Shri Jagannath Puri Temple, Tongaat

Jagannath Puri Temple, Tongaat Image source

The property, with the Historic Indian temple thereon, being the remainder of Lot 79, Tongaat Township, situated in the Township of Tongaat, Province of Natal, and measuring (12 269) square feet.
Vishwa Shakti; a local free Hindu newspaper and the caretaker of the Temple.  The Temple was built by his grandfather in 1900, at a time when it was nearly impossible for anyone but Whites to be granted ownership of land.  The Temple is in a Residential Area in Tongaat, a small City that that wasn't officially established until 1945, but has been a sugarcane growing Town for much longer than that.
 
A courtyard surrounding the Temple, has with beautiful plants and trees that cooled the Area down.  The Temple's physical design was created Based on only one other Temple Kamal's Grandfather had seen in India, prior to leaving for South Africa to work as an Identured Laborer, of sugarcane.  Jagannath comes from Sanskirt, meaning "Lord of the Universe," which is one of several names to refer to Krishna, the deity for whom the Temple is dedicated.
Even in the hot bright summer, the small space inside the Temple remains cool and dark.  I was taken especially by the way sound carried inside of it - during our conversation, the words seemed to echo in gentle whispers that carried up the length of the Temple.  I did not ask to take pictures inside, in part because I did not feel it was appropriate, but also because I got quite caught up in conversation.  The main representation of Krishna had been created in Tongaat and was about seven feet in height above the platform it stood upon.  Covered in a handplated, silver material (perhaps a silver composite), the face of Jagannatha was incomplete to communicate the Hindu concept that, as Kamal put it,  "the physical can only take one so far" before one recognizes the importance of the Spiritual that transcends corporeality." 
 
It is hard for me to recount our entire conversation, but after speaking about the History of the Temple, we spoke about its role in his community today.  Besides publishing the Vishwa Shakti, Kamal organizes youth groups in the Area and Youth Leadership camps that travel to the Drakensberg Mountains.  I told him I had heard comments since I had arrived to Durban about the "Materialism" of the Youth, particularly those too young to remember Conditions under Apartheid.  His response was considerate - instead of distancing himself or his conception of Faith from the Younger People within the greater Community, he situated their position within the context of change.  To be more specific, he acknowledged that each generation may have new considerations and decisions to make about their particular Social and Political situation, and that the Temple's Community exists, to help those interested to develop and think through ways of handling these specific challenges or situations.  
 

Declared a National Monument under old NMC legislation on 9 March 1979. National Heritage Site:  9/2/412/0007

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Last updated : 10-Dec-2018

This article was produced by South African History Online on 14-Jul-2011

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