The official ISKCON 50 magazine “The Hare Krishnas: Celebrating 50 Years” cites Srila Prabhupada’s society as having 65 farms and eco-villages, and 650 centers, temples, schools and colleges worldwide.
That’s a surprisingly huge and growing network – growing family – that we’re a part of. But what if you want to learn more about what’s happening at a particular center? What if you’re traveling and want to stop off at the closest ISKCON center to get some prasadam and kirtan, a spiritual boost and a comforting taste of home? How do you find it?
Centres.iskcon.org, the new official directory of ISKCON centers created by Atmarama Krishna Das, helps you do just that with a variety of handy online tools.
Originally from London, Atmarama has an impressively varied background, working as an officer in the British Army, an investment banker and a secretary to ISKCON guru Bhakti Charu Swami before settling in New Delhi and starting up his own financial technology business. He runs centres.iskcon.org as a volunteer service, even funding the project with his own money.
“Myself and our volunteer team used the raw data from the GBC’s offline ISKCON property database, and also conducted our own research,” he says. “From that, we filled the website with 976 entries, which include not only the temples, centers, farms, schools, and restaurants listed in the GBC property database, but also namahattas, sangas and student groups.”
To find the center you’re looking for on the website, there are many different options. You can simply type, say, “Spain” into the “What are you looking for?” box on the homepage, and find a list of all the centers in that country accessible through attractive thumbnail photos.
Or, you can be more specific, and select “Spain” from the “regions” drop-down menu and “farm” from the “categories menu, and find the New Vrajamandala farm.
Other search options include the “Browse categories” menu, where you can go straight to, say, all the Namahatta groups or all the restaurants in ISKCON worldwide. Then there’s “Centers by Region,” where you can go straight to all the centers in a major region of the world, like “Latin America” or “Asia-Pacific.”
There’s also “Centers of Interest,” which currently has only “farms” in its drop-down menu, and leads you directly to the GBC Ministry of Agriculture and Cow Protection’s official global directory of all ISKCON farms. Future “Centers of Interest” to be added will include a one-click pathway to all major ISKCON schools.
Once you make a search from the homepage, you are led to a page where you can further filter your search using tags so that you can find a center with specific facilities – for instance, whether it’s disabled friendly or has children’s programs, a guesthouse, Govinda’s restaurant, goshala, or venue for hire.
When you reach an individual center page, you’ll find a host of information about that center – their website, email, phone number, Facebook and Youtube pages, presiding Deities, opening and closing times, specific facilities, a photo gallery, and a write-up about their history and activities.
Each center is also geo located using Google Maps, one of the most unique and useful features on the website. Users can “Get Directions” from their location, and also click on a Google Map preview of the center’s location to see it on a full map with Satellite view.
What makes this feature an indispensable resource for travelers is that while you can usually Google an address in developed countries yourself, and find its actual location reliably on Google Maps, developing countries can be a different story.
“Google Maps has varying levels of usefulness around the world,” says Atmarama Krishna. “In India, for instance, we had to figure out the actual location of centers ourselves, and then drop the pin on the map when we knew exactly where it was for sure.”
This will do away with unpleasant surprises like following Google Map directions to a temple’s address, and finding yourself in the middle of nowhere.
Another interesting feature of centres.iskcon.org is that while the technology, hosting, and user interface is centralized and run by Atmarama Krishna and his team, the content is decentralized.
“I wanted to empower local center leaders to convey what they want, and manage their own content,” he says. “So if your center is missing from our listings, you can register with us and add it. And if it is already there, you can contact us and say you’re the official representative of your center, and we’ll assign it to you, so that you can edit its page. Of course, we make sure that each entry is an authorized ISKCON center, moderate all edits, and keep the pages all looking nice.”
As an added service, centres.iskcon.org also has a Facebook page, which promotes a different center from around the world every week, with a photo and a blurb about its activities.
Meanwhile, when people register with the website, they also automatically have an account with two other official ISKCON websites in Atmarama Krishna’s multi-site network, which they can create and edit entries in.
These are events.iskcon.org, where people can find details about upcoming events throughout the ISKCON world; and jobs.iskcon.org, a free service for finding jobs and volunteer services at ISKCON centers and affiliated institutions.
Once again, these are not only excellent resources for people looking for events and jobs – but also free advertising for ISKCON leaders who want to promote such things.
Besides these official ISKCON websites, Atmarama Krishna also runs devoteematch.com, a matrimonial portal that is endorsed by the GBC Devotee Care Committee, and devoteebusiness.com, which lists devotee-run businesses the world over.
Looking to the future, he hopes to add more small entries like sangas and student groups to centres.iskcon.org, and to improve the quality of its existing listings by working more closely with local leaders.
He also hopes to improve the website’s technology. “If we had volunteers with more technical skill, we could add features and functionality, such as embedded videos for instance. So if you’d like to help, either in terms of coding or content, please contact us!”
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Please visit http://centres.iskcon.org (The American spelling of “centers” will also work).
Check out the Facebook page “ISKCON Centres.”
To help or contribute content, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jan 22, 2022
Sunanda Das, tovp.org