The local government in Adeje, a tourist town located in southwestern Tenerife, has granted ISKCON an 8,000 square meter plot of land on which to build an Indian style mandir and temple complex.
It’s an exciting development for ISKCON, which has had devotees visiting Tenerife — the largest and most populous of the seven Canary islands off the coast of Spain — since the 1970s.
It was Giriraja Swami who first visited to take a break from his efforts helping Srila Prabhupada to build a temple in Mumbai, India. While in Tenerife, he signed several people up to become financial supporters of ISKCON, or “Life Members.”
Other American devotees visited later, continuing Giriraja Swami’s work in nurturing life members amongst the Indian community on the island. And in the 1980s, devotees began to visit from mainland Spain to distribute books and establish a preaching center.
In the early 1990s, the first official temple was opened in Santa Cruz, the capital of the Canary islands, but efforts deteriorated and it was closed and sold.
In more recent times Patita-Pavana Das, who served for eight years as president of the New Vrajamandala ISKCON farm in Spain, was looking for a new location for his plans to build a Vedic temple, which had fallen through in New Vrajamandala.
The Canary Islands, where he had been preaching to the Indian community for many years, seemed viable, but there were so many possible spots there that he didn’t know which one to choose.
“I left it in the hands of Krishna,” he says. “Then, when I came to Tenerife, an Indian friend invited me to hold a program at his place. Afterwards, he told me, ‘I am so pleased. You did such a wonderful program, and I want to give you something. I know you are looking for a place. I have a house that I am not using. I want to give it to you.’”
The plot of land granted to ISKCON by the Adeje government
That did it.
“I thought, Krishna wants me to be in Tenerife,” Patita Pavana says. “So in 2009, I arranged to move there with my big family: my wife, five children, one dog, and one cow!” He chuckles in his jolly, friendly way. “Well — we had to leave the cow behind.”
The following year, the first Rathayatra festival was held in Adeje, Tenerife, sponsored by the local town hall and with major support from the local Indian community.
This relationship continued to develop. Kanayalal Mirpuri,the president of the local Indian Cultural Center, provided a place near the beach for ISKCON to rent as a temple. And there, Deities of Jagannath, Baladeva and Subhadra were installed.
Jagannath, Baladeva and Subhadra of ISKCON Tenerife
Soon, Mirpuri brought up another intriguing prospect. He told Patita-Pavana that the local town hall had offered him a piece of land some years ago, but that due to lack of people and resources, he had never developed it.
“Why don’t we go and see the land together?” Patita-Pavana suggested. “We can build a temple for Krishna.” And he showed Mirpuri his as-yet-unrealized plans for a Vedic temple.
Mirpuri was impressed, and together the two went to meet with Adeje Mayor José Miguel Rodríguez Fraga.
The Adeje Town Hall reserves 20% of the area’s land for infrastructure development and social services such as schools and churches. This land is donated to organizations deemed suitable on two conditions: they must construct the building the land is allocated for (in ISKCON’s case, a temple); and they cannot sell or mortgage it off.
The design of the new temple
The Mayor gave Patita-Pavana and Mirpuri the choice of several pieces of land. They chose a 12,000 square-meter plot in Playa de Las Americas, a holiday resort adjacent to the municipality of Adeje.
On October 25th, the land was approved, and the decision was announced by the Mayor during the Diwali celebrations. Four thousand square-meters were assigned to the Indian Cultural Center, and 8,000 square-meters to ISKCON.
Half of this is “green zone” land, which will contain beautiful gardens and a small goshala for cow protection. The remaining 4,000 square-meters of the ISKCON complex will include a 500 square-meter Vedic-style temple with three large domes, a restaurant, a library, and a guesthouse.
“Tenerife is the Southernmost place in Europe — it is near Africa and the coast of the Sahara,” Patita-Pavana says. “So the weather is very good: on average around 25 degrees Celsius [77 Fahrenheit], with the coldest days in the winter being around 20C [68F], and the hottest in the summer 35C [95 F]. So a lot of people come, especially during winter when it’s very cold in Europe. And many devotees come for their holidays too. So they will be able to stay at the guesthouse, have prasadam and a little program, and then go to the beach! It’s a good place for Vaishnava retreats as well.”
Patita-Pavana Das (second from the right) participats in an interfaith event
The ISKCON complex will also include a hospice where older devotees can retire — a much needed service. With wonderful balmy weather and comfortable conditions, it will be the perfect alternative to the more austere India for European devotee seniors.
Construction on the new temple is expected to begin in July 2014, with help and advice from the team working on the Temple of the Vedic Planetarium in India; as well as from Charu Das and his wife Vaibhavi Dasi, who designed the beautiful Vedic temple in Utah, USA.
Depending on donations, the temple complex is expected to be functional within three years, with further phases completed later. In the meantime, devotees hope to install a pre-built temporary house on the plot of land where they can accommodate their Jagannath Deities and hold programs. Living on the land itself will allow for better promotion and overseeing the finer details of construction.
When the temple is completed, it will be perfectly located for outreach. Tenerife is the most populous of the Canary Islands, with nearly one million inhabitants. It’s also a huge tourist Mecca for Europeans, and Adeje, where the temple will be located, is one of the richest towns in Spain due to its year-round tourism. So with its beautiful gardens and domes, the temple is expected to be a major tourist attraction.
Rathayatra in Adeje
There is rich diversity in the local residents, too. Adeje is home to people from an unbelievable 129 different nationalities — name practically any country or continent, and there’s likely someone from there. And of course, the Indian community is very supportive of ISKCON.
Already, outreach is thriving. Local devotees — there are about 25 stable residents who moved to Tenerife from all over the world — go on regular Harinamas. International sankirtana devotees regularly come to distribute books, because they are provided with free accommodation and BBT-price books.
ISKCON participates in many intercultural and interfaith activities promoted by the government of the Canary Islands. Vegetarian cooking courses are offered regularly. Major festivals like Janmastami, Radhastami, and Gaura Purnima are celebrated with great pomp. And Rathayatra, now in its fourth year, has become an official event of the town of Adeje.
“When the new templeis up and running, we expect to attract many more people, with our cows, gardens, and different exhibitions,” says Patita-Pavana. “I have a Master’s Degree in Hinduism, so we want to work with local schools, too. We hope that will add a lot of visitors for the temple.”
“It will be a very nice base for devotees to preach from,” he concludes.
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