for The Vaishnava Voice on June 3, 2010
No, its not Sydney harbor in Australia, even though there’s an Opera House there too, its Newcastle-upon-Tyne in the north of England.
Newcastle-upon-Tyne is a city in England’s north-east where the inhabitants have a unique and immediately recognizable dialect, historic connections with monasteries, mining and industry, and a fondness for racing pigeons and thin greyhound-like dogs known as whippets. They also like growing leeks.
Alright, so the last three are stereotypes belonging to a previous generation, but you’ll still find old men in Newcastle who fit that description. But on May 30, the ways of the East manifested as local Krishna devotees celebrated the Narasimha festival.
The temple is inside a former bank, and is of a very strong construction. The maha-mantra has been chiselled in the stone of the building by a local stonemason who is also a devotee. Nicely decorated inside, it is a warm and bright place, with a group of friendly devotees to welcome visitors.
The day before the festival, devotees chanted on the streets for a couple of hours. Many of the Saturday shoppers waved or came to speak with the devotees. They've been a presence in Newcastle for more than 20 years now, so people have grown to accept the Krishna consciousness people as a part of the local scene.
Sunday was the day of the weekly Feast and Festival and this week’s theme was the Appearance of Lord Narasimhadeva. Two dances were followed by a very enjoyable 50-minute play with a well-known bud nevertheless dramatic ending. Narasimha made His appearance from an unexpected part of the temple ‘wall.’
Dhananjaya das was the chief cook for a feast that was grand in a manner seldom seen nowadays. The altar was beautiful with the five flower-decorated forms of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and his associates.
All in all, a beautiful event in a gem of a temple, all in the most unlikely of places.