Radhadesh - Iskcon Temple in Belgian Ardennes (Wallonia - Belgium)

This article first appeared in My Travelogue by Bhushavali
  
HINDU TEMPLES IN EUROPE
By faith, I'm a Hindu. By interest, as any regular reader of this blog would know, I'm into historic sites. Ofcourse I go to temples, but I don't prefer to go to one that was built a few years ago. Personally I feel, the deity at home is more powerful(?!) than a 'temple' built day-before-yesterday! If you are a Hindu reading this, you may feel different... That is your opinion and this is my opinion. If our opinions differ, let's just agree to disagree!
That's the challenge when it comes to living in the West. In India & many Eastern countries, many of our temples were built as old as 2000 years ago and many that were built a 1000 years ago are still in worship! In Europe there are few temples, but I'd any day prefer to go to an historic church than a brand-new temple!!! In the midst of this, I came across this Hindu temple - housed in an historic European castle - Radhadesh!!!

Chateau de Petite Somme Radhadesh Durbuy


Chateau de Petite Somme Radhadesh Durbuy

Chateau de Petite Somme Radhadesh Durbuy

Chateau de Petite Somme Radhadesh Durbuy

Chateau de Petite Somme Castle tour

ABOUT CHATEAU DE PETITE SOMME
Chateau de Petite Somme is old! The earliest it was mentioned was in 1065 CE when it belonged to Gozelon de Montaigu. After his death, the property came under the Bishop of Liege and then it became part of a defensive territory for North Luxemburg. As time went by, the Chateau de Petite Somme changed several hands and served as the summer home of several aristocrats. Louise Marie Eulalie inherited the property in 1877 and it was she who demolished the old structure and built the chateau as we see it today in 1888 CE! It became a stunning Neo-Gothic building in the midst of the vast greenery of Belgian Ardennes. 
During the First World War, it was in the hands of de Vaux family, who graciously gave the premises to be used as a hospital to take care of the wounded soldiers. Not just that, the chateau also served as a make-shift home for the people whose houses were destroyed in the war. Finally in 1975, the chateau was bought by Iskcon. 

WHO IS LORD KRISHNA?
Krishna is a Hindu God. For non-Hindus he might be a complete shocker! Krishna is a God who we see from birth to death, as he grows. He was born in Mathura (close to New Delhi, India), in a cow-herd community. As a toddler he was a very naughty boy. Any motherly woman would want a child like Krishna. He would remind any mother of her own child's toddlerhood! As a teenager he is an absolute playboy! He'd remind every man of his youth! His love interest in Radha. Krishna is the perfect lover. When he misses Radha, he absolutely melts! Any woman would want a lover like Krishna. During the Kurukshetra war, he was Arjuna's charioteer and when Arjuna gets confused, he gives the shoulder and helps him think clearly. Krishna is an absolute friend! Krishna is not a God we fear, but a God who we want as ourselves, our child, our lover or our friend!

ABOUT ISKCON
Iskcon stands for International Society for Krishna Consciousness. It is also called the Hare Krishna movement. Iskcon was founded by A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupāda in 1966 in New York City and since then it has spread all over the world spreading the doctrines of Bagavath Gita (one of the sacred texts of Hindu religion) and the practice of Bakthi Yoga (devotion). 
The most eye-catching thing about Iskcon followers is their love for dance & music! They are often seen dancing while singing their chant 'Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna Hare Hare! Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama Hare Hare'.

RADHADESH - ISKCON IN BELGIAN ARDENNES
The first thing I experienced here us actually the cycle ride to reach Radhadesh from Durbuy. The path is so green and so gorgeous. Cycling there in the midst of Belgian Ardennes, the curvy never-ending roads are such a delight to the eyes and body and soul! It is indeed a reminder of Krishna's Brindavan!
Radha, as I mentioned before, is the love interest of Lord Krishna and 'desh' means 'country'. Radhadesh means 'the country of Radha'.

Within Radhadesh, there are 3 major sections - The Radhadesh Temple, the Chateau de Petite Somme and MOSA. Apart from that there are the Govinda restaurant, Gift shop & Bakery. Then ofcourse there's the in-house accommodation, Radhadesh Retreat. There's also a little playground to keep the young visitors busy!

RADHADESH TEMPLE, BELGIUM
One of the rooms in the ground floor has been converted to the temple. The footwear has to be removed in the room prior to it (it is a Hindu practice to walk into temples barefoot). The altar has 3 different styles of Krishna sculptures - the Mathura Janamsthan temple style, the Puri Jagannath temple style and Vrindavan temple style. Just opposite to the Krishna deities, is the sculpture of the founder A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupāda. 
Everyday the Aarti ceremony happens several times a day which involves a extensive process with conch shell, bell, flowers, incense, lamp, water, cloth, yak-tail and peacock fans that represent the 5 elements of nature. This is ofcourse followed by music & dance, the essence of Hare Krishna Hare Rama movement!

