Bhaktivedanta Manor Krishna Temple situated in the Hertfordshire countryside annually stages perhaps the world’s most vibrant celebration of Janmashtami. The day is especially dear to the community, visitors and pilgrims of the Manor because Srila Prabhupada, the founder of the Hare Krishna Movement, performed the installation ceremony of the Deities of the temple (Sri Sri Radha-Gokulananda) on Janmashtami in 1973. Hence, at the Manor, the celebration is not only of the appearance of Krishna 5000 years ago, but also of the anniversary of the installation of the Radha-Krishna Deities at the Manor.
Back in the humble beginnings of 1973, there were barely 100 people to celebrate Janmashtami at the Manor, with Srila Prabhupada offering the first beautiful arati to Radha-Gokulananda and leading the devotees in encircling the Deities, dancing and leaping in kirtan. Just one year later, in 1974, the Janmashtami festival attracted 5000 guests for a full day programme with a special tent on the lawn showcasing plays, movies, slides, discourses and musical chanting (kirtana), and 1500 guests stayed until midnight to witness the first anniversary abhiseka (bathing) of the Deities. In 1975, with a staggering 14,000 visitors, the festival attracted the attention of England’s leading newspapers, the London Times and the Daily Telegraph.
By 1995, the festival had grown to such heights that the temple embarked on building an access road to facilitate the volume of traffic coming to the Manor.
The celebrations in recent years remind us of how the Manor has grown in a huge way. Last year, some 70,000 pilgrims from all over the world flocked to the Manor, hearing of the famous Manor Janmashtami Festival being the biggest of its kind outside India. The excitement and buzz of Janmashtami spills over from the temple on to the temple grounds, which are transformed with tents, exhibitions of dance, drama, multimedia presentations, interactive Q&A tents, and a virtual experience of the culture, philosophy and music of the Hare Krishna Movement.