Holy Pilgrimage - Hindu temples in United Kingdom
Bhaktivedanta Manor, United Kingdom
Bhaktivedanta Manor was established in 1973 by His Divine Grace A.C.Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. The estate was donated to ISKCON by the late Beatle, George Harrison.The estate of Bhaktivedanta Manor is situated in the Parish of Aldenham in Hertfordshire, just over a mile from Radlett and four miles from Watford.
The presence of the estate was first recorded in 1261 as belonging to Geoffrey Picot. In the 16th Century a Tudor house was built on the site. In 1884 it was purchased by George Villies who demolished the house and constructed the mock-Tudor building we see today. Still named after Mr Picot, the building was renamed as “Piggots Manor” until 1973 when, as St Bartholomew’s Nursing College, it was sold to George Harrison of the Beatles. It was not for his private use but as a gift to ISKCON; the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. The property, which at that time included 17 acres of land, it was renamed “Bhaktivedanta Manor” after the Society’s founder.
Although ISKCON itself is quite recent, it is part of an important and distinctive tradition of devotional faith which began in the sixteenth century with Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. It participates in a much older culture dating back thousands of years, and embraces the timeless, non-sectarian values of sanatana-dharma (or the eternal religion) as found in the Vedic scriptures.
Campaign to save the ManorIn 1973, when George Harrison donated the Manor building and estate, Hertsmere Borough Council allowed Bhaktivedanta Manor to operate as a theological college. At that time, Shrila Prabhupada established a Vaishnava college, with a shrine accessible to the public.
After initial complaints by some local village residents about the increase in traffic, Hertsmere Council decided to take strong action against the public worship. In 1981 it tried to stop worshippers and pilgrims by banning all festivals. Later, however, a compromise was reached to limit large festivals to six days a year.
In 1985, fourteen new complaints were sent to Hertsmere. These coincided with two devotees purchasing local property. Hertsmere took further action, but they failed to get an injunction from the High Court to curtail Sunday attendance. Hertsmere then issued an enforcement notice to close the temple to the public entirely. The temple launched an appeal to the Department of the Environment. At this time the temple also considered building a new driveway, an access route taking traffic around the village, but the plan to purchase land to build an access road fell through.
The congregational community of Bhaktivedanta Manor, largely Hindus, sent letters and petitions to the British government and held many protest events. In 1989, 7,000 people took part in a sponsored walk. Each step was a prayer: “Please keep our temple open for worship”. The community raised £100,000 to pay legal costs. But in 1990 the appeal was refused. The Secretary of State announced ‘No new temple. Stop your worship. Stop your festivals.’
The temple appealed to the High Court, the Court of Appeal and the European Court. All said ‘No.’ Every legal channel had been exhausted. The date was therefore set: on March 16, 1994, the temple was to close to the public.
Then, just months before the deadline, negotiations for land opened up again. With the motto ‘Get the land – Build the road – Save the temple’ the temple went into action, and 250 people helped secure the funds to purchase land for the new driveway. The application was submitted to the Council.
March 16 was only months away, and the Council delayed considering the application. Many devotees and well-wishers both nationally and internationally expressed their concerns to the government. One hundred members of Parliament joined the list of supporters. The British government began to realise that this was not a small issue.
On Wednesday, March 16, the enforcement notice was taking effect. On that historical day, 36,000 people gathered in Westminster, in central London, the largest religious gathering in the world outside of India. People came from all over the country in a display of unity behind ISKCON. Hertsmere felt the pressure.
Akhandadhi Das, the temple president at the time, addressed the crowd of 36,000 with good news: ‘The Council has bowed to you. They are feeling the pressure! Last night, they told me that the gates of the temple can remain open until they consider our application for the new access road. The tide is turning!’ Although it was the darkest day, it turned out to be the turning point . . .
The new plan was good for the villagers, the temple and the worshippers. Unfortunately, what the planning experts at Hertsmere recommended, the politicians at Hertsmere still refused.
More fundraising followed, more lobbying of the MP’s, more campaigning. Much sympathetic media attention was paid, especially by the BBC. At the start of 1996 another appeal went to the Department of the Environment. The Public Enquiry lasted over six months and included speakers for and against the proposed access road. The temple was well represented by political and religious representatives, and even many local villagers supported the proposal.
