Bhaktivedanta Manor Krishna Temple, the spiritual sanctuary donated by the Beatle George Harrison in 1973 in Hertfordshire, celebrated a historic milestone last week with its 50th annual Janmashtami festival.
UK Home Secretary Suella Braverman was among just some of the visitors during the course of the festivities for Janmashtami – which celebrates the birth of Lord Krishna and the triumph of good over evil. It is one the most important festivals in the Hindu calendar and the festival held at Bhaktivedanta Manor is famous worldwide.
The 2023 festivities featured live music, performances, clothing, jewellery, food and craft stalls, a children’s play area, a beautifully hand-decorated forest depicting scenes from Lord Krishna’s childhood pastimes, with the beautiful shrine adorned with flowers and sacred figures of Radha and Krishna as the main attraction.
Her Grace Vishaka Devi Dasi, Temple President at Bhaktivedanta Manor, said: “Celebrating the 50th Janmashtami is an incredible milestone for Bhaktivedanta Manor. We are delighted and humbled to welcome so many devotees and visitors from far and wide to celebrate Janmashtami here.
“We honour the legacy of His Divine Grace Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada, who through his endeavour and sacrifice made this all possible.”
Due to its overwhelming popularity, the festival has become a ticketed event, with tens of thousands of devotees and pilgrims attending the festivities over a three-day period. This year was extra special as Bhaktivedanta Manor celebrated its historic 50th anniversary after the late Beatle George Harrison purchased and donated the Tudor complex to the Hare Krishna movement in 1973.
The 80-acre estate in Aldenham, Watford, was purchased by Harrison after the growing popularity of the movement meant that the existing temple in Bury Place, London, bought in 1969, had grown too small. George asked a British devotee, His Grace Dhananjaya Das, to find a suitable large property not too far from London. After several properties were investigated, George and Dhananjaya settled on Piggott’s Manor, as Bhaktivedanta Manor was known then.
His Grace Dhananjaya Das reminisces: “George and the rest of The Beatles were heading to LA. Before he left, he asked me to continue searching for a property suitable to be our new temple. We had previously looked at properties in Oxford, London and other locations across the country.
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“Then I saw Piggott’s Manor advertised at an estate agents in West Kensington and thought this could be the one – it was only on the market because the current buyer’s mortgage fell through. Although we weren’t the only ones interested in purchasing it – there was also a Sheikh from Dubai looking for a UK residence for his family and had put in a higher offer than us, but one of his wives felt the property wasn’t large enough for them.
“It was at that point the estate agent called me and said ‘it’s yours’ – we were delighted.”
They completed the sale in February 1973 and the first devotees moved into the premises in June later that year. Upon purchase, Bhaktivedanta Manor was renamed in honour of the Indian saint Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, who was responsible for bringing the ancient teachings of the Vedic scriptures to the West and is seen by many as the founding father of what is known as the Hare Krishna movement. Bhaktivedanta, an ancient Sanskrit word, means “the conclusion or summary of all spiritual knowledge”.
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The shrine was installed on Janmashtami day on 21 August 1973 by Swami Prabhupada.
*Info: Bhaktivedanta Manor