CASTLE TOUR OF CHATEAU DE PETITE SOMME
There are several other rooms in the Chateau that serve many other purposes including a library to learn more about Hinduism, a room dedicated to the life and works of A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupāda, a room dedicated to the philosophies of birth, death & karma etc. One of the rooms has a stunning sculpture of Maha Vishnu flying! The most unusual place in Radhadesh, for me was the room that has stained glass windows depicting the Dasavatharam (10 reincarnations) of Lord Krishna. This is truly the first ever time I've seen a stained-glass window of Hinduism!
There is a Castle Tour that takes place everyday that takes you through these rooms as well as the terrace of the Chateau. The terrace and the stairs that lead to it are among the oldest parts of the chateau. The view from atop is spectacular with just all the greenery all around and the beautiful mountain range of Belgian Ardennes. 

Iskcon Temple in Belgium Radhadesh Durbuy

Iskcon Temple in Belgium Radhadesh Durbuy

Iskcon Temple in Belgium Radhadesh Durbuy

Iskcon Temple in Belgium Radhadesh Durbuy

Iskcon Temple in Belgium Radhadesh Durbuy

GOVINDA RESTAURANT - BEST VEGETARIAN RESTAURANT IN BELGIUM
Do you know when we reached here? We reached here just after doing all the fierce & fantastic activities of Durbuy Adventures (more about it coming soon). Unfortunately (or fortunately?), all the vegetarian sandwiches had gotten over at their kiosk and it was already 3PM when we reached Radhadesh and obviously we were exceptionally hungry! So our first stop was the best vegetarian restaurant in Belgium & best Indian restaurant in Belgium - Govinda Restaurant.  
Throughout the lunch time the restaurant serves an amazing, divine (!) lunch of rice, lentil soup, vegetables, a sweet, Indian spicy pickle and papadam. Samosa, an Indian snack is also available. We had all these and I went to the staff and conveyed my compliments to the chef, something that I don't often too. The food was mild and not spicy. The thali literally reminded me of home. Every day after noon prayers, this exact plate is also served as the 'prasadam' (holy offering) free of cost. 
Apart from this authentic Indian food there are also locals food to make the locals feel more comfortable including lasagna, burger, fries etc as well as a variety of cakes & icecreams. Ofcourse everything is Indian vegetarian (that means no egg). Certain dishes are vegan as well and they can accommodate any other dietary requirements as well if informed earlier.
Apart from the Govinda Restaurant, there's a bakery as well which sells a variety of cakes, breaks, cookies as well as a few pastries and a few Indian sweets as well. 

RADHADESH GIFT SHOP
I'm not much into shopping, but the moment I stepped in here, I was....... how do I put it.... hungry!!! I felt like I was transported into an Indian handicraft shop and I hadn't set foot into one in the last couple of years (yes, trip to India back home, got cancelled, thanks to the pandemic). If you're an Indian  an film-buff reading this, I felt like Chandramukhi / Manjulika of Bhool Bhulaiyaa when she discovered the old jewelry box! 
Not just sculptures of Krishna and religious products, but also Indian jewelry, keychain with Gods on it, incense sticks, skincare products from various Indian herbal brands, windchimes & other home decor in textile, brass & terracotta, lac-work products, sandal-wood sculptures & products, Hindu religious story books from kids, vegetarian recipe books, Indian spices & herbs for cooking, steel containers & tiffin-boxes (like the ones I used to take to school when I was a school-kid!), musical instruments like flute and ofcourse clothing too! The deities here were not just Krishna but also Shiva, Sakthi, Hanuman, Buddha and many more.
We got a couple of sculptures for our home and for Atyudarini we got a flute and she loved her new musical instrument after her xylophone and keyboard. Let's see how her musical journey goes.

MUSEUM OF SACRED ART (MOSA)
This is a small museum where the you can watch a movie about the beginnings of the Chateau as well as the new beginnings of the chateau as Radhadesh. Otherwise, the space regularly hosts various events and artists. 

Chateau de Petite Somme Things to do in Durbuy

Chateau de Petite Somme view of Belgian Ardennes

Chateau de Petite Somme view of Belgian Ardennes

Chateau de Petite Somme MOSA Museum of Sacred Arts

Govinda Restaurant Best vegetarian restaurant in Belgium

DESTINATION WEDDING VENUE IN BELGIAN ARDENNES
What is your idea of a destination wedding? How about a a Belgian chateau wedding surrounded by mountains & greenery? Yes, wedding is very much possible in Chateau de Petite Somme, making it one of the best destination wedding places in Wallonia in Belgium.  However only Hindu wedding ceremonies are conducted here. Even if one of you belong to a different faith, if you are open to the idea of getting married in a typical, colorful, Hindu Wedding Ceremony, Radhadesh (Chateau de Petite Somme) is your ideal destination wedding venue in Belgian Ardennes!

WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO VISIT RADHADESH?
The best time to visit Radhadesh is definitely on Krishna Jayanthi (Janmashtami), or Lord Krishna's Birthday. Since it follows Indian Lunar Calendar, the date is not the same every year in Gregorian Calendar. Approximately it falls in mid-August to mid-September. Janmastami is celebrated here with pomp and circumstance with colors, music, dance & food!
However if you're want to experience to quiet & peace of Belgian Ardennes from the beautiful Neo-Gothic Chateau de Petite Somme, you may want to deliberately avoid Janmashtami! Also you may want to avoid Holi, the Indian festival of Colors that falls in mid March - mid April.

SELF-SUFFICIENCY AT RADHADESH, CHATEAU DE PETITE SOMME
There's also an in-house Goshaala (cattle farm) because Krishna himself was a cow-herd, as well as a vegetable farm in an effort to make the place self-sufficient. Radhadesh has its drinking water from purified ground water, heating from biomass furnace and there are solar panels that help in generating electricity as well! 

RADHADESH TICKETS
Visiting the temple: Free
Tour of Chateau de Petite Somme tickets (including MOSA & climbing the terrace):  €8 (can be bought online at Radhadesh's official website) - English guided tours happen only at 4PM everyday

RADHADESH TIMINGS
Radhadesh Temple Altar opening hours: 04.30 to 05.00; 07.15 to 08.00; 08.25 to 13.00; 15.45 to 18.30; 19.00 to 19.30; 20.50 to 21.00
MOSA, Gift Shop & Boulangerie Opening Hours: 11:00 to 13:30; 14:30 to 18:00
Govinda restaurant Opening Hours: 11:00 to 20:00

TIPS TO VISIT RADHADESH
  • It is a functioning temple. Though there is no dress-code, it would be wise to wear clothing that are normally acceptable in any religious sites. 
  • It is very much possible to visit Radhadesh, for just the Chateau de Petite Somme tour alone, even if hold a different belief system.
  • A day trip from Brussels to Radhadesh is possible only if you have a car (or rely of organized tours to Radhadesh). If you're depending on public transport, a good idea would be stay overnight in Durbuy if there are no rooms in Radhadesh Retreat.

RADHADESH VLOG


Castle Tour Chateau de Petite Somme

Cycling in Belgium Durbuy

Cycling in Belgium Durbuy

Radhadesh Places to see in Durbuy

WHERE IS RADHADESH? 
Radhadesh address: Château de Petite Somme Petite Somme 5, 6940 Septon-Durbuy Belgium
On Google Maps: Radhadesh
Nearest city: Durbuy
Nearest railway station: Barvaux

HOW TO REACH RADHADESH?
The biggest challenge for me was to reach from Brussels to Radhadesh by public transport which was the main reason to why I hadn't visited here all this while. Chateau de Petite Somme - Radhadesh is located 5km from Durbuy town centre and though there is a bus, it is pretty much impractical and is not frequent. Cycling from Durbuy is the best option. 
Another part of the challenge is reaching Durbuy from Brussels. There is no direct train! The nearest railway station connected to Brussels is Barvaux (via Marloie). Barvaux to Durbuy is another 4km and there are the TEC shuttles available. However if you're with kids or a lot of luggage, opt for taxi services for this distance. This should be pre-booked. 
  • TaxiLux - 0032 (0) 495/47 22 73
Barvaux to Radhadesh is 9km and cycling from Barvaux itself could also be considered. However do keep in mind, that the terrain is not flat and has a lot of upward & downward slopes.

E-BIKE RENTAL - CYCLING FROM BARVAUX or DURBUY TO RADHADESH
It is very much possible to hire e-bikes at Durbuy Tourism office. However there are only 10 bikes available, so reservation is absolutely necessary. The bikes come with helmets. They also have 2 child-seats as well, which could also be reserved. 
  • E-bike rental in Durbuy half day price - €20
  • E-bike rental in Durbuy full day price - €30
  • E-bike rental in Durbuy refundable security deposit - €150
  • Phone number of Durbuy Tourism Office - 0032(0)86.21.24.28 
  • E-mail of Durbuy Tourism Office - tourisme@durbuy.be
  • Location of Durbuy Tourism Office - Google maps
It is also possible to hire an e-bike at Syndicat Initiative Barvaux. This office however has only 5 e-bikes so reservation is super necessary.
  • E-bike rental in Barvaux 4 hours price - €15
  • E-bike rental in Barvaux full day price - €40
  • E-bike rental in Barvaux refundable security deposit - €150
  • Phone number of Syndicat Initiative Barvaux - +32 (0) 86 21 11 65 
  • E-mail of Syndicat Initiative Barvaux - rsi.barvaux@skynet.be
  • Location of Syndicat Initiative Barvaux - Google maps (10 mins walk from Barvaux railway station)

