Founder Acharya His Divine Grace
A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada

ISKCON Toronto: The Transformation and The New Faces
By Radhapriya Chawla, ISKCON Toronto Communications   |  Jun 25, 2022
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A 50th installation offering to Sri Sri Radha Ksira-Chora Gopinatha

 

In 2019, the Building Improvement Committee (BIC) at ISKCON Toronto embarked on a monumental task of revolutionizing the facilities and spaces within the temple to accommodate the growing community and to ensure that the building is efficiently serving the needs of the devotees. Thus, the Temple for the Future Renovation Project was born.

Initially, the renovations started with a new and beautiful accessible washroom on the main floor of the temple as well as a rejuvenation of the Govinda’s restaurant. 

BIC has now completed Phases 1, 2, and 3 of the project which involved an amazing transformation and overhaul of the basement space of the temple including modernizing and creating new public washroom facilities, a complete education wing with classrooms and a seminar room, a resident prasadam area, as well as rebuilding the devotee residence quarters.

 

Plumbing, structural build-out and remediation

 

The Committee spent months on design and deliberation in an effort to use the footprint more efficiently. Much thought went into layout, design, and finishes. BIC was able to eliminate wasted space and maximize area usage by practically demolishing the space down to its bare bones including removing the studs. The whole space had to be remediated and through this process, the construction crew found mold, mildew, asbestos, rotting frames, and oozing carcass, and thousands of bedbugs.

 

Pictured left: building framework and pictured right: the old men’s ashram

 

The entire framework needed to be structurally sound before installing new drywall, lighting, paint, flooring, and furnishings. Indeed, most of the work, time, and costs involved plumbing, electrical and structural build-out below ground and behind walls.

BIC’s Indresh Das stated, “This rejuvenation was a long and arduous process, with a lot of work, input, and challenges, but the satisfaction of seeing it all come together into a useful area with the required facilities for residents, students, congregation and devotees makes it all worthwhile.”

 

Left: new men’s ashram hallway with bedroom doors. Right: new men’s ashram lounge area

 

The men’s ashram was developed into a beautiful space and now has eight bedrooms with a capacity of sixteen beds, a devotee lounge, and a dedicated washroom with showers and all the necessary facilities. The women’s ashram was also renovated with new beds and two direct washrooms with complete amenities including showers. The bedrooms have desks for studying and closets as well. Both the women’s and men’s ashram combined have space for 20 beds and the guest VIP room has space for three guests with an ensuite washroom.

After four decades, ashram residents, both men, and women, now have washrooms within their ashrams and no longer need to traverse uncomfortably into the public hallways to use the facilities.

 

Left: New men’s ashram designated washroom. Right: One of the new bedrooms in the men’s ashram

 

Left: One of the bedrooms in the new women’s ashram. Right: One of the new washrooms in the women’s ashram

 

The men’s and women’s public washrooms were also completely remodeled and are now converted into luxurious, clean, and practical spaces. The men’s public washroom has four washroom facilities and two vanity sinks and the women’s public washroom has three washroom facilities and two vanity sinks.

 

Left: New women’s public washroom. Right: New men’s public washroom

 

Congregation members were in awe and wowed at how beautiful the completed renovations are compared to their previous state. From the ashrams, education rooms, and sitting areas to the resident prasadam area, ashram, and public washrooms, people are commenting with deep appreciation, some even with tears in their eyes. Comments include, “top-class”, “incredible”, “swanky” and “unbelievable”.

 

Left: New media and multipurpose space. Right: New full-time resident prasadam area

 

On Nrsimha Caturdasi, Srila Prabhupada was officially welcomed into the revamped basement space. Srila Prabhupada was showered with flowers and the Building Improvement Committee, along with some Temple Council Members and some of the construction crew chanted and gave a tour of Phases 2 and 3 to Srila Prabhupada. During the tour, Bhaktimarga Swami exclaimed, “This is what we needed; the areas are top-notch and I especially love the lounge. We are now ready to serve our community with the proper amenities.”

 

Krishna’s arrangement: Bringing New Waves of Bhaktas

The renovations by the Building Improvement Committee played a large part in facilitating the ability to have Canada’s first Bhakti Academy program in Toronto, which officially launched on the same day as Nrsimha Caturdasi.

The Bhakti Academy is an educational program that is open to all who seek to learn, serve and share in a community of like-minded friends. The program provides university and college students or recent graduates with an immersive experience in a temple atmosphere. 

Students live in a dedicated Academy ashram within the ISKCON Toronto temple for one to two semesters where they practice bhakti yoga by studying the Bhagavad Gita, Srimad Bhagavatam, and other prominent scriptures. In addition, students will learn about japa and mantra meditation, the practice of kirtan and bhajans, cooking prasadam, and the mood of devotional service. 

Bhakti Academy Toronto students doing kirtan in the park

“A couple of years back we planned to add new facilities, washrooms, devotee lounges, a prasadam facility and classrooms. At that time, we did not fully understand Krishna’s plan to send bright young men and women to get trained up in bhakti and make full use of these facilities”, said Indresh Das who is heading up the temple renovations and assisted in the launch of Toronto’s Bhakti Academy.

Brhat Mrdanga Das was welcomed as the director of the Academy and given an ‘honorary key’ for the new ashram facilities. From Houston, Texas, Brhat Mrdanga Das is a graduate of Bhakti Academy’s Gainesville, Florida location and brings a wealth of experience and sincerity to the new Toronto endeavour.

The first term from May to August was filled very quickly and the program is already a resounding success. Students are participating in the daily morning program as well as temple services and outreach including kitchen assistance, cleaning and maintenance, temple gardens, Govinda’s, Harinam, and book distribution.

Brhat Mrdanga Das enthuses, “The atmosphere is like a family. There is a warm, welcoming family mood and the devotees are blissful, smiling and laughing. Devotees are having deep realizations about the philosophy and learning many things such as how to do aratis. I see a lot of success.”

The Academy is now accepting applications for the Fall term beginning in September and more information can be found at bhaktiacademy.ca

 


Bhakti Academy Toronto

 

 

 

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