Krishna and Budda and Santa, oh my!

January 18, 2006

Moshi was our jumping off point for our Kilimanjaro trip. This meant we spent Christmas in Moshi. So how does a part time Jew and nominal Buddhist spend Christmas in Tanzania?

After a dinner with a handful of other would be Kilimanjaro climbers, we all took a walk to see what was happening in town. Moshi boasts a Catholic diocese, an Islamic mosque and a Hindu temple all with in a few blocks of each other. We made the obvious choice and picked the biggest party, and that was the Hindu temple.

Madhu, an Indian in our group, approached the temple to see if it would be alright if we took a look around. After waiting for a steady stream of cars to exit the gate, we were welcomed into the compound and sent to find the temple entrance.

We clustered by the door and large open windows peering into the temple, afraid to take off our shoes and enter, as if it might some how commit us to a conversion. It was an unusual sight with open fires of enormous logs in the center of the floor, huge display of offerings, ornate sculptures of Hindu gods and people in traditional Indian dress moving purposely to and fro.

Woman praying
Once we worked up our nerve to leave our shoes we were almost immediately greeted by a temple official who offered to show us around and explained that it was the 50th anniversary, the golden jubilee, of the temple. He was very gracious and made us feel comfortable quickly.

Despite our protests that we had just come from dinner, he begged us to have something to eat. When he finally gave up his mission to feed us dinner, he urged us to return for lunch the next day.

Thousands of miles from home, on my first trip to a Hindu temple, nearly a dozen of us tumbled through the door at 10 PM in grubby backpacker clothes during the biggest event in the history of the temple. Not only were we welcomed, but people dropped everything to explain the Hindu religion and show us around. It is hard to imagine the same reception during midnight mass at any Church or during the high holidays at any Synagogue. I am sure that nobody has gone to such effort to make me feel welcome in any place of worship, ever.

After our tour, he had some official business to attend to, so he left us to wander on our own. Before he left I inquired if it would be all right to take some photographs. He said that the Hindu religion had no problem with photos and we were free to photograph anything we liked. I was thrilled, since the setting was fantastic and I was anxious to capture it. I refrained from using my flash, because it felt disruptive, even though there was not much light.

Minal Patel It was warm and generous beyond all reasonable expectations and I felt very lucky to be so included, but it was getting late. So, after an hour of wandering among the hundreds of people speaking a mix of Gujarati, Swahili and English we decided to call it a night, but I resolved to come back the next day for some lunch and take advantage of better light.

The next day a small group of us headed back to the temple and found that last night welcome had been no exception, but the rule. Many people welcomed us and those that recognized us from the night before were thrilled that we had returned.

We met a charming woman, Minal Patel, and her younger brother. Their grandfather had founded the temple and and they had come from London for the celebration. They were wonderful guides (and models). There are several photos of them in the set of photos linked below. These are the wonderful sorts of people and events that travel lets one happen upon and I feel terribly lucky to have happened upon at just the right time.

Krishna must be looking out for me.

You can see all the Moshi Hindu Temple Golden Jubilee Photos here. I’d love any constructive criticism to the photos.


  1. Excellent to read your piece and view your pictures. I was at the celebrations as well for 5 of the 9 days and enjoyed it a lot. Got some good shots too…get in touch and I’ll send you the link.

    Rajel Khambhaita

    Comment by Rajel Khambhaita — February 1, 2006 @ 6:05 am

  2. I was there for the full 9 days of the Ramayan Katha reading by Shri Bhupendra Bhai Pandya from Mumbai. It was the most exciting event I have been to. The set up and the oganisation was prepared with such minute detail that everything worked like clockwork. I met people from my school time that I have not been in touch with for over 30years.

    Comment by Mala Khambhaita — February 1, 2006 @ 11:24 am

  3. this can only happen in moshi , i love it as i was there

    Comment by b j chavda — February 1, 2006 @ 11:56 am

  4. Born in Moshi. last was there in 1981. Brings many happy memories of the time spent in Moshi & the temple. My dad used to perform the daily prayers when the fulltime priest was away. Planning to visit soon. Thanks for the beautiful pics

    Comment by Raju Raval — February 11, 2006 @ 11:55 pm

  5. I was born and brought up in Moshi. I must thank you for the beautiful pictures of our mandir. It reminded me of my childhood days in Moshi. The warmth and the generosity of the people of Moshi has always been the same all these years and am sure will always remain no matter what. My friend, BJ’s comment “this can only happen in Moshi” is absolutely true.

    Comment by Kaushik Mehta — February 17, 2006 @ 11:51 am

  6. Thank you for this website Jonathan. I was looking for Moshi Hindu Temple’s website for 50th Anniversary photos when i stumbled into your website. It was nice seeing the great pictures of our temple, friends and families pictures you have taken during your visit to temple and i’m glad that you also had this golden opportunity to be in Moshi during the 50th anniversary celebration. Although i lived in Moshi during my teenage years and left in 1973, therefore i really appreciated to view these wonderful pictures of Moshi Temple via your website.

    Comment by Vijay Raval - London — February 28, 2006 @ 10:51 am

  7. I grew up in Moshi, my Dad was known as “Mistry Master”, he was Art Teacher in the then, Indian Public School. When the Temple was being built, he was so much involved with all the families- Khambhaita’s, Raval’s, Joshi’s, the Kotak’s. I could not attend the 50th Annivarsary due to prior engagement, else where. But had been to Moshi after a lapse of nearly 30 years & stood in the Temple & cried my heart out. Moshi, very special indeed. The love & the warmth still intact- its still home

    Comment by Subhash Suthar — March 30, 2006 @ 12:53 pm

  8. Excellent photos and very well appreciated narration.In fact the comments from the others as well clearly shows as how we,the Hindu Community here in Moshi have and are striving to maintain the warmth and traditions.I was one of the members in the organising committes,who was in the teams of security,serving,the reception office and newsletter.During the Christmas weekend,we catered for 1,165 people during one dinner and this folks,overall,will always be one memorable event for us here along with many generations to come-hopefully with the same values and zeist…

    Comment by Nitesh.Virji — January 23, 2007 @ 11:07 am

  9. My heart really cried out loud on seeing the pictures of the temple. This was the place were I had spent my childhood with my sister Bhuwaneshwari. My father was with Mawenzi Secondary School and I studied in Mawenzi Primary School. I do remember our association with Khambhaita Family namely; Navnit; Vaikunth; Nirmala and others. At present I am at Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India. I possess a Doctoral Degree in Civil Engineering obtained from India Institute of Technology, Bombay. My Email is My name is Mrugen Bhanuprasad Dholakia (Son of B.M.Dholakia)

    Comment by Dr.M.B.Dholakia — January 25, 2007 @ 3:22 am

  10. The Photographs of the Hindu Temple reminded me of my visit to Moshi way back in 1965

    Comment by Rajat Sharma — February 23, 2007 @ 4:12 am

  11. Namasthe: Your Moshi Hindu Temple Golden Jubilee Photos as well as the write up is excellent. I really wish to have the address and phone numbers of Moshi Hindu Temple. Please write to me.

    On my part, I am an engineer and author a international best seller on Hinduism AM I A HINDU?

    Comment by AM I A HINDU? — July 8, 2007 @ 8:13 am

  12. Thank you for those lovely photos of Hindu temple celebrations. I was also born in Moshi & left for Uk in 1970.Unfortunately, I missed that ceremony, but all my brothers…Kishor, Dinesh, Pramod, & Bhupat were there, & they had a great time. Thank you again…its true there is no place like Moshi, anywhere in the world..its unique.I miss Moshi .

    Comment by Manhar Joshi — August 13, 2007 @ 8:48 am

  13. This is in response to a comment and inquiry by AM I A HINDU,although the reply is late but I am sure he will appreciate the same.

    Chairman: Mr Mukesh Khambaita
    Mobile: +255-754-692577

    Vice Chairman: Mr Hitesh Joshi
    Mobile: +255-754-806992

    Secretary: Mr Amubhai Pattni
    Mobile: +255-754-469261

    Comment by Nitesh Virji — January 17, 2008 @ 5:37 am

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