#MeetSouthAfrica: The Hare Krishna temple in Durban
The smell of incense perfumes the air while soft chanting fills one of the most beautiful buildings in the port city of Durban. The Sri Sri Radhanath Temple of Understanding in Chatsworth welcomes visitors of any creed, and one thing you are guaranteed of is a warm welcome.
This is the largest Hare Krishna temple in the southern hemisphere and attracts worshippers and visitors from all over KwaZulu-Natal and the rest of the country. It was built in 1985 by Iskcon (The International Society for Krishna Consciousness), and the architectural structure represents a lotus flower.
For those visiting for the first time, the opulent interior is a site to behold: ceiling frescoes of Lord Krishna at various stages of his life, crystal chandeliers, gold-tinted windows and marble tiles add to the splendour of the temple. It's a meditative space, a place to breathe and reflect; it's also a place where chanting, dancing and prayers take place, feeding the spiritual heart of the local Krishna community.
Rasasthali Dasi, social media manager for the temple, says it has been a tourism landmark since it opened. 'The entire construction of the temple has spiritual significance,' she says. 'The moat surrounding the temple signifies the cycle of birth and death. The bridge signifies the crossing over of birth and death and entry into the spiritual world.
The entire construction of the temple has spiritual significance. The moat surrounding the temple signifies the cycle of birth and death. The bridge signifies the crossing over of birth and death and entry into the spiritual world.
'The temple represents crossing over from the material into the spiritual world'. She says the artworks are the windows to the spiritual world. The entire theme is about rebirth from the material world into a more conscious way of being – married to spirituality and sacred teachings.
One of the temple's big drawcards is Govinda's restaurant. 'Hare Krishnas are strict lacto-vegetarians,' says Dasi. 'Visitors can enjoy wholesome vegetarian meals at the restaurant'.
The food at Govinda's is legendary and it certainly helps one's karma (whether you believe it or not) that the food you are eating is blessed. There is a small shop where you can buy memorabilia and Hare Krishna literature. There are also regular tours of the temple for visitors. Festivals and religious celebrations are a major highlight.
To contact the temple, call +27 (0)31 403 3328, or email email@example.com.