Temple Profile: Bali, Indonesia

By Madhava Smullen for ISKCON News on 28 May 2011
Location: The central part of the island of Bali, Indonesia. The temple sits in a rice field next to a small river on the outskirts of the Gianyar District. The 3,800 foot Mount Agung towers above it, while nearby attractions include the Palace of Sukarno, the first Indonesian president, traditional arts showcases, and a major temple of Vasuki. The ISKCON temple is accessible from the Ngurah Rai Bali Airport, 35 kilometers away.

Name: Sri Sri Radha Madhava Mandir, also known as Yayasan Gaura Hari Ashram.
Address: Jalan Krishna Loka 108, Delod Siangan Bitera, Gianyar, Bali, Indonesia.
Phone: Contact Kishora Krishna Dasa by SMS at +62 852 3844 4436
Email: kisorakrsna@yahoo.com.

President: Kishora Krishna Dasa, working with the Foundation Committee.
Opened on: Rama Navami, April 21st, 2002.

Temple Style: Balinese-style architecture, carved by local devotees and featuring beautiful sculptures, including Lord Narasimhadeva bursting from the stone wall above the altar. In the pond outside, there is also a sculpture of Vasuki, the famous snake king described in the Srimad-Bhagavatam who allowed the demigods and demons to churn the Ocean of Milk using his body wrapped around the Mandara Mountain. Vasuki is commonly worshipped in Indonesia.

Location: The central part of the island of Bali, Indonesia. The temple sits in a rice field next to a small river on the outskirts of the Gianyar District. The 3,800 foot Mount Agung towers above it, while nearby attractions include the Palace of Sukarno, the first Indonesian president, traditional arts showcases, and a major temple of Vasuki. The ISKCON temple is accessible from the Ngurah Rai Bali Airport, 35 kilometers away.

Krisni in Bali

Distinctive food offerings: Food offerings to the Deities are taken from the temple’s own garden as often as possible, including wild leaves and vegetables cooked with grated coconut, fresh ginger, and turmeric. Number of residents: Five, as well as a full-time grihasta family who have served as the priest and Deity cook for the past ten years. The temple is supported by the collections of two travelling brahmacharis. Fifteen families live on a three-acre plot near the temple, visit regularly and engage in various services.

Number of visitors: Between twenty-five and fifty congregational devotees attend the Sunday feast every week. Members of the general public and foreign devotees also visit, including two to four sannyasi guests every year.

Best time of year to visit: The three month period of March, April and May, during which many festivals are held, including Gaura Purnima, Rama Navami, the temple’s anniversary, Narasimha Chaturdashi, and Chandan Yatra.
Like many of the most beautiful ISKCON projects, the devotees at Radha Madhava Mandir were tested many times by Lord Krishna along their path to eventual success.

A community first began to develop in the Gianyar area in 1992, with congregational programs called Nama-hattas conducted at a different devotee’s house each week. But as the community grew and neighbors began to complain about the noise of kirtans and functions, it was clear that a permanent temple was needed.

“We began to look for a piece of land, and found one, but it was only with great difficulty that we acquired it,” says president Kishora Krishna Dasa. “Funds were low, and when we finally were ready to purchase, the landlady canceled the agreement although we had already paid a deposit. At last, she agreed to sell it to us, and in July 1998, we purchased our current one acre of land and divided it into several 2,000 square feet plots, with an 8,600 square feet plot for the temple.”

Although they had no building, devotees immediately began holding weekly Sunday feasts in the open field. Gradually, they constructed a small, temporary, one-roomed cottage which contained an altar on which a picture of Krishna was worshipped, as well as a kirtan hall that doubled as sleeping quarters for the two brahmacharis and one junior high school boy who served full time.

“It had a tiny kitchen, but no electricity, and no bathroom or toilet,” Kishora Krishna says. “They had to go to the field to use the toilet, and to the river to bathe; and they brought water from the river to the temple for cooking.”

Despite the lack of facilities, Deities of Sri Sri Gaura Nitai and Sri Prahlada Narasimha were brought from Vrindavana, India and installed in 1999, as devotees designed a permanent temple and struggled to finance its construction. After a visit to the Radha Govinda Mandir in Jakarta in 2000, help came in the form of Matsya Avatar Dasa, Gaura Mandala Bhumi Dasa, and GBC Satya Narayana Dasa, and donations came in to fund the project.

