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60,000 expected at Bhaktivedanta Manor’s Janmashtami Festival

4,143 views 60,000 expected at Bhaktivedanta Manor’s Janmashtami Festival thumbnail

After the recent private opening of the George Harrison memorial Garden by Olivia Harrison (the wife of the of the late Beatle) and British TV presenters Monty Don and Peter Owen Jones, the garden is now open to the public at the grand Krishna festival held at Bhaktivedanta Manor.

During the festival of Janmashtami at Bhaktivedanta Manor, which is expected to attract over 60,000 people on Wednesday 28th August and Sunday 21st September, the devotees will be celebrating 40 years since the mansion house and estate was donated by the George Harrison.

Throughout the festival field there will be tents carrying themes relating to the 40th Anniversary of the Manor. For example, the will be a special ‘40th’ tent with exhibitions and videos. 40 children will have their faces painted blue, many carrying flutes and wearing peacock feathers in their hair, dressing like Lord Krishna as part of the festive spirit.

Also the Young Indian Vegetarian Society will be seeking to make 40 new vegetarians over the festival period.

Another highlight will include a flowered walkway through the spiritual gardens and woodland. Visitors will journey through the life and pastimes of Lord Krishna climaxing with a glimpse of the spectacular deity of Krishna decorated with thousands of flowers.

The entire festival is managed and run by 1200 volunteers from the community who gather every evening after work for a month prior to the event and put in countless hours of hard work for the occasion.


It is exactly 40 years ago this month when the popular deities of Sri Sri Radha Gokulananda were installed there by Srila Prabhupada.

In celebration of its 40th Anniversary, so far this year the Manor put on a grand fire ceremony (yajna) with four separate kinds (pits), a special function at the House of Lords, the opening of the George Harrison Garden, a colourful boat ceremony on the Manor’s lake during Ramanavami, a new outfit for the Deities made locally and a complete renovation of the entire altar area.

Some of the 40 year history of Bhaktivedanta Manor

The 40 year History of Bhaktivedanta Manor

The first ISKCON temple was opened in 1969 in Bury Place, Bloomsbury, central London. However, it quickly became hopelessly overcrowded. The ancient message of Krishna had met with a resounding approval by the young people of Britain and many had moved in to form a large spiritual community in the heart of the city. George Harrison knew of their plight and suggested another option; not another place in the city but outside it, a country estate where there would be enough space; and he would pay for it. The search began.

Meanwhile, over in a part of the former British Empire, an East African dictator was in the process of ridding his country of an entire race of people. A total of 90,000 Indians, descendants of indentured labourers from Gujarat and Punjab, were expelled at 90 days notice. The majority arrived in Britain. They left their homes, their factories, vehicles, jobs, money and their schools. But they didn’t leave their religion behind. Many of them had faith in Lord Krishna and prayed to Him to guide them, even as they arrived in a strange, cold land. Thousands eventually settled in north London.

By early 1973, Piggot’s Manor, built almost a hundred years earlier with money from India, was selected to be the new home of Lord Krishna in Britain. Srila Prabhupada himself came to stay there for many weeks and personally invited his Lord in a beautiful welcoming ceremony on the very day that Krishna appeared in this world: Janmashtami. The deities were named Radha- Gokulananda and they were beautiful. Devotees felt especially privileged that their spiritual master was spending so much time with them at the Manor, and that he was entrusting them with the service of Krishna.

The devotees at the Manor had lots of enthusiasm, but very little money. In fact, they had so little money that there was no heating during the winter, hardly any food beyond porridge, cabbage and potatoes; and on some days there were no flowers for the altar. Something had to be done. They started going into the nearby towns and selling incense, books and LP recordings of the Hare Krishna mantra and other songs.

In 1975 the first ever public Janmashtami was staged, as was the Diwali festival, complete with Ramayana drama and fireworks.

Through 1979, there was an increase in the number of Indian families visiting; they were relieved to be in a place where their spiritual culture was intact. They were able to pray to their Lord Krishna and they offered contributions to help with the Manor’s costs. A “Mahabharata Cultural Association” was created, and along with it the “Mahabharata Youth Club” which began attracting the next generation from Wembley, Southall, Finchley, Tooting and Harrow. Children’s summer camps were held in the Manor grounds.

Over 1983-85 the size of Janmashtami grew hugely and resulted in thousands of cars driving through the narrow country lanes and it wasn’t too long before complaints were lodged by the villagers about developments at the Manor. A large Janmashtami that year, with a line of cars backed up all the way to the London borough of Hendon – six miles away – ensured that something in the future would have to change.

