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

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Canadian Devotees Open Unique Cultural Centre in Northern Ontario
By Radhapriya, ISKCON Toronto Communications   |  Jun 07, 2024
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Sri Sri Radha Muskoka Isvara with 175 preparations in the new Muskoka Krishna Cultural Centre.

The Muskoka Cultural Centre in Huntsville, Ontario celebrated its Grand Opening during the 3rd week of May 2024, with the aim of spreading Krishna Consciousness, prasadam, and kirtan in a welcoming environment to the local and larger community.

By Srila Prabhupada’s mercy, devotees are always trying to spread goodwill through the preaching of bhakti-yoga. One aspect of that is bringing people access to Vedic literature, darshan of the Lord, prasadam, kirtan, and association through centres of worship.

With this goal in mind, a few devotees, under the guidance of Bhaktimarga Swami, came together in 2021 with a dream to open a centre in cottage country in Northern Ontario, Canada. Initially, the idea was to look for a facility for seniors to live in a community of like-minded Krishna-conscious individuals. However, a unique opportunity presented itself. Often, devotees are able to procure and convert churches into temples; in this case, a building with two adjacent movie houses in the heart of Huntsville, Muskoka, became available.

The building had immense potential with its high ceilings, lobby, concession area, and location right on Main Street, where tourists and locals converge. A lot of work, creativity, skills, and acumen were involved. Lajpat Prasher and his son Ravi brought their expertise in building and design as well as the financial backing to make the project a reality; Vyasacarya Das and his brother Jay Gopal Das, who have a background in lodging, brought their hospitality and people skills; and Bhaktimarga Swami served as a spiritual guide. Many “Brahmanstorming” sessions were held in Srila Prabhupada’s quarters at ISKCON Toronto.

Two and a half years since the seed of the dream, the Muskoka Krishna Cultural Centre came to fruition. The facility is located in Huntsville, Ontario, which is approximately 215 kilometers (134 miles) north of Toronto, a hilly terrain in the center of the Canadian Shield, the world’s oldest rock, and dotted with many lakes and natural surroundings. The Centre is a three-minute walk from the Muskoka River and right next to the Trans Canada Trail, the longest multi-use trail system in the world at 28,000 kilometers, which traverses all across Canada.

There was great emphasis placed on the fusion of the East and West with a blending of the sensitivities of the environment, the Indigenous roots of the area, and ancient Vedic culture. The high ceilings in the temple hall were adorned with cedar beams native to the area, and ancient-looking chandeliers were also installed. Stained glass from Switzerland depicting various avatars was placed in the temple hall with back-lit LED lighting giving the effect of actual windows, and a custom-made altar was acquired from ISKCON Ujjain. Bhaktimarga Swami collaborated with a Canadian wood carver, Neil Cox, who hand carved large custom Radha Krishna from a trunk of maple wood for the Centre’s lobby.

The team spirit, sharing of ideas, and collective efforts culminated in a beautiful facility with a Vedic-looking exterior, a temple with the presiding deities of Sri Sri Radha Muskoka Isvara, a boutique converted from the original concession stand, a welcoming and open lobby area for the curious to wander in, a 32-seat Govinda’s restaurant inspired by Govinda’s at ISKCON Toronto, Sunday School classrooms, a 14-apartment independent senior residential facilities on the 2nd floor of half of the building, and a modern commercial kitchen to serve Sunday Feasts, Their Lordships, and the restaurant.

This unique facility, compared to other temples in Ontario and indeed across Canada, held a multi-part grand opening in May. On Friday, May 10th, the installation and first arati of Their Lordships, Sri Sri Radha Muskoka Isvara, were performed accompanied by the offering of 175 preparations and ecstatic kirtan. An initiation ceremony was also conducted for two couples who will be dedicated to serving the Deities.

On Sunday, May 12th, ISKCON Muskoka held its very first Sunday Feast with a lecture, Sunday School classes, prasadam, and kirtan at the new facility. The final segment was a day of indoor and outdoor festivities held on Sunday, May 19th, with thousands of people coming to take darshan of the Deities, tour the new facility, and partake in the performances, kirtan, presentations, kid’s activities, prasadam, books, and cultural gift tents at the nearby River Mill Park.

Bhaktimarga Swami concluded, “When I traveled across Canada, I wanted some presence of devotees in these localities, especially Northern Ontario, and now it has materialized – a place of worship to practice bhakti-yoga that is safe, peaceful, and non-political.”

To learn more about the Muskoka Krishna Cultural Centre, visit its website.

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