Bhaktivedanta Manor Marks Historic Milestone of 50 Years Of Annual Janmashtami Festival


( – Bhaktivedanta Manor Marks Historic Milestone By Celebrating 50 Years Of Annual Janmashtami Festival

By Radha Mohan Das

ISKCON Bhaktivedanta Manor, the spiritual sanctuary donated by the Beatle George Harrison in 1973, celebrated a historic milestone this week after hosting the Temple’s 50th annual Janmashtami festival.

The festival 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.

Due to its overwhelming popularity, the festival has become a ticketed event. Tens of thousands of devotees and pilgrims attended the festivities over a three-day period.

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.”

This year, Bhaktivedanta Manor celebrates its historic 50th anniversary, after the late Beatle George Harrison purchased and donated it to the Hare Krishna movement in 1973.

The 80-acre estate in Aldenham near Watford was purchased by George Harrison after the growing popularity of the movement meant that the existing temple in Bury Place, London W1, 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 remembers:

“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.

“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 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.’

The shrine was installed on Janmashtami day on 21 August 1973 by Prabhupada.

George Harrison enjoyed a lifelong friendship with the Hare Krishna devotees; after meeting the American devotee His Grace Shyamasundar Das (Sam Speerstra) at an Apple Records Christmas party in 1969, the two became inseparable and George embraced his spiritual life as the missing piece he was looking for. George wrote the foreward for a book sharing the pastimes of Lord Krishna, which he signed “All you need is love (Krishna), George Harrison”.

He famously wrote a number of devotional hits, including My Sweet Lord, in which he recited the Hare Krishna mahamantra – Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare,and both recorded and produced the Radha Krishna Temple album at Abbey Road Studios, where he played a psychedelic painted harmonium on tracks.

Today, Bhaktivedanta Manor is a thriving temple, cultural centre, monastery with its own teaching college and organic farm with a protected herd of cows, all spread over 78 acres of land.

The Manor receives thousands of pilgrims, visitors, tourists and Beatles enthusiasts every year.

History of Bhaktivedanta Manor

Dating from the thirteenth century, the original estate was called Picot’s Manor after its owner Thomas Picot. The cows on the premises were said to supply milk to the courts of King Henry VIII.

In 1912, Picot’s Manor was resold for £17,000 (around £2m in today’s figures), and around 1923 it was renamed Piggott’s Manor to make it sound more ‘English’.

The mock Tudor building that stands today was built in 1882. It remained as a residential building until the Second World War, when the property was used as an RAF officers’ mess and hospital. Piggott’s Manor was bought by St Bartholomew’s Nursing College, and hundreds of young women received intensive residential training in traditional nursing.

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