Then the waiting. The temple went into the start of Shrila Prabhupada’s Centennial year (1996) with no clear indication as to when the decision would be given. In the meantime, worshippers continued to visit, despite being branded as criminals for breaking the enforcement that included Janmashtami 1994.
Without warning, the report from the Department of the Environment was issued, granting planning permission for Bhaktivedanta Manor! Upon hearing the news, devotees could hardly believe it.
In his concluding report, the Secretary of State acknowledged that ‘[the temple] is unique in the UK because there is no comparable alternative place for teaching, worship and meditation; and the level of provision of these religious facilities is to an exceptionally high standard. Furthermore, the close association of the Hare Krishna movement’s founder with the Manor makes it a special, if not unique place . . . so that association must continue.’
The campaign increased the fame of Bhaktivedanta Manor. It also increased the estate from 17 acres to 70 acres, with the purchases of the additional land for the access road, which also provided more festival parking space and more room for the temple cows.
The devotees would like to acknowledge that this historic victory would not have been possible without the keen and prolonged support of many temple managers, congregational members, residents, donors, and local and national businessmen and politicians. May Lord Krishna bless them all.
Cow Protection“Holy Cow!” We’ve all heard that expletive enough times, but what on earth is holy about a cow? To find that out, we need to go to India.
In the Indian villager’s agrarian lifestyle, conserving natural resources is an integral part of daily existence. He uses nature’s gifts directly to manufacture all his necessities, from his mud hut dwelling to his home-spun clothes. But the most important feature of village conservation is protecting cows. Each homestead keeps at least one cow, and the animal is considered the most useful of all domestic beasts. In fact both cow and bull are seen as indispensable in rural India, in other words to 90% of the country’s population. Eating only grass, which costs nothing to produce, the cow in turn produces milk that provides nearly all the nutrients we need. One cow produces more milk than a whole family can drink in one day. What is not drunk is turned into yoghurt, cheese, butter and ghee (butterfat) – the latter being the basis for so many exquisite Indian sweetmeats and savouries.
Because cows supply milk, in Indian culture they are accepted as our mother, and therefore worthy of reverence. How many babies are raised on cows ‘milk?
In India it is well known that even the stool of the cow has antiseptic properties. Furthermore, in any Indian village you will see cow pats drying in the sun, ready to be used as fuel for cooking. Cow urine is prescribed in Ayurveda as a medicine, and when the cow finally dies she gives her skin for shoes and bags, and her horns for other implements.
The majestic bull can be seen in Indian fields, pulling the plough. Slower than tractors, but he does not compact the soil and reduce its productivity like other mechanical methods. Nor does such ploughing kill so many earth dwelling creatures. And of course, the more we use machinery in the place of working animals like the ox, then the more we become encumbered with the need for so many subsidiary industries to make and maintain those machines.
The bull is still used throughout rural India, and he is therefore seen as a father, working hard to produce man’s food. And as a father he too is considered worthy of reverence.
There is a symbiotic relationship between men and cows. If we take good care of them, ensuring they are sheltered, fed and protected, they happily produce more than enough milk for their calves, and we can take the excess without harming them in any way.
The Krishna consciousness movement is developing farming communities around the world. At Bhaktivedanta Manor there are 46 cows and oxen. The results of the gentle Vedic method are evident there, where the cows peacefully produce first class milk that has won many prizes at local shows.
Arati & Darshan TimesThere are several services throughout the day at Bhaktivedanta Manor to which everyone is welcome to attend. Aside from these times, Bhaktivedanta Manor building is open daily from 4.30am—9.30pm for pilgrims and guests.
4.30-4.55am – Mangal Arati
4.55-5.15am – Tulasi-arati
7.00-7.05am – Deity Greeting
7.10am – Guru-Puja
7.30am – Srimad-Bhagavatam Class
12.30-12.55pm – Raj Bhoga Arati
4.20-4.30pm – Dhupa Arati
7.00-7.25pm – Sandya Arati
7.30pm-8:30 Bhagavad-Gita Class
(except Friday & Sundays)
9.00-9.10pm – Shayan Arati
9.30pm – Temple closes
Gaura Purnima, Holi, Diwali, Govardhana Puja/ Go Puja/ Annakuta , Janmashtami, Dusshera, Sri Rama Navami, Radha Yatra and Kartik the sale of the Year.
