by Praghosa das and Manu das
One of the first devotees to land on Irish soil in the early seventies did so on a motorbike, with the intention of getting a slot on the famous TV program, The Late Late Show. The devotee's name was Tribhuvanatha and, being Irish, he knew this would be an excellent opportunity to introduce the fledgling Krishna movement to the people of Ireland. Although unsuccessful in his attempt, it would not be too long before the first group of devotees began to sing and dance on the highways and byways of Ireland.
In the spring of 1973, Prabhavisnu brought a group of devotees to Dublin and they met with a good response, distributing books and chanting on the streets. At first they slept in their van, parked in the hills outside Dublin. Then they rented a bungalow in Sutton and on Sundays up to 60 people turned up to chant and honour prasadam with them.
Late in 1975 when Kripamoya from London gave Tulasi Priya his first book on Henry Street, the Sutton base had long gone. The first major temple in Dublin was located at Belvedere Place (right) which opened in 1978; it was from here that Adi Karta first registered the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) as a charity in Ireland.
Very soon after that, Prithu came from Germany to establish what was perhaps the most rapid membership expansion of the Hare Krishna movement in Ireland. There was also then a high profile appearance on The Late Late Show which helped make the devotees a household name.
In 1982 the devotees decided to move from Belvedere Place to Castlefield House in Templeogue (right). The deities Nitai Sacinandana, originally installed in the Edinburgh temple, also moved from Belvedere Place to Templeogue. Castlefield House was surrounded by several acres of grassland, affording guests to the temple a tranquil atmosphere several miles from the city.
Then in 1983, the deities Sri Sri Radha Madhava, who now reside in Belfast, were installed and Castlefield House became the first Radha Krishna temple in Ireland. However, within a year or so, ISKCON's charity status was removed due to the prevailing mood at the time in Ireland, where the growing number of shaven headed, saffron robed devotees were viewed with a mixture of curiosity and suspicion! Devotees feared, rightly or wrongly, that forces with far more influence than themselves had swayed the decision makers as far as the removal of ISKCON's charity status was concerned.
As a result of this uncertainty, the devotees chose not to purchase property in Southern Ireland and Sri Sri Radha Madhava, who were installed in Dublin, were moved to Northern Ireland. After a lot of endeavor by Saunaka Rsi, who enlisted the help of many international scholars and several sympathetic politicians, the decision to revoke our charitable status was rescinded.
Soon after a downtown centre was set up at Dawson Lane (right) by Uddhava and when Castlefield House was closed in 1985, the devotees rented a house in Clontarf, still tending every day to the preaching centre at Dawson Lane. A little while later the devotees left Clontarf and for a brief period moved to an organic farm in Navan, Co. Meath, traveling each day to the Dawson Lane centre. Yet again though, after a short period, a new devotee base was established in Dun Laoghaire.
That also did not last long and after another short stay in a rented house in Stillorgan, we opened our first restaurant, The Golden Avatar, which was situated at Crow street (right) in the Temple Bar area of the city; this became both a temple and a residence for the devotees. The Sunday feast attendance increased to over 120 again, as it had done in both Belvedere Place and Castlefield House, and it seemed the risk taken to rent such a high profile location was fully justified.
Unfortunately, owing to very high overheads and changing personnel, the project had to be dropped in 1988 and the devotees were on the move again, this time to Ratoath, Co. Meath. A hall was hired each week in Dublin City Centre for the Sunday Program.
A little over a year after the closure of the temple/restaurant in Crow St, a new Temple was opened, one street down in Temple Bar and aptly named Temple Lane (right). For over two years, festivals and events were hosted there and this attracted the newly returned, more experienced preacher Tribhuvanatha.
After the lease was finished in Temple Lane in 1992, Tribhuvanatha began another centre a few yards up the street, this time on the more high profile Dame St. (right, the Centra today), at its intersection with Georges St. Hence thousands of cars and pedestrians passed each day witnessing the huge lettering of Hare Krishna Cultural Centre; thus many people got their first experience of the movement.
However, by 1995 we were out of a lease again and devotees searched around for yet another location for our wandering congregation. By Govardhana Puja that year we were in that new location on South William St (right) and for 18 months, under the stewardship of Mahotsaha, we set up a temple again. After 18 months however, we were on the road again and after a short occupancy at a property in Ringsend, owned by John and Abhaya Leader, a new approach took place.
On the 1st of April 1998, Praghosa and Goloka opened our first Govinda's restaurant at 4 Aungier St. The Sunday program continued there for some years but it wasn't until the acquiring of our second Govinda's on Abbey St. that a real sense of a stable temple resumed in Dublin.
Govinda's on Abbey Street (right) was specifically acquired to have a facility which could serve as both a temple and restaurant, the formula being that the restaurant would subsidize the temple, allowing the temple devotees to be relieved of the pressure of having to generate Laksmi for maintenance, thus freeing them to utilize their full energy in spreading the message of Krishna consciousness.
A third restaurant was then added in Merrion Row and a full renovation project was undertaken by Praghosa and Janmastami to update the existing temple in Abbey Street into the lovely temple it is today, with our beautiful Sri Sri Panca Tattva presiding.
Now for the next and no doubt greatest development for ISKCON Dublin…