|The tranquil Hare Krishna Temple in Melbourne’s well-heeled suburb of Albert Park (host to next week’s noisy Grand Prix) is looking good these days. There’s a few glimpses below.
Before you scroll down you might like to read this; I conducted a bit of research into the history of the building quite a few years ago. Here’s what I found out.
The original land that now houses the temple was purchased from the Crown in 1875 by a British judge, Thomas Abercrombie Mouatt. He spared no expense, shipping in many artisans, especially plasterers from Italy.
His beautiful family home was quickly built. At the time, the whole of the coast from St Kilda to Port Melbourne was covered with rolling sand dunes and resembled a miniature Sahara Desert. The judge’s mansion stood alone, the only building for miles on a military road in the area then known as Emerald Hill Beach, and commanded a sweeping view of the ocean.
Although the judge named his domicile Montalto House, the locals called it ‘Mouatt’s Folly’. They considered that since it was built on sand it would not stand for long. Notwithstanding that, the judge lived there for quite some time, surrounded by his extensive holdings that included large stables.
Not only did the magnificent sandstone building not sink into the dunes, but it survived the judge and his family. After his death, the imposing mansion became the residence of James Alston, a famous manufacturer of patented irrigational windmills.
By the turn of the century, a newly-constructed beach road called Beaconsfield Parade had already eclipsed the beach-side prominence of the property. In due course, an extra building was erected on the site with it’s frontage directly on what was now called Danks Street.
Alston’s widow later bequeathed both buildings to the Catholic Church, who transformed the property into Our Lady of Mount Carmel Boys’ School. The newly added brick building became classrooms, and Montalto House became living quarters for the Catholic brothers who taught there.
Now Montalto House is renamed ‘Prabhupada House’; and the building that had for decades seen thousands of young boys learn the rudiments of science, mathematics and English, is now the Hare Krishna Temple.
Prabhupada House is an excellent example of residential Victorian Italianate architecture. The building exhibits all the best features of its style: a pronounced bay facade with triple arches, corniced eaves and gables and an upper veranda with ornate balustrade and tall circular columns decorated with Corinthian capitols.
This information was published in my book outlining the history of the Hare Krishna Movement in Australia, entitled “The Great Transcendental Adventure”.
So here we are at the present day:
The old front wall was leaning due to the pressure of the earth in the front garden. It was removed recently and replaced with this very nice reincarnated version, replete with cast iron work especially commissioned in India.
As you walk in the front gate you enter the beautiful and serene inner compounds of the temple sanctuary. This is a view looking out to the front street from where the preceding two photos were taken.
Another view of the inner courtyard. The faithful plum tree still gives lots of fruit.
Today’s opulent altar decorations celebrate the full-moon festival of Gaura Purnima, the birthday anniversary of Sri Chaitanya, who appeared in 1486 AD.
The main festivities are held tonight. Over 1000 guests are expected. I am posting this before the evening begins. Perhaps I’ll get some good photos then. I’m leading a large portion of the kirtans (chanting) so I may not get a chance. Let’s see.
Posted by Kurma on 4/3/07; 2:21:29 PM