“Hare Krishna, Hare Rama” these were the words Seva Atula Das was greeted with as he walked passed through the local vegetable market in downtown Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. More than 15 years ago as Tribhuvanatha Das was spreading the holy name through the East African Festival, he reached out to Dar es Salaam, the largest city in Tanzania and Eastern Africa by population.
Relocation from Nairobi to Dar es salaam due to work purposes lead to the first devotee Hari Dev Das settling in Dar and sowing the seed for the future congregation movement. He invited the Regional Director for East Africa Umapati Das, frequently for conducting house programs. Travelling with a few devotees from Nairobi, and combining forces together the Iskcon Dar es Salaam Project started getting its shape. A local Indian gentleman Mr. Raju donated an apartment to be used for outreach activities. Due to the land being owned by the Government, the devotees had to bid farewell to their cherished center with the Government now reclaiming their property. From bad to worse as devotee were informed that registering ISKCON was having too much opposition from local authorities.
Meanwhile in Nairobi a gentleman by the name of Mr. Prakash (now Pariksit Hari Das) was introduced to Iskcon. “In 1995, I visited ISKCON Nairobi temple during my stay in Nairobi at my sister's place. After the darshan, I was keen to visit the society if available in Dar as salaam,” says Pariksit Hari. “The kirtans and lectures of Srimad Bhagavad Gita were pleasing to my mind and soul which made me dedicate my efforts and duties towards the society.
“After knowing there is ISKCON centre in Dar (previously located at Anand Nivas, Mrima Street), I paid regular visits as I started liking the positive environment developed by ISKCON devotees and the programs occurring in the centre itself. During my regular visits to the centre, there were occasional visits by Umapati Das where I was inspired and attracted by his preaching. After his observations to the society, he then elected me as the Chairman of ISKCON Dar.
When the ISKCON centre in Dar was demolished, we all were facing a lot of difficulties in conducting programs or lectures which led us to perform house programs. Even though having house programs, it was difficult in getting all the devotees to attend,” reflects Pariksit Hari Das.
After pushing with the local authorities and going through many reversals, finally ISKCON Tanzania was registered.
With so many obstacles and challenges, not giving up the devotees kept pushing to bring the project up. Pariksit Hari Das remembers: “at the inauguration of ISKCON Mombasa temple at Nyali Beach, during my stay, I was introduced to Gopal Krishna Goswami, who motivated me to provide my full service to Krishna for the downsides we were facing in Dar. “
Now with no centre Pariksit Hari Das offered his 12th floor apartment (Shreeji Towers) and terrace as facility to hold regular kirtans and programs. With the focus on getting a new centre now, things began to look bright. Being in the construction field Pariksit Hari envisioned a beautiful temple right in the middle of the city. Now having completed his new project, he offered one full floor of his building to ISKCON as the new preaching centre.
“The ISKCON Dar Centre is located at Shreeji Apartment, Mezzanine floor, Mosque Street, at the heart of Dar city centre with an approximate of 250 square meter. The centre almost took 2 years to complete and was designed by my son, Architect Harshil,” says Pariksit Hari Das
On 5th January 2016, The ISKCON Dar Es Salaam, centre was opened by Gopal Krishna Goswami. A Yagna and Abhishek were performed to please their Lordships Sri Sri Gaura Nitai. The ceremonies were performed by Seva Atula Das, Radhadyuti Das and Caitanya Visnu Das. Local devotees had travelled from Nairobi to perform Kirtan at the festivals.
Umapati Das describes the scene: “the people of Dar are very simple; most people live in the city. They are very respectful, very easy to preach to. With 50% population being followers of the Muslim tradition and the other 50% Christians still there is so much support, even when we go Harinam they chant and dance.”
He gives further insight into the East Africa Project. “There is a lot of respect here to the saintly class. The Government is now more supportive. The new generation is taking this up. Before it was very hard to distribute books, but now it is very easy. We have also begun a university preaching program in Kampala, Uganda. Already people have seen the increase in local devotees. Srila Prabhupada’s word will come true, we just have to try.”[ east-africa ] [ tanzania ]