Members and friends of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness gathered Sunday to celebrate the groundbreaking for a new Hindu temple on McDowell Road, just east of Route 59, in Naperville.
“This temple will offer so much to the Naperville community,” said Dr. Anuja Gupta, a member of the planning committee for the Radha Krishna Temple.
She was among hundreds of people who wore traditional garb, ate vegetarian food and participated in an outdoor groundbreaking ceremony under a large tent in which rituals of fire, flowers and music were conducted.
Society member Sacikumar Das said the nonprofit group currently meets in a former church located on 2.8 acres of land, purchased in 2010, on which the temple will be built. The ornate, all-white structure will have an expansive worship room, two yoga studios, a gift shop, a commercial vegetarian catering kitchen, a banquet hall, and 10 classrooms for Vedic education. Children attend classes while their parents are in Sunday services.
Gupta said the facility will provide more space for “teaching spiritual text to kids, health and fitness sessions, classical music and dance, and language lessons.” Programs will be run by volunteers and provided to the public for free or for a nominal fee.
The new structure will be built in phases, Das said, with the back of the building being constructed first. When that phase is completed, the group will move their gatherings to the new section so the old church can be converted into the front of the new temple, he said.
It will take up to two years to finish the entire temple at a cost of $2 million to $4 million, Das said. “All the money is being raised in our group, some from banks and some from members,” he said.
“We have 50 to 75 families that make a monthly pledge,” member Stoka Krsna Das said.
Sacikumar Das said the current center draws 100 to 200 people every Sunday for what he called the Love Feast, when all visitors are given a free meal. “In two to three years, we expect 500 people” to attend Sunday services for ISKCON, the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, also called the Hare Krishnas, he said. The new facility will allow ISKCON Naperville to offer at least four hours of services daily.
“ISKCON is not a religion. It’s not sectarian. It’s a lifestyle change,” Krsna Das said. “We have a large population of not just Indians but open-minded Americans willing to try this lifestyle.”
Krsna Das said the group’s teachings center on four principles: no meat consumption, no gambling, no intoxicants, no illicit sex.
“I know my kids won’t drink, go to bars, do stupid stuff. I’m at peace,” Krsna Das said. “I see other people; they’re worried about their kids coming home at night.” ISKCON offers a solution to the current “era of kaliyuga. People are lazy, misguided, quarrelsome and do not want to do anything,” he said.
ISKCON was founded by Srila Prabhupada, who built 108 temples after coming to the United States from India in the late 1960s, said Krsna Das. The Hare Krishna movement received considerable attention as a result of the founder’s association with musician George Harrison and today includes more than 500 centers around the world.
Diane Moca is a freelance reporter for the Naperville Sun.