri Radha-Krishna idols are traditionally dressed entirely in flowers. Sri Radha Parthasarathi is adorned in a new outfit in the morning and a flower outfit in the evening. Abhishek is performed at noon.
- Jagannath Rath Yatra – The pulling of Rath (chariot) during the Rath-yatra procession by the devotees symbolizes the attempt of the residents of Vrindavan, especially the cowherd boys and girls, to bring Krishna, Balarama, and Subhadra back to Vrindavan, near Mathura, UP from Kurukshetra. ISKCON Delhi celebrates Rath yatra annually around October/November. The festivities include the Rath yatra parade, offering of Chappan bhoga (56 foodstuffs), spiritual discourses, and a spiritual and cultural festival.
- Nauka Vihar (Boat Festival) – Every year in summer, the devotees at ISKCON Delhi celebrate the boat festival of their Gods. This festival is connected to the pastimes of God Krishna and Srimati Radharani, who along with their friends would enjoy boat rides on the river Yamuna in the summers. Devotees in the temple decorate the Kailya Krishna pond with a flower bed. The Gods are then requested to come down to the pond while being accompanied by sankirtan (Hymns). The idols are then taken around the pond on a boat while thousands of devotees shower flowers and chant the Gods’ name.
Iskcon Temple Timings
Iskcon Temple is open on all days of the week. The temple schedule is as follows
|Japa (Mantra) Meditation||5.15am|
|Srimad Bhagavatam Discourse||8.00am|
|Raj Bhog Arati||12.30pm|
|Bhagavad Gita Discourse||8.00pm|
|Temple Hall Closes||9.00pm|
The main Iskcon Temple hall is closed between 1 pm and 4 pm.
Cafeteria: Lunch – 12.00pm to 3.30pm & Dinner – 7.00pm to 10.00pm
Where to Eat
The Society operates a Govinda’s cafeteria, serves pure vegetarian (Saatvik) meals which are first offered to God Krishna. It offers 18 varieties of preparations for lunch and dinner.
Where to Stay
ISKCON operates a guest house in the temple complex with cozy and well-ventilated rooms on one-month prior booking.
Also, there are several lodgings in Sant Nagar around the temple area.
How to Reach
Sant Nagar is an area in south Delhi which is very well connected with the rest of the city.
By Air: ISKCON Sant Nagar is 20 km from the New Delhi international airport and can be reached using pre-paid taxis, metro train, and DTC Shuttle buses all of which are available right at the arrival terminal.
By Train: Metro –The Nehru Place metro station is the closest to the temple and is just a 5-minute walk. The alternate option would be ‘Kailash Colony’ Station
Railways – ISKCON Sant Nagar is 5 km from the Nizamuddin railway station and 12 km from the New Delhi railway station. Both of them offer auto-rickshaws, taxi, public bus service and Metro train to commute.
By Road: Several state government run buses and taxis operate round the city which transports to Sant Nagar area.
Delhi is a city with rich history housing several monuments and temples with great cultural and political significance. Below are some of the places which are nearby Sant Nagar.
- Lotus Temple – Bahá’í Temple, popularly known as the Lotus Temple is a masterpiece of 20th-century architecture which was designed by Fariburz Sabha, a Canadian Bahá’í of Iranian descent. Built between 1980 and 1986, it is the latest among the seven Bahá’í temples across the world. Shaped akin to a half-open lotus, light and water have been used as fundamental elements of design of this house of worship. Set among sprawling green lawns, the petals of the grand lotus are surrounded by nine pools that represent floating leaves. The Lotus Temple is conducive to meditation. There are no priests, idols, pictures, sermons or rituals. Religious discrimination does not exist here as its symbol, the lotus, connotes peace, purity and a manifestation of God. It is open to all free of cost from 9am to 7pm, six days a week except for Mondays.
- Kalkaji Temple – Built in the mid-18th century, Kalkaji temple/Mandir is a renowned temple dedicated to Kalka Devi or Goddess Kali. Certain changes and additions were made to the temple in mid-19th century by Raja Kedarnath, treasurer of Emperor Akbar II. The whole temple is built using white marble and granite. In the sanctum sanctorum is the stone that represents Goddess Kali, housed in a 12-sided structure. There are many Dharmashalas (rest houses) in the vicinity of the temple, built with donations of devotees. The temple is open to devotees from 6am to 10pm every day.
- Jahanpanah – Jahanpanah was the fourth medieval city of Delhi established by Muhammad bin Tughlaq in AD 1326–27. The reminders of the city lie in Begumpuri Mosque and Bijay Mandal. Built by Khan-i-Jahan Junan Shah in the 12th century, Begumpuri Mosque was not just a place of worship, but also a social and communal hub. It was built almost entirely of a combination of grey Delhi quartzite and mortar, covered with lime plaster. Bijay Mandal was possibly the thousand-pillared palace of Muhammad bin Tughlaq. There is a huge wall standing on a large platform with a pavilion at the top. On one side of the structure is a dome-shaped building. One gets a spectacular view of the city from the top of the octagonal pavilion.
- Moth ki Masjid – Also known as ‘Masjid Moth’ it was constructed in the early 16th century by Miyan Bhuwa, a minister during the rule of Sikandar Lodi. An exceptional amalgam of Hindu and Islamic styles, this type of Indo-Islamic architecture was developed in the Indian subcontinent subsequent to the advent of Muslim rule. According to legend, Miyan Bhuwa built this mosque from the revenue earned by producing a large crop from a single grain of moth (tepary bean) presented to him by Sikandar Lodi. Masjid Moth is different from traditional mosques as it does not have the typical minarets and calligraphic decorations. It is open to visitors daily from Sunrise to Sunset.