Hindu festival expects huge crowds

BBC, Aug. 30, 2002

One of the biggest Hindu gatherings outside India is expected to attract 50,000 people to the English town of Watford this weekend.

A temple donated by the former Beatle George Harrison is to host one of the most important celebrations in the Hindu calendar, the festival of Janmashtami.

It marks the birth of Lord Krishna, the incarnation of Hindu god Vishnu.

About 10% of Britain’s Hindu community are expected to converge on the grounds of Bhaktivedanta Manor Hare Krishna temple over the weekend.

Organisers say the manor grounds – near Watford – will be transformed into a small Indian town on Saturday and Sunday.

Efforts are made at the festival to recreate the magic of Lord Krishna’s coming and childhood in Vrindavan, northern India.

Central to the event is the manor’s shrine of Krishna, which is decorated in precious stones and silks for the occasion.

Activities include drama, dance, music, multi-media shows, and exhibitions.

There is a cow protection project, free vegetarian meals and a selection of world cuisine.

Om Prakash Sharma MBE, president of the National Council of Hindu Temples (UK), said: “The manor is one of the most important Hindu shrines in Britain and hosts the largest Janmashtami festival outside India.

Harrison – who died last November after losing a battle with cancer – donated the manor to Srila Prabhupada, founder of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, in 1973.

It has now become an important place of pilgrimage combining religious worship with community education, priestly training and cultural and social events.

The Hare Krishna movement is part of the ancient Vaishnava tradition, a faith within Hinduism.

It was founded by AC Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, who first brought the Krishna tradition from India to the west in 1965.

Hindu believe Krishna was born at about 1400 BC. He became a profound philosopher in adulthood.

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Religion News Blog posted this on Sunday September 1, 2002.
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