The history, achievements and spirit of bhakti at Bhaktivedanta Manor
Written by Kripamoya Das
This year marks the 50th anniversary of Bhaktivedanta Manor. It was half a century ago that Srila Prabhupada personally invited and installed the altar Deities. Conducting the ceremonies himself as his disciples held an ecstatic kirtan, Srila Prabhupada named the beautiful Deities Sri Sri Radha Gokulananda. The latter is a name of Krishna which means ‘He who gives bliss to the land of Gokula.’
Since that day in 1973, Bhaktivedanta Manor has continued to serve Their Lordships through 50 years of dedication, devotion, outstanding spiritual initiatives and thriving community development.
In this auspicious year we have a range of events, offerings and opportunities planned for everyone connected to the Manor. Come with us on a journey of celebration, appreciation and inspiration.
– Bhaktivedanta Manor was donated by George Harrison in 1973
Built in 1886 as a private home, the Manor billeted RAF officers during the Second World War, and in 1956 became a training school for nurses. In 1972, George Harrison offered to purchase a ‘country headquarters’ for the devotees, and early the following year the Manor was located by Dhananjaya Das, one of the first British disciples.
Sri Sri Radha Gokulananda
– Radha Gokulananda were installed by Srila Prabhupada on the day of Janmashtami, the 21st of August 1973
– Due to popular request, Sri Sri Sita-Rama, Lakshman and Hanuman were installed in 1981
– The main altar, installed in 1976, was renovated and gilded in 2013
– Six daily bhogas and aratis offered without fail for 50 years
– 150 unique handmade outfits are used to dress the Deities
Radha and Krishna are at the heart of our community, and all our activities revolve around Them. Over 50 years, the priests serving on the altar have increased from a handful to several hundred. The early morning milk sweets, lovingly made from the milk of the Manor’s cows, the delicious food offerings, prepared six times daily from the choicest ingredients to traditional recipes, and the colourful hand-sewn outfits, stitched from the finest fabrics of India, have all grown in their quality and taste. The daily aratis, offered with hand-fashioned silver, are punctual and a joy to watch. Perhaps the greatest challenge in serving Krishna for half a century is to offer such services every day without fail; and yet with devotion, organisation, and good management, this has not only endured but has become famous throughout the world.
Saving the Temple
– Over 35,000 people marched to Parliament in protest of the plans to ban public worship at Bhaktivedanta Manor
– The Hare Krishna Temple Defence Movement (HKTDM) helped keep the temple open after vigorous 10 year fight in UK, India, Europe and South Africa.
– The Pandava Sena Youth Group was formed to help save the temple
– New access road built in 1996, also increasing the estate from 17 to 78 acres
As the Manor grew in popularity, the number of visitors increased, raising questions locally as to the estate’s suitability for large gatherings. When the local Council issued an enforcement order banning public worship in 1991, the campaign to keep the temple open was intensified. Hindus throughout Britain united with one purpose: “Save the Temple!” Through lengthy public enquiries and hearings, protest marches, demonstrations, high-level political negotiations and international lobbying and fund-raising, the community kept its resolve and was ultimately triumphant. In May 1996, the Ministry of the Environment announced the news: Victory for Bhaktivedanta Manor!
Farm & Cow Protection
– New Gokul Farm currently cares for 66 cows and bulls
The culture of protecting Krishna’s cows here at the temple has expanded enormously, from one cow in 1973 to a state-of-the-art goshala built in 2010, which now houses 66 cows and bulls. £2 million was raised to create a permanent home for the cows, bulls and calves. The complex includes a milking parlour, a busy dairy and kitchen, covered shelters and a farm shop, and a hospice for old cows. There is also a new permanent home for cows in the county of Rutland, the Ahimsa Dairy, which delivers fresh bottled milk to hundreds of families.
With the expansion of the Manor estate in 1996, 6 acres became available for vegetable production. Volunteers from all over the world now come to plough using the bulls, to plant and weed, and to harvest the crops, and to bring organic vegetables to the temple kitchen and offer them for sale to visitors.
The Kitchen Religion
– 7000 plates of prasadam served weekly
– Daily sweets are made from milk produced on-site
Cooking delicious food, offering it to Krishna with love, then sharing the prasadam or ‘mercy’ with others, has always been a pillar of life at the Manor. In 1973, the temple kitchen cooked daily for a mere 20 residents and double that on Sunday. Today, three kitchens cater for hundreds every day, thousands at the weekend, and serve tens of thousands during festivals. In addition, a special off-site kitchen prepares 2,000 daily meals for the homeless, poor and vulnerable.
