The particular event I would like to bring attention to, is the 40th Anniversary of the opening of the Bhaktivedanta Manor in Letchmore Heath, Hertfordshire. One of the biggest Hare Krishna temples in the UK.
Now to many people this phrase may make no sense and the name itself may be difficult to pronounce - but to most of my cherished childhood friends, this location proves to be somewhere we hold very dear to our hearts... But let's start first with a little history lesson!
Bhaktivedanta Manor is a building which has gone through quite a few pastimes before reaching the hands of the Hare Krishna community - Through passing the hands of private owners in 1261, it was then demolished and a mock tudor building was then erected in 1884. It was at this time called 'Piggots Manor' and remained so until it became a nursing college, and finally in 1973 George Harrison (that's right, the long haired hippy from The Beatles!) generously purchased the property and handed it over to the founding guru of the ISKCON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness) Srila Prabhupada.
Phew, hope that wasn't too much info for you - but it's good to know your roots ;)
The Bhaktivedanta Manor
The fact that George Harrison bought and donated the building and grounds to the Hare Krishna's is something that astounds people even today - who in turn then want to know more about why such a high profile person wanted to do something so kind, and out of his own pocket nonetheless!
Well he had fallen in love with our founding guru and the teachings of Krishna Consciousness (If you haven't fallen hard, you might not understand) but i digress.
George Harrison with ISKCON founder Srila Prabhupada (far left)
What George had done on that day was leave a legacy that this year marks 40 years of the installation of the beautiful deities Radha Gokulananda (below).
My Primary School
The grounds itself are stunning, with rose gardens, a lake you can wander around, a huge front lawn perfect for playing rounders and football, a dell we would make tree houses & mega swings in and a cow shed where we could help herd and milk the cows (oh and jump around the hay barn - don't try this at home kids). Could a child ask for more?
This location serves as the base for many religious festivals throughout the year, accepting thousands of visitors in, during busy periods and home to the monks (female & male) on a daily basis. It is very much a recognised part of the local community as a whole, it is a popular wedding venue and boasts visitors such as Russell Brand and our own (current) prime minister as well.
So to mark the Ruby Anniversary, the manor will, as always, be holding the normal religious festivals but with the anniversary theme throughout - and again as always it is open to the public who can come in for a wander, watch a play in the theatre room, get some free yummy veggie food or maybe question the Hare's hard about why they shave their heads and dance around in orange everywhere!!
As a 'day out' goes, I can highly recommend visiting this amazing location - especially in the summer when the canadian geese are around and you can also visit the new calves in the fields. If you are religious or not, there is something to be said about the peaceful atmosphere and the insight into a new community that you may have before had misgivings about or thought to be a 'cult'.. If it is a cult, damn it's got a following! ;)
I am so thankful that this colourful surrounding was the backdrop for my childhood years, and is still where I go to meet & great god (he's good like that) and hopefully one day it will be the backdrop for my children too. I do wonder if George Harrison realised what he did on that day, and what legacy would be left so many years later - I'm guessing that if he could see the community we have there today and all the people who's lives have been enriched by it's existence, he would probably be pretty astounded!
I for one am very grateful for the upbringing I had there, good & bad, because it has shaped me into who I am today and still plays a pivotal role in my social & spiritual life, even if I don't visit as much as I did as a child... They say 24 miles around a temple is Holy Ground, if so I am always bathed in the Lord's mercy :)