ISKCON Temple

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ISKCON Temple

The International Society for Krishna Consciousness is better known as the Hare Krishna sect, and despite the 1960s association they are very much alive and kicking. In the 1990s ISKCON erected enormous, gleaming Krishna temples in several Indian cities, and these offer a unique glimpse into the remaining pockets of international Hinduism, with shaven-headed foreigners in saffron robes mingling with Indian colleagues, devotees, and tourists. Built impressively on a rock outcropping near a residential market, Delhi's temple is an amalgam of architectural styles: Mughal, Gupta, and the flashy Delhi style jokingly called Punjabi Baroque. The sanctum contains three idols—Balram Krishna, Radha-Krishna, and Laksman (along with Rama and Sita)—each representing a different incarnation of Lord Krishna. The art gallery behind the idols must be viewed in a clockwise direction, as this parikrama (revolution) is the only appropriate way to move around the gods. To learn more about Krishna, pop into the "Vedic Expo," where an upstairs collection of dioramas illustrate his life in the incarnation of Lord Chaitanya, and various sound-and-light shows (even a robotics display) enact the Bhagavad Gita scriptures and the ancient epic, the Mahabharata, from which the scriptures come. It's all a bit Southern California, but ISKCON's temples are by far the cleanest in India, and very welcoming to visitors. Finish with a meal at Govinda's, the on-site restaurant, where a delicious vegetarian buffet goes for Rs. 380.

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