No, its not Sydney harbour in Australia, even though there’s an Opera House there too, its Newcastle-upon-Tyne in the north of England. (Picture by Matthew Roberts)
I spent a few days in Newcastle-upon-Tyne last week. Its a city in England’s north-east where the inhabitants have a unique and immediately recognizable dialect, historic connections with monasteries, mining and industry, and a fondness for racing pigeons and thin greyhound-like dogs known as whippets They also like growing leeks.
Alright, so the last three are stereotypes belonging to my father’s generation, but you’ll still find old men in Newcastle who fit that description. My father grew up in Forest Hall, a district out towards the coast, some ten miles from the city. I was there to join the local Krishna devotees in their celebration of the Narasimha festival.
The temple is inside a former bank, and is of a very strong construction. The maha-mantra has been chiselled in the stone of the building by a local stonemason who is also a devotee. Nicely decorated inside, it is a warm and bright place, with a group of friendly devotees to welcome visitors.
The day before the festival saw me out on harinam sankirtan for a couple of hours. The Saturday shoppers seemed very friendly and many of them waved or came to speak with the devotees. We have had a presence in Newcastle for more than 20 years now, so people have grown to accept the Krishna consciousness people as a part of the local scene.
Sunday was the day of the weekly Feast and Festival and this week’s theme was the Appearance of Lord Narasimhadeva. Two dances were followed by a very enjoyable 50-minute play with dramatic ending. Narasimha made His appearance from an unexpected part of the temple ‘wall.’ I gave a talk and led the arati kirtan afterwards, and the whole event was topped by a feast, the like of which I had not seen since the early days of ISKCON in England. Dhananjaya das was the chief cook. The altar was beautiful with the five flower-decorated forms of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and his associates.
If you are ever in the north of England, please do go and visit this gem of a temple. Here are some pictures taken by local photographer Trevor Smith: