The Radha-Krishna Temple in Mount Airy is part of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON.) What began in 1969 as a small congregation meeting in a rowhome in West Philadelphia finally became a temple to hundreds of devotees, now housed in the former and historic Cresheim Arms Hotel.
“All temples are different,” said Lila Katha dasi, a longtime Hare Krishna devotee. “However, the basic philosophies are the same and the practices are the same…here in the city, this is obviously a larger temple, bigger congregation and the city also has more to offer.”
The Mount Airy temple has about 200 devotees and extends all the way to Delaware, said Tamal Krishna Das, who joined this temple in July.
Hare Krishna temples can be found throughout the United States and are represented on every continent except Antarctica. Many members currently living in Philadelphia have migrated from elsewhere.
“I joined in Connecticut, Hartford Temple, so [that is] a lot smaller and the community is really tight,” Krishna Das said.
But unlike Krishna Das, Dronacarya Das was raised in a Philadelphia suburb and has belonged to the Philadelphia temple since he became involved with the faith 17 years ago.
“In most of the cities in America and around the world there are Krishna temples,” Dronacarya Das said. “So, it’s fun to go up to New York or down to Maryland or over to New Jersey to visit, but this is where I call home.”
Katha dasi lived on a farm in Port Royal, Pa., for six years before returning to the city.
“Obviously, that’s a very different environment to practice spiritual life in,” Katha dasi said. “We were on a 300-acre farm, very attuned with nature and also practicing. There was a Radha-Krishna Temple right on the property.”
Although Philadelphia’s temple has multiplied in size since its conception more than 40 years ago, the group continues to seek increased membership.
“We like to go in the streets,” said Yugala Rasa, a native Lithuanian ISKCON member. “Philadelphia [hosts] Ratha Yatra, it’s a Parade of Chariots. We go with three big deities out in the streets. There are 3,000 people who follow; it’s like a precession. It’s a huge thing.”
“There’s an opportunity for anybody who wants to help, to help,” Krishna Das said. “There’s always something to do and not enough people to do it. You can be a “leader” in our movement rather quickly, just by doing stuff.”