Can you feel like you are in India while in Wrocław? Obviously not permanently. However if you go to the city's mini hare Krishna temple, you might just believe you are there for a moment.
Wrocław is of course a fantastic city with great people and a rich cultural offering – I am certainly happy to be here. That said, like many foreigners who come to the city, I couldn't help but seek out a few home comforts. So not long after moving to Wroclaw from Delhi, I searched for some Indian restaurants and communities here.
Having spoken to several Indian expats and locals, I soon learned about the ISKCON centre, which is also referred to as the 'New Navadvip Temple'. Located in 157 Brodzka street, the temple is just over 15 minute's walk away from Wrocław Pracze station, which is the next one down the line after Stadion Wrocław.
Once there you'll discover beautifully carved out sculptures of Hindu gods including Lord Krishna. The local Pandit, or Devanagari पण्डित (kapłan in Polish), is perfectly able to read the Bhagavad Gita in Polish – something that came as a surprise to me. During my visit he read out many lessons from the text to the devotes present in temple. Some of the devotes were following enthusiastically, even seen singing along with passion.
The ISKCON centre is particularly active on Sundays, when several events take place. On my Sunday visit there I was able to see a performance of Bhajan, a traditional meditative form of music that utilises original Bengali instruments. It's exactly the type of music that you can easily get lost in.
There was also time for a lecture from the Bhagavad – Gita, which covered topics including yoga, the law of karma, reincarnation and the philosophy of ancient India. Music then returned to the fore later in the afternoon, when Kirtan songs were performed (another form of traditional Indian medititative music with Bengali instruments). Last but not least, those present all had the chance to tuck into an Indian style vegetarian feast.
The truly suprising thing (at least for me) was that there was no Indian teaching all of this. The Hindi-pujaran was a Polish woman who had changed her name to an Indian one and started practicing Hinduism. She even wears traditional Indian clothes; she learnt everything herself, from cooking to praying.
As one would expect, Hinduism in Poland is a minority religion. Hinduism first arrived in Poland through ISKCON missionaries in 1976. The first groups of Polish devotees were established in Warszawa and Wrocław, while the first Polish Hindu temple was established in 1980 in Czarnów.
However, as is well known, the Communist regime in Poland promoted an antireligious campaign affecting all religions. This naturally presented challenges for those practicing Hinduism, as well as other more commonly practised faiths in Poland.
This all changed after the collapse of communism in 1989, giving all religions, including minority ones like Hinduism, the chance to grow again.
There are around thirteen Hindu organisations in Poland, namely ISKCON, the Chaitanya Mission, the Satya Sai Baba movement (which is partially Hindu), Brahma Kumaris, Sivananda Yoga, Radha, the Govind Society of Poland and Sahaja Yoga.
Being a Hindu from India, naturally I loved the opportunity to connect with my country's culture despite being thousands of miles away. I wasn't alone in enjoying the experience though, as my friend from Slovakia had just as good a time as I did while we were there.
As a consequence, I would happily visit the temple again and I would recommend it to anyone who is into Indian culture or at least curious about it.