“However, the local village chief refused to sign the letter giving us permission to build an Ashram on the land,” says Kishora Krishna. “Three months went by, and although we had purchased building materials already, we couldn’t start the project without the permission letter. We prayed to the Lord for the protection of his project, and at last in September 2001 we received the permission and began work on the foundation.” But time was running out. And with material prices increasing, the project was running over budget.

“When we told our donors about new plans to add elaborate decorative carvings to the entrance of the temple and the wall above the altar, they weren’t happy,” Kishora Krishna says. “But when we explained to them that expert local devotees could carve the decorations, thus cutting costs, they agreed, and we set to work.”

By Gaura Purnima in March 2002, the planned inauguration day for the new temple, construction was still not completed. The official opening was pushed back to Rama Navami in April, and devotees worked hard around the clock to finish in time. “On Rama Navami, as all the guests began to arrive, we were still installing the carving of Lord Nrsimhadeva above the altar, and laying the last floor tiles,” says Kishora Krishna. “But we did it! By the mercy of Srila Prabhupada, the support of Gaura Mandala Bhumi, Matsya Avatar, and Satya Narayan Prabhus, and the tireless work of our devotee team, we were successful.”

Gaura Mandala Bhumi Dasa performed the installation of Deities of Sri Sri Radha Madhava, Lalita and Vishaka, main donor Satya Narayana Dasa attended as chief guest, and ISKCON Varnashrama Minister Bhakti Raghava Swami presided over the official opening of the temple on behalf of Srila Prabhupada.

And what a temple it is! Carved of stone with an elegant roof in the traditional Balinese style, the entrance features the ISKCON lotus symbol, along with many intricate decorative carvings. Inside, the altar is made with teak wood and covered in ornate, colorful lotus flowers and original gold leaf from Hong Kong. From the wall above the altar, a stunning sculpture of Lord Nrsimhadeva bursts forth in his divine fury, amidst more intricate decorations.

All designs and carvings are by local devotees, including Deities of the Dasavatara—Krishna’s ten most prominent incarnations—which are set into the temple walls in their own ornate little altars, as well as the doorkeepers of Vishnu’s abode of Vaikuntha, Jaya and Vijaya.

The temple property also includes a kitchen, prasadam hall, a small goshala for the protection of two cows and one bull, accommodations for brahmachari monks, and a garden. There is also a pond featuring beautiful dioramas of the sacred serpent Vasuki, the Mandara mountain, and Krishna’s tortoise incarnation Kurma, which were all used by the demons and demigods to churn the Ocean of Milk.
“We also have a unique mini Tulasi Mandir for Krishna’s favorite plant, where devotees do kirtan throughout the night every Dvadasi, a fortnightly holy day,” says Kishora Krishna.

March, April, and May tend to be the best months to visit ISKCON Bali—they’re host to many celebrations including Gaura Purnima, Rama Navami, the temple’s Anniversary, Narasimha Chaturdasi, and the three-day Chandan Yatra festival, wherein the Deities are covered in cooling clay, and taken for a boat-ride in the temple pond.

“Another event not to be missed is Pushya Abisheka, where we take the Deities of Sri Sri Radha Madhava, Lalita and Vishaka in a palanquin to visit the village, and offer an arati in front of each devotee’s house with an offering of some gift from their garden,” Kishora Krishna says.

The temple also offers regular evening classes on drama, dancing, and the Bhagavad-gita, and holds the occasional beach harinama.

“In the future, we plan to establish a small Vedic village with a farm to grow our own basic necessities based on the Daiva Varnashrama Dharma system of life, which allows devotees to perform their devotional service to Lord Krishna in a more natural, simple way as Srila Prabhupada wanted,” Kishora Krishna says.

“Since prices are high and land is hard to come by, we are looking for a bigger piece of land outside Bali island for this project, to enable many families to join the Varnashrama Community.”

“We humbly beg all the Vaishnavas for their kind blessings that we may continue our services long into the future,” he concludes.

Bali Altar

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