Sunrise this morning was a memorable event. It has been light since 3.30 am, so I went out to take some final pictures of the amazing Hare Krishna Island before the trip to Belfast. It is really quite hard to do justice to the place with a few photos, but I’ll try.
The main temple buliding was lit up by the first rays of pristine morning sun.
Squirrels and hares hopped around on the sprawling, juicy green lawns collecting their breakfast. Peacocks danced and cried out with their distinctive cat-like cry.
I ventured into a forest glade and found some beautiful trees, some already selected to memorialise Krishna’s pastimes.
A nearby fruit tree bent down it’s branches, heavily laden with what appeared to be some sort of wild cherry. Any gardeners out there that can identify this fruit?
After bidding a final fond farewell to all the residents, we headed down through the mossy cool forest paths and rowed across the tranquil lake at 5.30 am. Actually, when I say “I rowed…” I mean I was rowed, since I had to cling on to my 40kg luggage.
My vessel awaits!
This is Camasa Muni, the best oarsman on the Island.
The picturesque early morning drive to Belfast, past many fields of contented cows grazing on rich green grass, took us two hours. Arriving a bit before breakfast, my host and old friend from Melbourne, Lyall, took me on a quick tour of the 100-year-old building that has served as Belfast’s Hare Krishna Temple for the last 20 years.
It was built at the turn of the last century by famous architect Percy Jury as his personal residence. Mr Jury is famous for designing many prominent Belfast buildings, such as the magnificent City Hall.
The fascinating building is surrounded by gardens, ponds, a maze and winding pathways that weave an intricate journey through little groves.
In it’s ‘heyday’, the grounds were maintained by three full-time gardeners.
In what perhaps had been a living room now stands a magnificent hand-carved altar housing the predominating Deities of Radha Madhava.
After breakfast, I was taken on a short tour of the city. Lyall regaled me with a lot of information on our one-hour circumambulation.
Situated on Upper Dunmurry Lane in the Dunmurry district, the temple stands in an almost entirely Catholic working class area. Distinctions between Catholic and Protestant still divide this city, and I noticed a distictly dour, sober mood in the people. Despite the fact that almost all of Belfast’s 1/2 million residents are God-fearing and go to church, they live in a barely subdued sense of fear – everywhere are barbed wire fences and high dividing walls to keep the peace.
We wandered down Falls Road, the well-known centre of radical Republicanism, and the scene of much mayhem, army shootings, bombings and murders. Everywhere were political murals aimed at stirring a passionate sense of division. The local police station is entirely enshrouded in thick wire netting to ward off rocket attacks.
Here’s the headquarters of the political arm of the IRA. Despite the smiling billboard faces, nothing’s changed.
But it isn’t all doom and gloom. Last weekend Belfast was host to a massive parade – not the politically-charged Orange Marches – they’ll be due to start next month. No, this was a festival of entirely a different nature.
The first annual Rathayatra parade ever to be held here, with dancing chanting Hare Krishnas, took Belfast by surprise. The many hundreds that attended the festival found it enlivening and uplifting. Dedicated to encouraging healthy non-sectarian love of God, let us hope the Hare Krishnas can spread their magic here for many years to come.