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

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ISKCON Zambia: Nurturing Spiritual Growth Amidst Challenges
By Atma Tattva Das, ISKCON News Staff Writer   |  Mar 26, 2024

In Zambia’s vibrant landscape, amidst the bustling cities and serene countryside, the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) has cultivated deep roots, fostering spiritual growth and sporadic community engagement for over four decades. ISKCON Zambia’s journey reflects not just a spiritual effort but a tapestry of challenges, triumphs, and a vision for a harmonious society.

The seeds of ISKCON’s presence in Zambia were sown over 40 years ago when devotees led by Bahmananda embarked on extensive preaching safaris across Kenya, Tanzania, and Zambia. This pioneering effort laid the foundation for a spiritual movement that would resonate across generations. Jaygovind Das, the current project leader and temple president of ISKCON Zambia, reflected on this journey in a recent interview with ISKCON News, “The devotees faced numerous challenges in those early days, from logistical hurdles to cultural barriers, but their conviction and dedication to spreading spiritual wisdom inspire us to be resilient.”

Under Jaygovind’s leadership, ISKCON Zambia has witnessed significant growth and transformation. The establishment of the ISKCON Temple in Lusaka stands as a testament to the enduring commitment of devotees and the growing interest in spiritual teachings. Jaygovind recounted, “Managing a growing community and temple comes with its own set of challenges. We had to find innovative ways to sustain ourselves financially while remaining true to Srila Prabhupada’s mission and our spiritual principles.”

One of the pivotal outreach programs that have garnered acclaim is the annual Ratha Yatra festival, celebrating Lord Jagannath’s chariot procession. Jaygovind shared insights into its inception and evolution, “The Ratha Yatra is not just a religious event but a celebration of unity and diversity. In the early days, we had to be resourceful. We built the chariot ourselves, reminiscent of our humble beginnings, where we used makeshift items for such processions.” He recalled with a chuckle, “Once, we even used my daughter’s dolls to represent the deities until proper deities could be brought to Zambia.”

Over the years, the Ratha Yatra festival has grown in stature and participation, becoming a hallmark event not only for devotees but also for the wider Zambian community. Collaborations with local entities, schools, ARYA, and various bodies have further enriched the festival’s cultural tapestry. It has transformed into a platform for interfaith dialogue, social cohesion, and spiritual introspection.

Jaygovind, in his dual role as a spiritual leader and a businessman, has been instrumental in supporting the temple financially. “We established Govinda’s Restaurant not just as a source of revenue but as a platform to promote vegetarianism and healthy living. It has become a popular destination for locals and tourists alike,” Jaygovind explained. He also mentioned plans to develop the temple to house a gift shop, further contributing to the sustainability of the project.

The impact of ISKCON’s outreach extends beyond temporal success. Jaygovind reflected on moments of personal growth and spiritual fulfillment, “Seeing individuals transform their lives through spiritual practices and community support is immensely rewarding. It fuels our resolve to navigate challenges and continue our mission with renewed vigor.”

Looking ahead, ISKCON Zambia envisions further expansion of educational programs, eco-conscious initiatives, and collaborations with like-minded organizations. Jaygovind emphasized the importance of collaborative partnerships, saying, “Together, we can create a more compassionate and enlightened society. Our future plans are not just about growth but about fostering lasting positive change.”

The future of ISKCON Zambia hinges not only on local efforts but also on the participation and support of initiated devotees from around the world. Their collective contributions in terms of knowledge sharing, financial support, and mentorship are vital for sustaining and expanding ISKCON’s outreach efforts. Jaygovind stressed the need for more outreach work to share and develop Krishna Consciousness in the indigenous host communities, fostering mutual respect, understanding, and spiritual harmony.

As ISKCON Zambia continues to flourish on its spiritual journey, there are ample opportunities for global devotees and well-wishers to contribute and participate in this divine endeavor. For those interested in supporting or learning more about ISKCON Zambia’s projects and initiatives, reaching out to Jaygovind, the project leader and temple president, is a direct avenue. Additionally, updates and information can be obtained through the Governing Body Commission (GBC) members overseeing the region. 

While ISKCON Zambia currently maintains an active presence on Facebook through pages such as Govinda’s Restaurant – Lusaka and ISKCON Zambia, plans for a dedicated website are underway, promising a more comprehensive platform for engagement and collaboration. Through these channels, devotees and supporters worldwide can join hands in spreading the message of Krishna consciousness and fostering spiritual growth in Zambia and beyond.