Thousands of well-wishers and old friends began to hear about the campaign to save the Manor from closure.

But in 1990 the Department of the Environment for the British government announced its decision: no new temple, and all public worship and festivals at the Manor to stop in two years. The clock was ticking towards closure. Again the Manor appealed – this time to the High Court. 2,000 attended a demonstration held in Trafalgar Square. Politicians came out in support of the Manor. The Manor was getting national attention. Temple president Akhandadhi Das was invited by both BBC and ITV to sit on a broadcasting consultative body monitoring standards of religious broadcasting.

Popular singer Boy George released his Bow Down Mister in the spring of 1991 and the devotees made numerous television appearances

But on the 16th March, 1994 the temple room had effectively just been closed by the British government. Incensed by the underhanded treatment of its faith, 36,000 Hindus came to London from all over the country to march in protest. The media – and the politicians – were quick to take note. Something was troubling peace-loving Hindus. Surely there must be a solution.

In May it happened again, this time with 10,000. They came in small groups to lobby their MPs and then at the stroke of Big Ben they all sat down in the road outside Parliament. It took 127 police over an hour to bring everything under control and get London’s rush-hour traffic moving again. The next day the newspapers had stories, and photographs, of frail, elderly Indian ladies being taken away by burly policemen. The media loved it and the publicity ran for two days. In October the BBC’s Everyman programme broadcast The Road to Hare Krishna, choosing the devotee’s plight out of ‘hundreds of other stories.’

Early in 1995 a Public Inquiry started to hear the Manor’s appeal to the Department of the Environment. It was adjourned, then concluded in June after a total of 28 days in which evidence was contributed by academics, faith leaders, villagers and many others. In August a grand total of £1,000,000 was raised in just one night in the ‘Srila Prabhupada’s Dream’ appeal. Funds went toward the land, the road and legal costs.

Meanwhile, Akhandadhi Das was invited to give his first Thought for the Day on BBC’s Radio 4. He would still be giving his thoughts in 2013, 137 broadcasts later.

In May 1996, John Gummer MP, Secretary of State for the Environment, and a Conservative, announced the result of the Public Inquiry. It was a victory – a stunning victory – for Bhaktivedanta Manor. Immediately work began on the new road. It was completed in record time and Krishna’s birthday was celebrated with great jubilation. Meanwhile, the Manor was making hay while the sun shone. To feed its growing herd of cows, the devotees produced the first crop of fresh hay from its own land in the summer of 1997.

Then in 2001 came the sad news that George Harrison, singer, songwriter, musician and devotee of Krishna, had lost his battle with cancer. He was to be permanently remembered at the Manor with the dedication of a garden in a spot he liked.

New beginnings were also in order for the first of what would be a number of schools, all government funded, in which the educational ethos was based upon the teachings of the Bhagavad-gita. The ground breaking ceremony (Bhumi-puja) for the first school was held in Harrow. Rather appropriately, considering events of the previous year, the new Goshalla opened with a blaze of colourful ceremony and publicity. It was a large complex of buildings, featuring sturdy green oak timbers, and would go on to attract many newcomers interested in alternative farming methods.

Later in 2009 the Krishna-Avanti School opened and achieved national publicity. The school became so popular it was over-subscribed. Manor community members took part in a sponsored climb of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, eastern Africa that raised necessary funds for the new school. After an interregnum of several months, Srutidharma Das became the president of the Manor.

2010: The opening of Britain’s first energy-efficient and organic ox-power working farm. Called New Gokul and on the grounds of Bhaktivedanta Manor, it has 44 cows and bulls who are allowed to live their full natural life-span. The cows are hand-milked and the bullocks work in the land pulling the plough and harrow.

In the Queens Diamond Jubilee year, 2012, Her Majesty chose to visit the Krishna-Avanti School in Harrow. Devotees could hardly believe it when she sat before the Krishna and Balarama altar with the Duke of Edinburgh and listened to the children singing a traditional bhajan

May we take this opportunity to thank each and every devotee, friend, supporter, volunteer and well-wisher for all your valuable time, practical help, prayers, expert advice and contributions over the years. May Lord Krishna and all His saintly devotees bless you and your families now and in the many happy years we will spend together at Bhaktivedanta Manor.

Radha Mohan das
Bhaktivedanta Manor Communications

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