By Antony Brennan
If the Deity room is the heart of the temple then the kitchen must be one of the major organs. The kitchen is at the center of many of the activities undertaken at any of Krishna’s temples. Here are produced the delicious foods offered to the Deities at each meal and which are distributed amongst the devotees and guests as the mercy or prasadam of Lord Krishna.
Krishna’s kitchen caters for the festivals and other events held throughout the year such as Janmasthami and Gaura Purnima, as well as the appearance and disappearance days of the Acharyas. There are home programs, retreats and anniversaries which are all catered for out of the temple kitchen. It is said that in all of India the biggest kitchen is within the compound of the world famous Jagannatha temple in Puri.
Amongst the early stories detailing the arrival of Krishna Consciousness in the west are kitchen tales told by devotees who were given private lessons by Srila Prabhupada in the loving preparation and offering of prasadam. The Hare Krishna movement has even been referred to as the kitchen religion. So there is no escaping it – the kitchen is high on the list of important organs in the body of the temple.
Recently the kitchen at Sri Sri Radha Gopinatha Mandir in Sydney was in dire need of renovation. The sub-floor needed repairs, the storage room needed re-construction, new plumbing and electrical work were needed and the exhaust and counter tops needed replacing. Basically, a new kitchen was required.
The new kitchen wasn’t just a desire, it was a necessity in order to conform to required safety and health standards. A better kitchen will create a more conducive atmosphere for the preparation of Lord Krishna’s meals. The upgrade would allow for the expansion of prasadam distribution and support the increasing demand of producing more than 105,000 meals per year.
This kind of renovation work does not come cheap, even the materials required would add up to a significant cost to the temple budget. So in January this year, temple president Vara-nayaka das appealed to the temple congregation to assist in raising the finances to build the new kitchen.
“The ISKCON Sydney temple of Sri Sri Radha Gopinatha has been in the current location since 1992 when the building was first purchased,” Vara-nyaka said. “The devotees built and developed the temple complex which includes various areas such as the beautiful altar, large congregation hall, Gopinatha’s restaurant dining room along with outdoor seating areas, kitchen and storage areas, temple shop and ashram for the devotees.”
“The kitchen was built during the original construction phase,” Vara-nayaka continued. “Due to the rapid growth in Krishna Consciousness in the Sydney region over the past 15 years the kitchen has become inadequate to serve the ever increasing needs of the expanding community. The ISKCON center has been successful beyond expectation. We have now reached a stage where the kitchen needs complete refurbishment.”
The congregation responded quickly and generously. Funds, equipment and labor were donated, architects and builders gave themselves and their services to the construction. In a celebration held on May 10th the ribbon to the new kitchen was cut and an ecstatic kirtan followed as everyone came in to view the new facility and to offer it to Sri Sri Radha Gopinatha for their personal pleasure.
Devotees and lovers of Krishna crowded the temple compound and enjoyed a delicious barbeque in the Sydney sunshine to the sounds of bhajans glorifying the Holy Name. Speeches were given by temple president Vara-nayaka das and vice president Vijay Gopikesh das. There was also a presentation giving the history of the temple and the story of the installation of Sri Sri Radha Gopinatha in Sydney by Srila Prabhupada himself in 1971.
It is a story of successful loving co-operation between the congregation and the temple leaders in service of Radha and Krishna which will benefit many for years to come. Sri Sri Radha Gopinatha Ki Jaya.