BY: UK BUREAU
Aug 23, LONDON (HINDU TIMES)
Over 75,000 Hindus and other visitors are expected to gather at the sleepy town of Aldenham, just north of London on August 26 and August 28 to celebrate the 5000 year-old Hindu festival of Janmashtami at the famous Bhaktivedanta Manor Hare Krishna temple.
The festival at Bhaktivedanta Manor, which is a Manor house donated by former Beatle George Harrison, includes lively plays, traditional Indian dances, melodious singing, food stalls, multi-media shows, elaborate worship, meditation and chanting, youth tents, games, children's areas, bullock-wagon rides and much more.
All 75,000 visitors will be given a free vegetarian meal specially sanctified by a sacred offering to Lord Krishna. What is remarkable is that the entire festival is managed and run by volunteers from the community who gather every evening after work for a month prior to the event and put in countless hours of hard work for the occasion.
Prime Minister Tony Blair in a special message to the organisers said, "I am delighted to send my best wishes to everyone attending the Janmashtami festival at the ISKCON Bhaktivedanta Manor Temple. Janmashtami, the celebration during which there is a focus on the values of family, the importance of community, and the significance of faith.
"I understand that the celebration of Janmashtami at the Bhaktivedanta Manor Temple is the largest such gathering outside India. As such it is a tribute to the hard work of the organisers and the strength of the Hindu community in this country."
"The festival is a special occasion to encourage the core values of devotion to God, commitment to family values and inspiration to serve others," explained Gauri Dasa, President of Bhaktivedanta Manor. "It is a chance for everyone to give something back to the community, but do it in a way that is fun and very productive."
Tulasi Harrison, a 16-year-old student from Watford, has been coming to volunteer every year since she was 9-years-old. This year, she is involved in co-coordinating the gift shop tent. "I love what I am doing," she says. "Every year I meet so many new people and learn a lot of new things. It makes me feel like a real part of this important festival, and helps me connect on a deeper level with God.
"With all the distractions in society for people of my age, I feel privileged to be able to come to a safe place and do something which is benefiting so many others."
The festival is expected to draw pilgrims from all over UK and attracts many Ministers, MPs, diplomats, business leaders, faith representatives and other dignitaries, as well as messages of support from the leaders of the three main political parties.