In August 1973 a few hundred devotees celebrated the installation of Sri Sri Radha Gokulananda during the Janmashtami festival at Bhaktivedanta Manor. Over the duration of this year 100,000 pilgrims are expected to visit! Today Bhaktivedanta Manor is a centre of excellence, the heart of a huge devotional community and is internationally renown.
Years ago the late Beatle George Harrison noticed that the temple in Bury Place near the British Museum was overcrowded. With overwhelming generosity he offered to donate a much larger property ‘somewhere within easy travelling distance from London’. From May 1972 he worked with some disciples of Srila Prabhupada to find somewhere suitable.
On a snowy January in 1973 Dhananjaya Das arrived at a mock Tudor mansion called Piggot’s Manor, in Aldenham which was up for sale. Seeing the tremendous potential, he phoned George and told him he had found exactly what everyone was looking for. George, who was about to leave for the US, gave Dhananjaya Das permission to go ahead and that day a hugely significant event took place in ISKCON’s remarkable history.
After the exchange of contracts took place, 25 enthusiastic devotees moved in and renamed the estate Bhaktivedanta Manor. Almost immediately, at the request of Srila Prabhupada, they turned their attention to the task of preparing to install the deities of Sri Sri Radha Gokulananda in time for Janmashtami.
The deities were already dear to Srila Prabhupada: he had built up a relationship with them during a pandal program in Delhi and later asked his disciples to fly Them to Britain. From May 1972 They were kept in the Bury Place temple and the original intention was that They would be installed in an ISKCON centre in Edinburgh. However, after the Manor estate was donated, it became clear that Sri Sri Radha Gokulananda had plans of Their own!
And so it was that on Janmashtami, August 1973, the auspicious day of Their installation at Bhaktivedanta Manor had arrived. In front of ISKCON devotees from across Europe, Hindu community representatives, pop stars and local VIPs, Srila Prabhupada personally installed Sri Sri Radha Gokulananda in the Temple room of Bhaktivedanta Manor. By Prabhupada’s grace a great temple was established with a devotional tradition now spanning 4 decades.
Before we embark on a momentous year of celebrations to mark this year, we would like to say that we are humbled by all the wonderful service that so many devotees have given. Their hard work and dedication to Sri Sri Radha Gokulananda makes Bhaktivedanta Manor a shining jewel in ISKCON.
There are many devotees to thank and we will be showing our appreciation to them. There are many magnificent events that have happened over the last 4 decades, we will be enlivened hearing stories of our early beginnings and the struggles and successes that followed.
Sri Sri Radha Gokulananda
It will be a great opportunity to remember and appreciate Srila Prabhupada and his wonderful gift of service to Their Lordships.