By Kourosh Taheri-Golvarzi
As I don’t normally associate Indian-Subcontinental religions with Northern European countries, when I found out that Helsinki is home to an Iskcon temple (part of a sub-branch of Hinduism particularly dedicated to the god Krishna), I had to go check it out for myself.
Admittedly, it’s not as conspicuous as the Iskcon temple in my native city of Vancouver, Canada, or its sister temple in my city of upbringing of Los Angeles, and so it was a bit difficult to find. So far as the actual temple itself, being tucked away behind a metal gate in a residential building normally designated for local traffic and building tenants, unless you already knew about and were actively looking for the temple, you’d never know it was there.
Just a 5- to 10-minute walk down the street from Kamppi metro station, the only announcement of its presence is a small-ish cardprint-sized sign marked “Govinda’s”, in reference to the name of the Iskcon organisation’s restaurant, which, paired with donations from the public, appears to be their only source of income.
Still, it was well-worth the effort as the sort of communal spirit I witnessed really was inspiring. I was fortunate enough to make it to the Sunday chanting, lecture and public feast, where anyone can come and eat for free, and this appears to be true at all Krishna/Iskcon temples around the world. While I myself don’t personally affiliate with the organization, the chanting and musical portion is really quite moving, no matter what background you may come from. As the lyrics of the chant are quite simple (as well as repeated as necessary), anyone can join, and the food is entirely vegetarian, vegan, so far as I know, and really, really excellent quality. At the Govinda’s restaurant during the rest of the week, for a nominal charge (a small handful of euros), it’s also possible to eat anytime they’re open.
Walking from Kamppi metro station, the easiest way to find the way there is to head back south along Frederikinkatu (if you’re standing on the street level at the metro station gate and looking across the street, it’s to your left), turn right at the first street, called Kampintori (where the European Union services building is), continue down Malminrinne and then Ruoholahdenkatu (the street where the SounData shop and the park are), and it’s just across from the Ilmarinen building. They’re located at Ruoholahdenkatu 24, building D on the 3rd floor, and all the relevant information about the temple itself can be found on their website in both Finnish and English:
This article is a guest post by Kourosh Taheri-Golvarzi.