Botswana’s capital, Gaborone, is home to no less than three Hindu temples. In between safaris, don’t forget to admire the intricately carved shikharas before tucking in to a hot curry…
The all-white Sri Balaji temple positively dazzles, as sculpted gods dance on its pyramidal roofs against a backdrop of perfect blue sky. As for the brightly painted Iskcon temple, a 3-storey, 600m2 building west of the government enclave (where the National Assembly, presidential palaces and several ministries are found), two tiger sculptures greet visitors at the bottom of the main staircase, while blue-painted Krishna statues await at the top.
The temple was built by the International Society of Krishna Consciousness (Iskcon, a movement created in New York in 1966 by the Hindu spiritual master A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada). For the Hare Krishna community, which has more than 1000 centres across the world, Krishna is the Supreme God. It is for him that the Iskcon organises prayers every evening, and it is there, on the terrace beyond the prayer halls, that you’ll find sweeping views over the Botswanan capital.
Further east, another temple, Hindu Hall, is dedicated to the deities of the nine planets. Together the three temples symbolize the cultural refinement and the architectural prowess India has imported into southern Africa.
Gaborone, land of spiritual tourism
Finding a cluster of Hindu temples here may seem surprising, but Botswana has always been an outward-looking country. Immigrants from India first started arriving in the early 20th-Century, and since then, almost all have made Gaborone their home. Today, out of 2.2 million people, around 8000 are Indians. The inhabitants remain attached to their culture, and frequently meet in the city’s best Indian restaurants, including the Embassy, the Chutney and the Saffron.
Gaborone is a model city when it comes to diversity. Muslims, Christians, and Hindus can practice their religion freely, and live side-by-side in harmony. It’s a spiritual cohabitation that’s worth seeing…so after the lions, the giraffes and the sand dunes, come for the beautiful temples dedicated to Krishna.