– 8 schools in the UK keeping our culture alive
– 12,000 school children reached in 2022
– 170 children regularly attending Sunday School
– Thousands of adults are going deeper into the philosophy with the School of Bhakti
The temple is a place of education where people of all ages can learn about spiritual life. Bhaktivedanta Manor hosts dozens of classes each day, in small groups throughout London and the regions, at the temple itself, and online. Numerous children attend the nursery and nearby Gurukula primary school, and 4212 children attend the primary and secondary Avanti schools. A host of specialised classes, courses and retreats are offered to adults through the School of Bhakti.
– Over 60 million spiritual publications distributed over the last 50 years
– 26 UK university societies with over 1000 members
Krishna consciousness in the western world started when a pure devotee of Krishna brought sacred books and a pair of brass hand cymbals from India. He sang the mantra and spoke the ancient wisdom; young people gathered around him and a movement was born. During the last 50 years the Manor has published and sold more than 60 million of those books thanks to the efforts of preachers travelling out to regional towns and cities. The singing of Krishna’s names now resounds throughout the country and all over London.
Thousands of newcomers are reached every week. In yoga studios, homes, church halls, offices, market squares, and university societies, the messages of the Bhagavad-gita are explained. Through radio, television and social media, devotees reach out to all. Now there are more than 70 small groups dotted throughout the land, and those members, in their turn, also invite more newcomers. In this way, the awareness of Krishna grows.
Unity in Community
– 1000+ people gathering in regular programs
– 600 volunteers serving every month at the Manor
Spirituality allows everyone to see that we are all sons and daughters of the Supreme Person, Krishna. When we truly understand that we are related, we become firm friends. Devotees love to gather with other devotees, discussing, inspiring and encouraging one another. Small groups meet regularly, in homes, libraries, halls, cafes, universities – wherever is comfortable and convenient.
This satsanga or ‘good company,’ is a powerful balance for the troubles of the world, and members help each other in both spiritual and practical ways. Groups form teams to provide practical volunteer services at the temple, becoming a community as they serve together. From kids’ clubs to youth groups, from the newcomer to the experienced, from young couples to families, Bhaktivedanta Manor is a ‘community of communities’ where everyone can find their place.
Sri Krishna Haveli
– Cost: £13.55 million
Due to the number of visitors and the lack of space to facilitate everyone, in 2007 a plan was put forward to gain permission to build a bespoke space on the Manor grounds. In April 2016 permission was granted, and then two months later, David Cameron, the British Prime Minister at the time, was there to place the first spade in the ground at a ground-breaking ceremony. Works then commenced over the following few years. The first stress-test event was held in December 2019 as the community gathered to recite the Bhagavad-gita together, and by June 2020 the work was completed on the new building, marking a new chapter in Bhaktivedanta Manor’s history.
Features include: Café, Chakra Garden, Courtyard, Kirtan Hall, Kitchen, Meeting Rooms, Playground, Reception, Seva Hall
Celebrating 50 years of Bhaktivedanta Manor
The last 50 years have been a journey of sacrifice and surrender, but devotion to Radha Gokulananda has always remained front and centre, and this has allowed Bhaktivedanta Manor, a spiritual home to so many, to thrive and expand. When we were told that the Manor had to cease all public worship, devotees across the country successfully campaigned to keep this much-loved spiritual haven open. We have seen the growth of public festivals such as Sri Krishna Janmashtami, which started with 250 people celebrating on the front lawn and now hosts over 60,000 individuals attending the blissful festivities. Now, having created a purpose-built facility in the Sri Krishna Haveli, Bhaktivedanta Manor continues to be a home of spiritual opportunity with a thriving community. We look back with gratitude to every one of you who has contributed and continues to contribute to the community and the service of Sri Sri Radha Gokulananda.
During this auspicious year, we have a range of events, offerings and opportunities planned for everyone connected with Bhaktivedanta Manor, so please join us as we celebrate. The 50th anniversary is a once in a lifetime occasion, so we also invite you to consider your own personal offering to Sri Sri Radha Gokulananda. Get involved via the link below: