Clouds of smoke wafted from under the ceiling of the colourful pavilion and the smell of burned camphor filled the air. Two Indian priests in traditional dress intoned a mantra in repetitive fashion while bringing sacrifices at a fire place temporarily built of clay bricks. About 100 believers had gathered around the pavilion and they joined in the prayers, dressed in traditional Indian garments and colourful, festive saris. Between the sacrifices, the assembled community repeatedly moved forward along a short pathway heaped with sand towards a pedestal, on which a four-metre tall, black basalt statue of the god Krishna was enthroned; it was decorated magnificently with flowers and colourful fabrics and was topped by a canopy.
Even if the scene perhaps indicated otherwise – this was not a description of somewhere on the Indian subcontinent, but in Germany; the city of Hamm and its 180,000 residents are home to the second-largest Hindu temple in Europe, the Sri Kamadchi Ampal Temple. Following its journey of more than 9,000 kilometres from Mahabalipuram in southern India, the Krishna statue had now reached its intended destination on an open area in front of the temple and believers would be able to worship there in future, in front of the planned Hindu cultural centre. The statue is a gift to the Hindu community from an Indian businessman. The fact that the incarnation of the omnipresent god Vishnu survived the long journey to Hamm without suffering any damage was largely due to the Rhenus Air & Ocean team and Project Manager Vicky Lal. They had done everything conceivable to ensure that the transport operations went smoothly. This meant overcoming several tough challenges. “The shipping carrier, which transported the extremely fragile statue from India to Hamburg, turned down the job of transporting it onwards – it was too precarious!” Vicky Lal says; she herself has Indian roots and was invited to the ceremony as a guest of honour. The job quickly became a project that was very close to her heart. “I’m a Hindu myself and believe in karma. It was absolutely my destiny to receive this enquiry – and that’s why I did all in my power to transport Krishna to Hamm.”
The enquiry finally reached Rhenus in a roundabout manner: Rolf-Dieter Terfort, who has been a volunteer helper in the Hindu community for 21 years, did not know what to do after the shipping carrier turned down the task. Fortunately, his son Sven is employed in the Corporate IT department at Rhenus and he passed on the enquiry to the unit that specialises in project logistics in Hamburg. It was first of all necessary to get some idea of the scope of the job. “When the statue arrived at the port of Hamburg from India in the groupage freight container, nobody could say how large and heavy it actually was. Once the shipping carrier had seen the packaging that was scantily made of thin wooden slats, it said it could not be responsible for the onward transportation,” Lal recalls. As it turned out, the image, which is four metres tall and weighs nine tonnes, is now the largest Krishna statue on the European continent and consequently a logistics specialist could not handle it using “normal” equipment.
This was the reason why the item was unloaded at a terminal for special handling at Hamburg-Altenwerder. The Rhenus Road Freight and the import team, which processed all the customs papers for the transfer, provided support for the onward transport operation. “We firmly expected a customs inspection – statues in particular are normally checked very carefully, as they are often used to hide smuggled goods. So we were well prepared to waste as little time as possible during any check after all, this was a just-in-time delivery and the further stages depended on a tight timetable,” Vicky Lal explained. However, the expected customs inspection did not materialise which may have been down to karma too and the statue arrived in Hamm on time on board a dedicated truck. A crane had been hired to unload the item from the truck there. “We heard from Vicky Lal that we’d need a crane here to get Krishna into its final position,” says Rolf-Dieter Terfort. “She accompanied each of our steps with very precise instructions in any case and told us exactly what we had to do.
“As if Krishna was crying for joy at its arrival.”
That gave us a good feeling.” The unloading operation may have been a real challenge, but it was completed with flying colours. The crane operator knew in advance exactly where the jacking points were; this was important because of the relatively unstable packaging around the statue. Even a tiny judder could have caused serious damage to the sensitive basalt. It was finally possible to put the artistically worked stone safely in place after a little more than two hours.
The weather was very cold on the day when Krishna arrived in Hamm in February. When the statue was unpacked from the shipping crate, some dew had accumulated on its face and ran down its black cheeks rather like tears. “As if Krishna was crying for joy at its arrival,” said the temple priest Siva Sri Arumugam Pastarakurukkal, viewing the figure. “May it take its place here and bring everybody composure and peace in this troubled and disturbed time.”
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