ISKCON, Bengaluru: The Sanctorum Is Worth The Maze

To not plan is the best plan ever

I and Nethra had a plan like a week and a half back. Movie at Orion Mall, visit to ISKCON and the best Frankie in Malleshwaram. But the plan was going for a toss outside my window, when I looked at the to-do-list for Wednesday. Forget ISKCON which was some 15 kms from my house, I wasn’t thinking to even step out of my house. Coincidently, she called up to tell me that Wednesday she was coming over to my side of the town and will give me a call when she is free to catch up. I thought okay, cool. Not having to travel and just meet up near your house. Ask any Bangalorean; they’ll jump at it.

I was half way through my to-do-list when she called. The plan was to go to ISKCON and then go to the frankie place by metro; movie plan cancelled. And I was like, “Damn! There goes my day.” I told her that ISKCON is farrr…but she convinced me that we will go by cab and it can be done. Anyways I wanted to go and visit the famed Radha Krishna temple, so I reshuffled my schedule and I was off. Besides there are also the lure of meeting one of our common friend and author – Siddhesh Kabe. I like meeting new people, especially the bookish types 🙂

I met them at California Burrito, we had our introductions – Hi Reshmy. Hi Siddesh. Hi Reviewer. Hi Author. Hi FB Friend 😛

We decided to take a Uber to ISKCON (Koramangala, 5th Block to Rajaji Nagar), all this while I was getting tutored on the good of Uber and bad of Ola! While we waited for our cab we exchanged stories of the books we had written and addresses for copies to be sent. Don’t sweat over it. That’s a normal writers’ behaviour! As normal as talking in the shower is.

Our cab arrived and we were on our way to ISKCON, Bengaluru. This is my first visit to an ISKCON temple and I am already expecting a huge structure with immense serenity. (guilty of having stayed in Mumbai for 5 years and having never visited ISKCON, Juhu) I discovered early on in the ride, that the peace will have to wait for we discussed manuscripts though out the ride. Yeah. Again!

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We alighted right in front of the temple with the gigantic metro bridge running parallel to the temple. Amidst discussions of wether we are appropriately dressed for the temple or are they going to throw us out; and Siddhesh reminding us that we need to make this quick, as he had a bus to catch to Pune, we checked-in through the metal detectors at the entrance and entered the massive structure we had come to explore.

As we walked on, the gigantic abode of Radha and Krishna started revealing itself to us in bits and parts. The temple complex is built over a huge area, as Siddhesh’s FitBit will reveal by the end of our tour. We would walk 3 kms in total to cover the temple complex. The temple complex is like the mythological chakravyuh mentioned in The Mahabharata. You enter it on your own will but you will come out only as the temple architect would have wanted you to 😀 ISKCON, Bengaluru is an unidirectional structure, with a circular ring path. You cannot abort your visit midway or anyway and come away; you can come out only through the exit. So as much as Siddhesh wanted to hurry for his bus, he had to complete the darshan.

As we climbed up the stairs, one of my co-travellers pointed out to a curious board on the left side of the stairs and had a very interesting take on it. It was a board that we see in many places, including places of worship.

As my co-traveller pointed out, “What an irony? This board in the house of a god! And that too the one who is supposed to be the ‘protector’ as per Hindu mythology.”

As we moved on further inside the temple complex, a long corridor of queue managers welcomed us. We can assume that this place would be really crowded on special days. Even on a weekday there must be some 50 – 70 people in the complex. At the starting of the corridor there is the coupon counter for things you may want to offer to the Lord and his consort. Also you get special tickets to jump the line. Irony number 2! You have a short cut to see the creator. Okay, that sounds creepy but this is a nice shortcut. You don’t have to stand in the long queues if you pay. Well…well…

We walked ahead through all the queue managers (empty at this time, of course) to hand over our slippers at a counter. You pay INR 2/- per head, take a sack, put your slippers in it, hand the sack and the slip of the payment to the slipper guardian 😀 He gives you a plastic token, which you hand over to him to get your slippers back. He has these small pigeon holes as part of his work station where all the slipper-sacks are kept. As we moved towards another metal detector, the final one before entering the temple, we realised this is also the place where the appropriateness of your attire is judged. That’s right! The guards posted there decide wether you are appropriately dressed to present yourself to Lord Krishna – who is supposedly the coolest god. We saw this foreigner as well as couple of Indian girls being sent back to change as we stood at the metal detector.

The Indian girls are still cool, but the poor foreigner is trying her best to adjust her clothes to pass the test of Dress Appropriateness. But Krishna is believed to like damsels. I think the guards are simply J!

After the metal detectors we walk a bridge which takes us to the main temple complex. Here you start with the chanting ritual. As you enter this section of the temple, you are handed over a card with the krishna chant and 108 slabs await you. You have to chant on each slab and to assist you, the chanting keeps going on via a loud speaker. This ritual is possibly a patience developer to calm you down and initiate you to surrender to the perfect incarnation of The Preserver – Lord Krishna. (though I can’t imagine the plight of believers visiting on a crowded day. They first wait long hours in that maze of queue managers and then 108 chants here! A patience developer, for sure.) The end of these 108 slabs are 8 steps, where you hand over the chant cards and go to the sanctum sanctorum of the temple.

What you see next is the true magnificence of this temple. Not gold painted but a sanctum sanctorum made of solid gold. Radha-Krishna are the main deities here with other demigods for company. You can sit around here and spend a lot of time in meditation, speculation, soul searching or whatever you want to do sitting in here. We did not have the time to sit. The sanctorum is high ceilinged and very cool. Peace does hang in here. It is for your taking.

These pictures don’t do justice to the beauty of the sanctorum. It is beautiful beyond words and megapixels.You need to see it to imbibe it inside of you.

After the sanctum sanctorum, we head out towards the exit as Siddhesh by now is rushing to catch that bus. We walk out quickly as we go through sections which sell books (in various languages), clothes, artefacts and what not. Even cookies! (which btw are available in the prasadam section.) We cross a bridge again and we are finally at a place which is the only free thing available at ISKCON. The Prasadam. My co-traveller tasted it and loved it. Non sugary, salt laden and mild spicy. I like sweet so I did not taste it.

Finally we handed back the first thing we had got at ISKCON, the plastic token to the slipper guardian and got our foot wears. As we headed out checking-in on FB about our visit and clicking selfies, Siddhesh mentioned ISKCON is said to be the place where many including Steve Jobs had their ground breaking ideas.

Nethra asked, “So, did you guys have a brainwave about your next bestseller?

I said, “As soon as we get into the shower. 😛” (For those who did not get the joke – Most writers are said to get their best ideas in the shower.)

We dropped Siddhesh at the metro station and headed to Orion Mall for the next leg of this visit. Read about it here.


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