It wasn’t just the numbers that made it the best ever, although 50,000 was way more than we expected. It wasn’t just the fact that the line of traffic stretched for 3 miles in each direction. It wasn’t just that the festival pilgrims had to line up for over two hours to have a short darshan – just like Tirupati – yet still came away inspired. And it wasn’t just that the sunshine held out after it poured with rain in the morning.
More than this was the fact that our 800 volunteers had all worked so hard – past midnight every night for weeks before the festival – to make it all so well organised. More than this was the fact that they were all so happy and enthusiastic on the day, attracting pilgrims to the many tents and displays on offer. More than this was the sight of 50,000 people with tilak.
But best of all was that this year our theme was: ‘The Many Gifts of Srila Prabhupada’ and the festival gave all the visitors the chance to understand the greatness of the person who brought Lord Krishna to these shores. The presentations included one large marquee realistically converted into the Jaladuta ship that brought Srila Prabhupada westwards; inside the brahmacaris presented a play of our founder-acarya’s early struggles and eventual triumph. I defy anyone to have dry eyes after watching it. The back part of the ship opened up to reveal His Divine Grace sitting amidst his books with a huge map of the world showing the temples with flashing lights.
Another hour-long play in the main tent portrayed Srila Prabhupada also, with scenes telling the story of George Harrison’s gift of the Manor and the installation ceremony of the Deities exactly 35 years ago to the day. In the evening a local 30-strong choir accompanied Jayadeva and musicians. Amazingly enough, this local choir, all very English, and more used to singing gospel songs, managed to learn to sing two Sanskrit bhajans – with what sounded like perfect pronunciation! The next day it all happened again as another 20,000 came. Srila Prabhupada’s Vyasa Puja took place in the large main tent and was a grand affair.
The Hertfordshire Com.Unity Choir. They learned to sing in Sanskrit for Janmasthami
Here is a description of the two days by Radha Mohan Das:
50,000 attended the first day in a record breaking attendance of Bhaktivedanta Manor’s Janmashtami festival on 24th August, in observance of the birth of Lord Krishna.
As pilgrims and guests enter the festival site, they could see for themselves the progress of the building of New Gokul, the new Temple farm project. The flowered walk-way around the lake lit up at night and depicted the stories of Krishna in his youth. On the festival field there were demonstrations and tasting tents for different cuisines celebrated vegetarianism and environmentalism.
A highlight on the main festival stage included Comm.unity Choir of Hertfordshire with John Richardson (Jayadev das). The Choir took part in a concert to launch Jayadev’s latest album of devotional songs entitled *From Here to Eternity*. “It was east and west performing together for the glorification of God,” declared stage organizer Ravin Ganatra.
Accompanying them was Aiden O’Brian who played the Ullean pipes and guitar, and on piano and bass was Gareth Rhys Jones.
Other stage highlights included a play about Srila Prabhupada in India and Britain by the Bhaktivedanta Players, and bhajans by the Kuli Orchestra which included local community youth.
“For days the kitchens worked 24 hours to cope with over 50,000 plates of free vegetarian food which was distributed throughout the festival,” said Lalita Saki devi dasi, who was in charge of the kitchens which had 400 volunteers preparing and serving Prasad (sanctified food).
Dilip Patel, the Festival Coordinator said “the festival was so successful because of the devotion and dedication of the volunteers and meticulous planning which starts the next day after last year’s festival.”
Bhavesh Patel, the Chair of the Festival Committee, said: “Regarding the roads, we are indebted to the team of Special Constables for their work and dedication. It was nothing less than amazing. This was especially evident when we had record traffic numbers and pilgrims coming. We see the police
officers who helped with the traffic as good friends.”
You can see some more pictures here