An incredible 4,000 devotees—hailing from India, England, Uganda, and across Kenya—are expected to attend the opening of the New Dwarikadham complex in Mombasa, Kenya from April 9th to 13th this year.
During the five-day festival, the Deities of Sri Sri Rukmini Dwarikadhish will be moved from their old temple in the Ganjoni area of Mombasa, and new Deities of
Sri Sri Sita Rama Lakshman and Hanuman will be installed with them.
The new complex is named not only after its worshipable Lords, but also because Mombasa, the second largest city in the East African country of Kenya, is a collection of four islands off the shore, similar to Lord Krishna’s ancient city of Dwaraka.
What’s more, devotees have made their best efforts to create a complex that does justice to its opulent namesake.
Built on a two-acre plot in the affluent Nyali area, New Dwarikadham is a unique, modern take on traditional Indian architecture designed by Architect Bharat Chaniyara and local ISKCON devotees.
Through the massive arched entrance, there’s a lush green garden full of colorful flowers with a colored-water fountain centerpiece, the first of its kind in Kenya. Just beyond the garden, at the heart of the complex, is the main temple, with its marble-tiled floors, magnificent pillars and huge temple room.
“The temple and garden are surrounded by a cabro-tiled pathway that devotees can walk on while chanting, or even jog along to keep healthy,” says temple president Anand Dasa. “It should be a big plus for our congregation to have a secure place where they can exercise their bodies and souls simultaneously in one location.”
The temple includes a fully-stocked Vedic library, a large prasadam hall, and separate kitchens for the Deities, devotees and Food for Life charity program.
Behind the temple is a special accommodation block for resident and visiting priests called Sant Nivas. There’s also a 400-person-capacity air-conditioned community hall for conferences, marriages, and stage events; and an Indian vegetarian restaurant which will serve a wide variety of North and South Indian dishes, all of the highest standard and all offered to Krishna.
A gift shop specializing in spiritual merchandise and literature and an Indian sweet shop round out the experience.
“For guests, we have twenty-six luxurious rooms on the upper floors, including interconnecting rooms for families and even two ultra luxury penthouses,” says Anand. “There’s also ample parking for visitors, within and without the secured temple premises. We really have spared no efforts in trying to make our guests’ stay pleasant and comfortable.”
The temple is the culmination of many years of ISKCON’s efforts in Kenya.
It all began when one day in August 1971 in Mumbai, Srila Prabhupada mentioned his ill health to an Indian man he was meeting with, Mr. R. B. Pandya from Kenya. Pandya said he owned a house on the oceanfront at Mombasa, where he often stayed to recover his health since it was always sunny and warm. He invited Srila Prabhupada to go and live there whenver he liked.
Taking the offer seriously, Prabhupada flew to Nairobi, Kenya’s largest city, the very next month—his plan was to not only improve his health, but to spread Krishna consciousness there too.
As he disembarked from the East African Airlines 707 jet, Mr. Kul Bhusana, a journalist who was a friend of Prabhupada’s disciple Brahmananda, approached him with questions. He asked Prabhupada what he had come to teach, and Prabhupada answered, “Modern civilized man has forgotten his relationship with Krishna or God, and is therefore suffering.”
“Have you come only for Hindus?” asked Mr. Bhusana.
“No,” Prabhupada replied, “For everyone.”
After one night in Nairobi, Prabhupada flew to Mombasa, where he rested and recuperated at Mr. Pandya’s house. When he felt well enough to begin preaching, he flew back to Nairobi, saying it would be more advantageous than Mombasa, which he called “a small place.”
In Nairobi, Srila Prabhupada strictly followed the Vedic Tradition for sannyasis, by staying only three days or less in the home of each of his Indian hosts. Many of them were very supportive, especially Mr. Devji Damji, who showed very deep respect for Srila Prabhupada and promised to help him establish a Hare Krishna temple in Nairobi.
But Prabhupada wasn’t satisfied reaching only Indian people. He wanted to preach to the Africans also. “It is an African country,” he said simply. “They are the proprietors. We should be preaching to them.”
He began working towards this goal by organizing Nairobi’s first outdoor kirtan performance under the largest tree in Kamakunji Park, a historical landmark connected with Kenyan Independence. The crowd loved it.
Later, he gave a lecture at the University of Nairobi, completely filling up the auditorium with two thousand enthusiastic African students. Hundreds more stood outside, trying to look in through the doors and windows.
ISKCON had taken root in Kenya.
After spending around three months in Kenya, Srila Prabhupada left for Bombay in December 1971. Soon after, his disciple Brahmananda bought a house in Nairobi with the help of Devji Damji and others Indian supporters.
When Srila Prabhupada heard about the new house, he flew back to Nairobi immediately, bringing thirty-six-inch marble Radha-Krishna Deities with him. Getting special permission from the airlines, he and his disciple Madhudvisa placed the Deities in their own airplane seats; then, upon arrival in Nairobi, rode with them in a taxicab to the ISKCON center. Prabhupada rang the door bell, and when Brahmananda opened the door and saw his spiritual master he cried out, “Prabhupada!” and bowed down.
With the success of the Nairobi temple, a small center was established in Mombasa in 1973. But it wasn’t until 1986 that an ISKCON temple was built there, with assistance from ISKCON life members and other friends from the local Indian community.
“The then temple president Madhav Dev Prabhu oversaw the temple construction project, which was completed in just one year,” says Anand Dasa. “Friends donated most of the construction materials and handled all the planning, contracting and building.”
The temple, located in the Ganjoni area of Mombasa, has served the devotees well for many years. But as the congregation’s size and needs grew, a larger temple became a necessity.
“Since it is basically a residential building—not a full-fledge temple—the old temple had certain limitations,” says Anand Dasa. “It lacked enough parking space for visitors; the temple hall was too small to cater for attendance to large festivals; and it didn’t have the garden facilities we required to make ample flower offerings to the Lord.”
So in 2006, Anand, ISKCON Governing Body Commission member Gopal Krishna Goswami, and supporters Shri Kanubhai Babla and Shri Harish Gokh began to make plans to construct a wonderful new temple that would fulfill all requirements. Acquiring the land and getting planning permission from various city authorities presented its challenges, but by April 27th, 2008, the groundbreaking ceremony was observed, and construction began.
With the final touches being put on the project this month, and the huge opening festival set for April this year, Mombasa devotees are looking forward to many more inspiring years in Krishna consciousness, as their efforts expand.
“Around twenty devotees will be resident in the temple, but there is a solid congregation and many people are showing interest,” says Anand. “We expect around 1,200 to 1,500 people to visit the temple every week.”
To instill more interest, the temple will be offering seminars on various subjects such as Mantra meditation, Vaishnava etiquette, and yoga; there will also be a weekly program offered for women and children, and Bhakti-shastri scriptural study courses for local and international devotees.
Planned future projects include an Ayurvedic Clinic; the expansion of Food For Life to a daily program; and the establishment of the Bhaktivedanta Cultural and Educational Centre (BCEC).
“Mombasa is an ideal place for a complex like New Dwarikadham—it’s the second largest city in Kenya, it’s on the coast and has beautiful scenery and beaches, and most importantly, the people are very generous and friendly,” Anand concludes, smiling. “That’s the traditional Swahili touch.”
The New Dwarikadham Temple, Educational and Cultural Centre is located at Beach Road, Nyali, Mombasa. To contact the temple, email: Iskcon_mombasa@hotmail.com or phone: +254 733 466 577, +254 (41) 2312248. For more information, visit www.iskconmombasa.com.