RADHADESH RETREAT & DURBUY HOTELS
It is very much possible to stay in Radhadesh itself. The accommodation in Iskcon Belgium is called Radhadesh Retreat. There are rooms with private bathrooms as well as dormitories with shared bathrooms. The room tariff begins at €42. It does get filled up very quickly, so if you need an accommodation at Radhadesh Retreat you would really have to book it very early. 
The nearest city to Radhadesh is Durbuy which has very many hotels at mid-to-luxury price range. I'll be soon writing a review of Hotel Au Vieux Durbuy where I stayed. Follow my blog to be updated as soon as it goes live!

OTHER THINGS TO DO IN DURBUY & SURROUNDING REGIONS
  • Walking around Durbuy City to see the Durbuy Castle, Durbuy's oldest street, Durbuy Topiary, Durbuy Anticlinal, Public art & sculptures 
  • A day at Durbuy Adventures
  • Day trip to Ny & Hotton
  • Day trip to Weris
  • Day trip to Marche-en-Famenne

Chateau de Petite Somme Radhadesh Pinterest Chateau de Petite Somme Radhadesh Pinterest

P.S: I was invited by Wallonia Tourism to experience the region & the activities for review purposes, however the opinions are my own and this post does not to advertise the product/service.

Bhushavali

An ardent traveler by passion. Being an ex - Art History Teacher, my area of interest especially lies in Nature and Heritage. Visited 78 UNESCO World Heritage sites as of Sept 2020. I've been listed among the Top 7 Women Travel Bloggers of India, Top 50 in UK. I have been interviewed in a couple of TV Shows, Radio Channels and Events as well. Read more about me and read the testimonials of different brands

9 comments:

  1. I remember learning about Hare Krishna at my University through a group that would bring an abundance of vegan food to campus everyday for donations. It was such a highlight of my day, and the people were always so lovely and welcoming. Thanks for sharing!

    ReplyDelete
  2. I love the Ardennes region but I havent passed through this area. I am a sucker for historical sites like yourself and love to visit Castles around Europe. However this is a great find to see a Hindu temple inside. I would love to check this place out now, for me I be getting 2 for the price of 1, seeing an old castle plus checking out a temple. Certinaly a lot of history here espeically with the World Wars (I love my World War history), this is a place I would love to check out on my next visit to Belgium.

    ReplyDelete
  3. This is so offbeat and unusual - a chateau converted to ISKCON temple. And the best part is the way they have still preserved the whole aura. That is honestly open mindedness. I am so glad that you brought this to our attention because I like you don't believe in temples unless it is ancient and has some architectural gems. But this one, I would like to see

    ReplyDelete
  4. How very cool to find a Hindu temple in an old castle. Chateau de Petite Somme sounds very interesting with so much history. And such a great variety of art. I would definitely want to do a tour and learn more as we walked. We would definitely want to avoid visiting Radhadesh during celebration times.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Hi there,
    I've never heard of Chateau De Petite before! I learn something new everytime I read a new article. I love how you kick this article off with "If you are a Hindu reading this, you may feel different... That is your opinion and this is my opinion. If our opinions differ, let's just agree to disagree!
    Frankly, I feel like I need to add this to many of my posts - lol.... It's beyond annoying when someone comes on to comment to "disagree" - why can't people just scroll on... Nikki

    ReplyDelete
  6. I'm not a religious person but like you, I also enjoy visiting places of worship that are hundreds or thousands years old. There's a magic in places like that where many generations have come to pray, worship, celebrate, mourn, and find solace. The Chateau de Petite Somme sounds amazing. I wouldn't have thought there would be anything like that in Europe. It's interesting to hear that people of other faiths are also welcome to have Hindu weddings here. You can't find such openness in many other religions/temples.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Wow! It would be nice to see the windows depicting Dasavatharam as I have seena stained-glass window of Hinduism too. Thank you for sharing about Radhadesh. I am truly interested and would love to learn more about Hinduism.

    It is nice that they have a restaurant too as I am pretty sure we would take a lot of time exploring the property.

    ReplyDelete
  8. What a wonderful place to visit! It's great that visiting the temple is free, too. The decor inside is so pretty. I've heard of Hare Krishnas before, but it's fabulous to see a location. So pretty!

    ReplyDelete

Thanks for visiting...! Why not leave a comment.? And tell your friends..!!!
By commenting you accept to our GDPR Policy.