Chapter-26: They Stood on the Balcony Watching the Rockets

June 12, 1995

By Indradyumna Swami

Totally exhausted from yesterday’s activities, we slept until 7:30 a.m.

Later I went with Govinda Maharaja and the temple president, Subuddhi Raya, in a car to chant our rounds in the city. Just after we entered the city’s main street, a car drove by us, and gunfire started coming from the windows. On the other side of the street a man dove to the ground to avoid the bullets. The sound of gunfire startled me and I saw many people ducking for cover. We decided it would be better to chant our rounds at the temple, although Subuddhi Raya said that recently a car bomb exploded near the temple, and on several occasions the temple has been sprayed with machine-gun fire.

The Dushanbe temple is the nicest I have seen in the CIS. Situated in woods high above the city, it gives a panoramic view of Dushanbe. The devotees told me that when the war was at its peak in 1992 (the year ISKCON was registered here), they watched from the balcony of the temple as rockets flew from the nearby hills into the city.

The government had been refusing to recognize our movement, but then a rebel missile destroyed a government building, killing the people inside who were refusing to register the devotees. The devotees applied again and were registered, During the eight months the Muslim fundamentalists controlled Tajikistan in 1992, the devotees bought the temple for five hundred American dollars from the previous owner who had to flee the country.

To date, the war has taken 100 thousand lives. The fundamentalists have been pushed back into nearby Afghanistan and Pakistan but continue to infiltrate the country and cause havoc. But there is a silver lining for our devotees: Tajikistan’s pro-communist government likes us. Fearing a fundamentalist Muslim takeover, the government tries to encourage other religions in the country. It supports our daily Food for Life prasadam distribution in downtown Dushanbe.

Before taking rest Govinda Maharaja told me that the pain he has had in his back for many months has practically disappeared since he bathed in the waters of the natural spring near St. Daniel’s tomb.

I replied that the pain in my ankle, from an injury I received a year ago, had almost disappeared as well. I’m not professing a miracle, just stating the facts. Maybe it’s a coincidence …