Srila Prabhupada in Philadelphia
In 1969, Srila Prabhupada sent a disciple named Subala dasa to Philadelphia with instructions to establish a temple for the worship of Lord Krishna. Subala dasa rented a small rowhouse in West Philadelphia, near the University of Pennsylvania. A handful of devotees came to join Subala, and city residents soon began to hear the chanting of the Hare Krishna mantra and to taste Krishna prasada.
The temple relocated to a rental house in the Germantown section of the city, and there, in July, 1972, Lord Jagannatha, Baladeva, and Subhadra were installed and taken out for a Rathayatra parade through Center City. This was the first Rathayatra on the east coast of the United States.
In February, 1974 the temple purchased its own building on Woodland Street in Germantown. The next year was very auspicious. In 1975, ISKCON of Philadelphia was formally incorporated, Sri-Sri Gaura-Nitai were installed and Srila Prabhupada came to Philadelphia to personally take part in the Rathayatra parade and festival.
A steadily increasing congregation led to the search for a larger facility, and in 1977 the temple purchased its present residence, the former Cresheim Arms Hotel, an historic landmark in Mt. Airy. The hotel’s dinning and reception room became a temple room, and on the new large altar Shri Shri Radha Sarad-Bihari were installed in 1979 .
Krishna’s Merciful Personal Presence
Since then, the Philadelphia Radha-Krishna Temple has served as the center of worship, preaching, spiritual education, and prasada distribution to a congregation of about six hundred families. Through outreach programs in schools, colleges and other venues, though public festivals featuring chanting and prasadam distribution, through home visits and programs the temple distributes Krishna’s mercy to hundreds of more people every year.
The heart of our temple community finds its center in our beautiful temple Deities: Their Lordships Sri-Sri Radha-Saradbihari, Lord Jagannatha, Lord Balarama, and Srimati Subhadra-devi, and Sri-Sri Gaura-Nitai. Srila Prabhupada taught his disciples that the Deity of Krishna in the temple is Lord Krishna Himself. “We should know the arca-vigraha, the worshipable Deity, is the Supreme Personality of Godhead Himself, present before us. God is not wood and stone; He is spirit. But because we can perceive only wood or stone, to show us mercy, He appears as wood or as stone.”
For more than 32 years, without interruption, the team of pujaris at our temple has taken Prabhupada’s instruction to heart by worshipping our temple Deities with love and devotion. Every day Krishna is awakened, lovingly bathed, dressed, decorated with ornaments, and garlanded with fresh flowers. During the day He receives six bhoga offerings and aratis, and in the evening He is dressed in His night clothes and put sweetly to rest.
We All Belong to Krishna’s Family
This opulent and meticulous daily puja is offered to the Lord on behalf of all the families in our congregation, many of whom take advantage of our “open door policy” to come as often they like and partake of the special mercy available here. From 4:30 am to 8:00 pm, seven days a week, 365 days a year, Krishna makes Himself available to all who wish to take His association.
In addition to participating in our daily programs, devotees from all over the greater Philadelphia area come on Sundays to worship together and enjoy a special feast of delicious Krishna prasada. The children look forward to our Sunday School, which for nine years has provided enjoyable Krishna-conscious activities and instruction in the spiritual knowledge of the Vedas, especially tailored for various ages, from three to fifteen.
Older teenagers and young adults participate in the Pandava Sena club which features discussion groups, social activities, preaching, and service projects. Because the Philadelphia Radha-Krishna temple is very concretely the home of the Supreme Lord, the temple is by the same token the home of all of you who appreciate and serve Him.
Of course, we urge the members of our congregation to turn their own homes into temples of the Lord, yet the temple on Allens Lane is the main support and anchor of the whole community. It is here, especially, that we all unite together and perform the dharma for this age, sankirtan, the congregational glorification of the Lord. Therefore, come visit us and be a part of our family in glorifying Lord Krishna, the supreme personality of Godhead.