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International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON)
ISKCON Temple Opens in South Africa, 100,000 Attend
Natal, South Africa A recent three-day festival here marking the grand opening of ISKCON's Sri Sri Radha-Radhanatha temple drew 100,000 visitors, including leaders of the Afrikaans, English, black, and Asian communities. Festivities included a Vedic fire ceremony, the installation of beautiful Deities of Radha and Krsna, a Vedic wedding, feasts of sumptuous prasadam (food offered to Krsna), and a spectacular fireworks display.
Among the guest speakers at the colorful opening was Mangosuthu Buthelezi, chief minister of the Zulu tribal homeland and president of Inkatha, the largest black political group in South Africa. Buthelezi, though an opponent of apartheid, advocates peaceful negotiations between the country's warring factions.
The ISKCON temple is a "triumph over terrible adversity," Buthelezi said. "The temple's magnificence and spirituality could not be here if racial hatred had already dehumanized us. Sharing across political and racial barriers was made possible by the great religions of the world. There would be no great cultures if there were no great religions."
Presiding over the festival were Srila Bhagavan Gosvami and Srila Bhaktitirtha Swami, two of ISKCON's present spiritual masters, who oversee ISKCON's affairs in South and West Africa.
The temple is over 100 feet high and is surrounded by a moat and a lovely park of gardens, fountains, lawns, walkways, and exotic imported plants. The interior decorations include 557 chandeliers, 45 murals, 6 tons of Portuguese marble, 1,264 square feet of mirrors, and 16,114 stainless steel tiles. The temple also contains a 700-seat auditorium.
Rajarama dasa, a devotee-architect, designed the temple according to geometrical formulas found in a classical Sanskrit text on architecture. The devotees started their own construction company and did most of the construction work.
"Krsna consciousness brings people together in a way that no other church or organization could," Srila Bhaktitirtha said in his opening address. "The devotees in South Africa have vividly demonstrated that all people can live together peacefully through spiritual understanding."
That statement was confirmed by J. N. Reddy, a leading member of the Indian parliament. "This message is one the devotees are showing by their example. It applies not only to South Africa but to the whole world," Reddy said.
Stan Lange, the mayor of Durban, and Amichand Rajbansi, chief minister of the House of Delegates, were also honored guests. Mr. Rajbansi predicted that the temple would soon become a major tourist attraction in South Africa.