Monday, May 26, 2014

ISKCON of Houston opens new temple

The past weekend of May 16, 17 and 18 marked a historic milestone in Houston’s landscape, adding to its rich and vibrant culture with the grand opening of new International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) temple. 

Spanning over 24,000 square feet, the ISKCON of Houston (Hare Krishna) temple – an architectural gem – is anchored by a central dome that is 72 feet high. This weekend, the temple celebrated its Grand Opening Festival, attended by more than 11,000. Visitors from Kazakhstan, Canada, Australia, India and USA marked this as a “once in a lifetime” event.

The celebration was officially inaugurated on Friday evening with an Interfaith program, welcoming participants from the Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Baha’i, Zoroastrian communities, to name a few. 

The exchange of spiritual wisdom between communities was followed by a variety of cultural presentations. 

The open garden was perfectly lit up and filled with lively booths, including a very popular henna station, ‘try-a-sari’ booth, Indian arts & merchandise booth. 

The much-famed troupe “Festival of India,” introduced Vedic philosophy and ideas in their unique and innovative fashion. The creative stalls on Vedic philosophy had exhibits that included dioramas on reincarnation, karma and the difference between mind, body and soul. His Holiness BB Govinda Swami’s renowned kirtan group, based in Kazakhstan, brought a new dimension to the event with their mesmerizing kirtan.

The temple, with intricate marble lotus carvings on the inside, has multiple domes all-glittering in a captivating blue and tan on the outside. 

The center dome is adorned with a glittering golden wheel, or chakra as it is referred to in the ancient Sanskrit language. It is visible from miles around it. As newcomers enter the temple, they experience a welcoming atmosphere. First time visitor Susan put it in a nutshell when she said “I can actually feel positive vibes here.” 

The ornate temple room and the altar itself were decorated with fresh flowers adding to the grace and beauty of the occasion. 

The main altar, with intricate hand-carved teakwood carvings, is home to Their Lordships - Sri Sri Radha Nilamadhava, Sri Gaura Chandra, Sri Nitai Chandra and Sri Giriraj Govardhan, all looking radiant and happy in their new home. The altar of Founder Acharya of ISKCON, His Divine Grace AC Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada was lovingly decorated with flowers and handmade garlands. As unique decorations on the main altar, were two stunning white elephants, bedecked with white and yellow flowers. It would be no exaggeration to say they turned more than a few heads!

Festivities started early on Saturday morning with meticulous preparations for the new Deity installation. New Radha Krishna Deities – Sri Sri Radha Giridhari were installed on Saturday. For this occasion, two very highly qualified priests - well versed with the science of Vedic rituals travelled from India to perform the auspicious ceremony. The joyous ceremony started with a fire sacrifice (yajna) in the garden outside the main temple. Various paraphernalia was offered in the presence of numerous spiritual leaders within ISKCON. 

Consul General of India Mr. Parvathaneni Harish with his wife Nandita attended the event and enjoyed the festivities for several hours. He seemed to capture the essence of the event when he said that the only way to salvation in today’s day and age was by chanting the holy names. He warmly appreciated the devotees of ISKCON for their sincerity and commitment to the path of Bhakti.

The grand opening weekend was marked with performances from all over the nation showcasing the wonderful unity that can be found amongst so much diversity. Local Houston artists wowed audiences with their dance presentations and music recitals and there were special appearances made by the world renounced Kirtan group, the Mayapuris, and the United Nations Association International Choir. The cultural events kicked of on interfaith day - Friday with several performances. This event, organized by ISKCON Houston’s outreach department, was meant to showcase the rich ethnic heritages of our city and how we are all intrinsically connected because of our relationship with The Lord whether he is Jesus, Allah, Jehovah, Rama or Krishna. 

On Saturday and Sunday, more than 30 schools graced the Children’s indoor stage and the Radha Nilamadhava Main stage. The United Nations Association International choir with Swara Raga Laya Music group’s collaborative performance included more than 15 instruments and 75 artists from 30 different countries. This mini concert infused both the western styles of music as well as the Indian classical styles to manifest our shared identity as the children of God. Fusion called “Gita – A Song” deserved a loud applause.

The Deities of Sri Sri Radha Nila-Madhava presides over a welcoming arati, kirtan and free vegetarian dinner feast each Sunday at 5:30pm at ISKCON of Houston (located: 1320 W 34th St Houston TX 77018). - See more at:

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