The GardensFive acres of ornamental gardens, lawns and woodland surround the main house, maintained by a crew of staff gardeners and volunteers from the community.
The founder, Srila Prabhupada, loved to sit on the lawn in the afternoon, surrounded by disciples and friends, while he chanted on his beads, heard sacred readings, or discussed questions of philosophy.
Farming & Cow Protection
The Manor’s Dairy Farm and Visitor Centre reintroduces a radical approach to farming in the modern world. It is called a Goshala because it shelters cows (‘go’ is sanskrit for cow). It also shelters oxen and one mature bull. The herd numbers around 50 animals, of whom 12 are milk-giving cows and 12 working oxen. the remainder are either juvenile or retired. Cows bear their first calf and start giving milk at 30 months; oxen start work at 24 months. In winter, when grass stops growing and fields become waterlogged, the herd shelters indoors, where they have plenty of space and access to the open air. In the summer they prefer to be outside day and night.
Ox Dependent Working FarmA unique feature of the farm is its growing reliance on ox power and hand milking. Milk produced on a sustainable and humane farm is better for people and better for the cows. New Gokula provides for the needs of the cows for their whole lives. Although it costs more than modern industrially-produced milk it costs less to the cow and the earth. The economics of Cow Protection is looked at in detail in Cows and The Earth, available from the Manor bookshop.
The new farm buildings, opened in 2010, are made from green oak, larch panelling, some shingle roofs, brick, steel fences and cement floors and walls. Rainwater harvested from the roof is stored in a large irrigation pond and used around the farm and estate. Borehole water is provided for the cows to drink and for washing floor areas. Hot water and room heating are assisted by the use of an air source heat pump and solar panels produce local electricity.
Sat-Sanga literally means “association of Krishna’s devotees.” Through such association one acquires great knowledge and finds fresh inspiration in their spirituality. It is undoubtedly one of the most important aspects of Krishna Consciousness. There are over 25 regular sanga gatherings in different locations across London. They typically take place at someone’s home on a fixed day of the week and are attended by 30-40 people of all ages. Different aspects of Krishna consciousness are discussed in a relevant, practical and interesting way. Each program is accompanied by Kirtan, bhajans and prasadam.
By attending a sanga gathering, you will:
- Learn the basics of the Bhagavad-gita
- Have the opportunity to ask questions and learn the practical aspects of the teachings
- Associate with spiritually minded individuals and make new friends
Krishna ClubKrishna Club has been running at Bhakivedanta Manor every week since 1994. It provides a balanced system of Krishna Conscious education for 6–16 year olds in a fun and informative way. The children learn the culture & philosophy in a caring and spiritual atmosphere.
Classes run from 10:00am – 12:00pm on Sundays
Mentorship – A Network of Friendsf you’re a committed devotee, chanting at least four rounds a day of the Hare Krishna Maha Mantra on beads and looking for occasional support in your spiritual practise, you might like to find out more about Bhaktivedanta Manor’s Mentorship System. It’s a new, helpful network of friendly devotees that functions alongside the sanga groups.
Hilfield lane, Aldenham
Near Watford, Herts
(for Sat-Nav use WD25 8DT)
Nearest train stations
Watford Junction Station (British Rail) – 5 miles away
Radlett Station (British Rail) – 3 miles away
Stanmore Station (London Underground Jubilee Line) – 6 miles away
Edgware Station (London Underground Northern Line) – 7 miles away
Watford Metropolitan (Underground Metropolitan Line) – 5.5 miles away
There are taxis available at all these stations
The bus company Uno runs a 602 service from Watford High Street towards Hatfield. Once out of Bushey the bus drives down Hartspring Lane and passes straight through a major round-a-about. Once adjacent to the Tony Carvery Restaurant alight and the next bus stop is opposite Hilfield Lane. The main entrance gate to the Manor estate is about one kilometre along Hilfield Lane, on the left just before Sandy Lane.
Om Tat Sat
(My humble salutations to the great devotees , wikisources and Pilgrimage tourist guide for the collection )