Bhaktivedanta Manor is a Gaudiya Vaishnava temple set in the Hertfordshire countryside of England, in the village of Aldenham near Watford. The Manor is owned and run by the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), better known as the Hare Krishna movement. It is ISKCON's largest property in the United Kingdom, and one of the most frequently visited Radha Krishna temples in Europe. It stands in 70 acres (280,000 m2) of landscaped grounds, consisting of lawns, flower gardens, a children's playground, an artificial lake that attracts many water fowl, and a substantial car park.
Previously known as Piggott's Manor, the property was donated to the Hare Krishna movement in February 1973 by former Beatle George Harrison, after the Radha Krishna Temple in central London had become inadequate to house the growing number of devotees. The donation included 17 acres of land, following which the estate was extended through the acquisition of neighbouring properties. Harrison had a close relationship with ISKCON's founder-acharya, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, and visited him at the Manor on several occasions. "Bhaktivedānta" is Sanskrit for "devotion-Vedanta" – that is, "the Vedanta which is about devotion".
- 12th century: The Abbot of Westminster granted land at Aldenham to a Thomas Picot.
- 13th century: The surrounding land was owned by Lord Picot, and the place was therefore named Picot's Manor.
- 1884: A mock-Tudor mansion was built on the site, replacing a much older real Tudor building.
- 1920s: By now the name had changed to Piggott's Manor.
- 1957 to 1972: Piggott's Manor was a nurses' training college, run by St Bart's Hospital as the Preliminary Training School.
- 1973: The Manor was donated to the Hare Krishna movement by George Harrison.
- 1994: There was a famous campaign involving a protest of some 36,000 people to keep the temple open against the wishes of local government.
By 1972, three years after its founding, ISKCON's Radha Krishna Temple at Bury Place, in central London, was proving too small to accommodate the growing number of devotees there. The popularity of the movement had much to do with former Beatle George Harrison, who had helped establish the temple, in addition to endorsing Krishna Conscious principles in his 1970 solo album All Things Must Pass. One of the first British devotees, Dhananjaya Das, recalls Prabhupada suggesting that he ask Harrison if he would care to help with their predicament, to which the musician replied: "I would be very much honoured."
Harrison began looking for a new premises but then left the search to Dhananjaya and others, aware that property owners were immediately raising their asking price due to the involvement of a celebrity musician. Dhananjaya came upon Piggott's Manor in Hertfordshire, north-west of London, the owner of which, he recalls, had been considering using the house and 17 acres of grounds as a nursing home. Harrison purchased the property in February 1973 and donated it to ISKCON's London chapter.
The devotees endured financial hardship during their early years at the Manor, due to the substantial costs involved in maintaining the large property. A habitual international traveller, Prabhupada visited Bhaktivedanta Manor in the summer of 1973 and was delighted with the new UK base. During their meeting there in August, he told Harrison: "You have given us this shelter, and Krishna will give you shelter – at his lotus feet." Prabhupada later referred to Harrison as ISKCON's "archangel" for this and other gifts to the movement; in November 1977, while on his deathbed in the Vrindavan temple, the acharya removed a ring from his hand and instructed devotees to deliver it to Harrison.
Harrison said he envisaged that the Manor would be a "guide to Krishna consciousness" and "A place where people could get a taste of the splendor of devotional service to the Supreme Lord". On the 40th anniversary of Bhaktivedanta Manor, "The George Harrison Memorial Garden" will be officially opened to the public with George's widow, Olivia Harrison, in attendance. A nearby road, which was earlier an unnamed track across a park, is now named Dharam Marg, which is Hindi for "the way of truth".
Inside the temple
All activity at Bhaktivedanta Manor focuses around the temple room with its altar of carved wood and gilt containing three domed shrines. The first houses deity forms of Radha and Krishna, named Radha Gokulananda. The second houses Gaura-Nitai deities, and the third, Sita, Rama, his brother Lakshman and Hanuman.
The rest of the property comprises a shop selling souvenirs and devotional paraphernalia, a bakery, a farm with working oxen, college facilities, ashrams, a primary school, and a small theatre. The latter is used for performances of the dramatic arts illustrating bhakti yoga and stories about Krishna. The theatre is frequently used as a venue for Vaishnava religious festivals, Hindu family gatherings, general open days and civil weddings.
- Clayson, pp. 268, 306.
- "Bhaktivedanta Manor", History.UK.com (archived version retrieved 16 September 2014).
- Elaine Law, "The Rewards of an Unusual Change in Career", RLH League of Nurses, May 2005 (archived version retrieved 16 September 2014).
- Tillery, p. 111.
- See Manor Campaign.
- Dwyer and Cole, pp. 31, 32.
- Lavezzoli, p. 195.
- Clayson, pp. 267–69, 439.
- Tillery, pp. 88–90, 151.
- "History – George Harrison", ISKCON Bhaktivedanta Manor, 2003 (retrieved 16 September 2014).
- Dhananjaya Das, in "Bhaktivedanta Manor Memories – The Definitive History"; event occurs between 1:20 and 2:14.
- Dwyer and Cole, p. 32.
- Clayson, p. 306.
- Dhananjaya Das, in "Bhaktivedanta Manor Memories – The Definitive History"; event occurs between 2:16 and 2:28.
- Tillery, p. 111, 162.
- Greene, pp. 198–99.
- Dwyer and Cole, pp. 32–33.
- Clayson, p. 268.
- Tillery, p. 118.
- Greene, p. 225.
- Gibson, p. 7.
- Giuliano, Geoffrey (1997). Dark Horse: The Life and Art of George Harrison (rev. ed. ed.). New York: Da Capo Press. ISBN 0-306-80747-5.
- "George Harrison memorial garden opens to the public | News". NME.com. 28 May 2013. Retrieved 6 January 2014.
- "Bhaktivedanta Manor Memories – The Definitive History". Bhanktivedanta Manor – Hare Krishna Temple Watford on YouTube (18 July 2013). Retrieved 16 September 2014.
- Clayson, Alan (2003). George Harrison. London: Sanctuary. ISBN 1-86074-489-3.
- Dwyer, Graham; Cole, Richard J. Cole (eds) (2007). The Hare Krishna Movement: Forty Years of Chant and Change. London: I.B. Tauris. ISBN 1-84511-407-8.
- Gibson, Lynne (2002). Modern World Religions: Hinduism – Pupil Book Core (Modern World Religions). Oxford [England]: Heinemann Educational. ISBN 0-435-33619-3.
- Greene, Joshua M. (2006). Here Comes the Sun: The Spiritual and Musical Journey of George Harrison. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 978-0-470-12780-3.
- Lavezzoli, Peter (2006). The Dawn of Indian Music in the West. New York, NY: Continuum. ISBN 0-8264-2819-3.
- Tillery, Gary (2011). Working Class Mystic: A Spiritual Biography of George Harrison. Wheaton, IL: Quest Books. ISBN 978-0-8356-0900-5.
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