Krishna deities at Lenasia temple

#Gauteng52, Week 33: The Hare Krishnas of Lenasia

Welcome to Week 33 of my #Gauteng52 challenge, for which I visit and blog about a new place in Gauteng Province every week for 52 straight weeks. This week I visit ISKCON Lenasia, home to Gauteng’s Hare Krishnas.

When I was about 14, my family took a trip to San Francisco. I remember virtually nothing about the trip expect for one afternoon in Carmel, a town outside San Francisco, when a group of Hare Krishnas paraded down the street chanting their mantra: “Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.”

The Hare Krishnas wore robes and thongs and had interesting makeup and hair styles. It was the craziest and most wondrous thing my teenage eyes had ever seen.

I didn’t give the Hare Krishna movement much thought until nearly 30 years later, when my boyfriend’s brother Hal told me about a Hare Krishna temple in Lenasia, the historically Indian township in Joburg’s far south. Hal found himself in Lenasia late last year and stumbled upon ISKCON Lenasia. (ISKCON stands for the International Society for Krishna Consciousness.) He and his friends enjoyed a free vegetarian meal at the temple.

ISKCON Lenasia, home to Lenasia's Hare KrishnasISKCON Lenasia, which I believe is the largest Krishna temple in Gauteng province.

A couple of months later I also found myself in Lenasia, learning about Gandhi and his time at Tolstoy Farm. I visited ISKCON Lenasia too, but didn’t blog about it right away. The visit was brief and I didn’t have time to learn very much. Also I wanted to come back on a Sunday to experience the weekly “Love Feast”, when hundreds of devotees gather at the temple for a huge meal and various family-oriented activities.

Anyway, it’s now seven months later and I’m not sure I’ll make it back to ISKCON Lenasia before the end of my #Gauteng52 series. The photos are too interesting not to share, so I’m putting this out there now.

ISKCON is a movement based on Hindu scripture, founded by Srila Prabhupada, aka Abhay Charanaravinda Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, in 1966. As I said, I didn’t have time to fully immerse myself in the tenets of ISKCON so I’ll share my pictures with minimal commentary.

Visiting the Hare Krishnas at ISKCON Lenasia

The temple appears to have been converted from a more conventional house, and is quite intimate inside. We entered into a small hallway, with a kitchen to the right, a bookstore/gift shop straight ahead, and a wide stairway to the left that leads up into the temple itself. The manager of the temple — sadly I forgot to write down his name — was very kind to take us for a mini tour even though we arrived unannounced.

The upstairs temple is amazing.

Deity area at ISKCON LenasiaThe main deity area in the temple.

Krishna deities with monkThe staff opened the glass doors so I could photograph the deities up close. The man on the right is a Krishna monk from Ukraine, who was working at ISKCON Lenasia at the time of my visit.

Krishna deities at Lenasia templeA closer look at the beautiful deities.

Statue of Serial PrabhupadasI love this statue of Srila Prabhupadas, founder of the Krishna movement. 

Makhosonke, staff member at ISKCON LenasiaMakhosonke, a staff member and devotee at ISKCON Lenasia.

Manager at ISKCON LenasiaThe nice manager (name forgotten), shows us around the peaceful Tulasi garden.

Hari Krishna plantsI can’t remember the name of these plants, but they are sacred to Hare Krishnas. You’re not allowed into the greenhouse without performing a special cleansing ceremony first.

When to Visit ISKCON Lenasia

We showed up randomly in the middle of a weekday. The temple does prepare food several times every day, which is available to the public at no charge (a great service to the community). But as I said, the best time to go is Sunday at 10:00 a.m. for the Love Feast, which I believe lasts all day. I’m still going to do that at some point, for sure.

Marie-Lais wearing a wreathMy friend Marie-Lais wearing the lovely garland she received. I got one too.

ISKCON Lenasia is at 7971 Capricorn Avenue, Ext 9, Lenasia (entrance on Nirvana Drive East). Call +27-11-854-1975 or email [email protected].

Read all of my #Gauteng52 posts and check out the interactive #Gauteng52 map.

 

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6 Comments

  • Reply Cat ji August 17, 2017 at 3:14 pm

    🙂 Thanks for this 🙂 I hope you get to visiting the temples in Durban sometime. (And btw, the Rath Yatra, chariot procession, is over the Easter weekend, the biggest rath yatra outside of India.)
    The plants in the greenhouse are surely also Tulasi (or Tulsi, a common first name. How it is generally pronounced.) a.k.a. “sacred basil”, but I can’t remember the Latin botanical name.

    • Reply 2summers August 17, 2017 at 4:23 pm

      Oh, thank you for that. I guess it makes sense since it’s called the Tulasi garden. Haha. I would love to visit some Durban temples! I’ll definitely work that into my next trip.

  • Reply mzansigirl August 18, 2017 at 12:20 pm

    Let me know when you want to go on a Sunday. One of my best friends is a Krishna devotee and is there almost every weekend. He’d be delighted to show us around. It’s even better to go when then have one of their special holy days. If you have ay questions I can put you in touch with him.

    • Reply 2summers August 18, 2017 at 12:26 pm

      Ooh! Yes we have to do that.

  • Reply Lani August 20, 2017 at 2:46 pm

    Hare Krishnas get around. I remember seeing them regularly walking through markets with their songs and beats in Thailand, and I’ve seen them here, too. Ah, and yes, in some California airport ages ago when they could hang around. 😀

    • Reply 2summers August 23, 2017 at 3:57 pm

      Oh yes, I almost forgot there used to be a time when people could just hang around in airports.

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