Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Bhaktivedanta Manor ISKCON Temple

The Bhaktivedanta Manor, a Gaudiya Vaishnava Temple set in the Hertfordshire countryside of England in the village of Aldenham near Watford, is owned and managed by the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON). It is ISKCON's largest property in UK, and one of the most frequently visited Radha-Krishna temples in Europe. The temple stands on 70 acres (280,000 squire meters) of landscaped area consisting of lawns, gardens, a children's playground, an artificial lake and a large parking area for vehicles.

In 1973, the late Beatles singer and composer George Harrison gifted the Manor as an offering of devotion to the founder of ISKCON, A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, who renamed the property as Bhaktivedanta Manor from its earlier name Piggott's Manor.

Harrison's interest in Indian culture expanded to Hinduism, and during a visit to India with his wife, Harrison studied sitar, met several gurus and visited various holy places in 1966. In 1968, Harrison travelled to Rishikesh with the other Beatles Band members to study meditation with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. In 1969, he produced the single "Hare Krishna Mantra", performed by the devotees of the London Radha Krishna Temple, and he and fellow Beatle John Lennon met A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Thereafter, Harrison embraced the Hare Krishna tradition and became a lifelong devotee, being associated with it until his death.

All Bhaktivedanta Manor activities are focused around the temple room with its altar of carved wood and gilt containing three domed shrines. The first houses deities of Radha and Krishna, the second houses Gaura-Nitai (Sri Nityananda and Chaitanya Mahaprabhu) deities and the third has the deities of Sita, Rama, Lakshman and Hanuman.

The rest of the property has shops selling souvenirs and devotional items, a bakery, a farm, college facilities, ashrams, a primary school, and a theatre for staging dramatic arts and programs on Bhakti Yoga and stories about Lord Krishna. The manor is also used as a venue for Vaishnava religious festivals, Hindu family gatherings, general functions and civil marriages.

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