Founder, Srila Prabhupada’s altar
2016 marks fifty years of the establishment of the Hare Krishna movement in the western world. Founded by A.C Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada, the International Society of Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) was incorporated in New York, USA in 1966. Swami Prabhupada sought to disseminate the ancient teachings enshrined in the Indian holy scriptures to the West. Today his prodigious efforts and his path-breaking work have inspired numerous international programmes dedicated to the distribution millions of plates of vegetarian food and widespread access to books on philosophy.
In the sixties the world was undergoing cataclysmic cultural and social upheavals. The young were disillusioned and the old cynical. The demands of individual freedom and the inflexibility of moral norms were each competing for supremacy. Never before – and possibly not since – was there an era in which societies stood so much in need of spiritual guidance and direction – a credo, an ideology rooted in high values of divinity.
The west was ready for ISKCON!
ISKCON’s philosophic teachings captivated the disaffected youth and the movement gained ready and eager following, catching even the attention of famous figures such as the poet Allen Ginsberg and popular music groups such as the Beatles. Swami Prabhupada’s remarkable achievements included setting up 108 temples across the world and writing over forty books in twelve years until his death. Globally now there are over 500 ISKCON temples, and Swami Prabhupada’s teachings and texts have been translated into 85 languages and are studied in universities and schools worldwide.
Deities in Their new golden outfits
On Wednesday 13th July 2016 (which is 50 years to the day since the setting up ISKCON in the USA) the London Temple, based off Oxford Street, celebrated this historic incorporation day with grandeur and glory.
A splendid all-day festival was held at the Temple. As the curtains opened for the morning service, devotees witnessed the Deities draped in brilliant new golden outfits in honour of the occasion. The altar was festooned with white and gold flower garlands and multi-coloured adornments. Srila Prabhupada’s altar was also decorated with flower arrangements and artwork depicting the seven purposes of the movement.
The main aims of the movement are to propagate spiritual knowledge and inculcate spiritual practices to aid and assist a society plagued by value imbalances and the tragic loss of peace and unity. Special themed talks were held throughout the day to focus on ancient solutions to modern problems.
As part of the morning celebrations, the London and Watford centres came together in a special initiative. In an act of gratitude to the City of London, 5,000 cupcakes were distributed in key locations in central London during morning rush hour to say, “Thank You London!”.
Temple President, Jai Nitai dasa and Temple Secretary Bhava Bhakti devi dasi also had an opportunity to present the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, with a box of cupcakes and copies of a special edition 50th magazine. The Mayor congratulated ISKCON on turning 50 and also tweeted this kind gesture to his followers.
Here is what some of the volunteers had to say about their experience:
“The distribution of cupcakes put so many smiles to the busy people of London. It was so nice to see how a simple act of kindness can do so much. I’m sure many who took a cupcake will have noticed that it was in celebration of such an historic date for ISKCON. It was a pleasure to be a small part of something big, on this memorable day, as an act of gratitude to Srila Prabhupada,” – said Krishna Dattani
“Wonderful to see those commuters on a hectic schedule stop and smile at the sight of a free treat. Even better to witness them take some time to ask questions! I can only conclude it was all due to Prabhupada’s mercy!” – said Meelan Panth.
Meanwhile the festivities continued at the Temple with a talk followed by a sumptuous vegetarian feast which included a special 50th birthday cake. Devotees then set out on London’s bustling Oxford Street for street chanting and dancing along the way distributing delicious mango flavoured condensed milk sweets (known as barfi).
In the evening, the special themed talks continued. The evening prayer ceremony was followed by soulful chanting which continued late into the night.
The capital’s biggest news channel, BBC London also covered the day’s activities. The broadcast was viewed by over a million people on air and millions more online, allowing them to also witness the prayer ceremony.
Stay updated on the upcoming activities at: www.iskcon.london. Get the latest updates on the Facebook page ‘ISKCON-London Radha-Krishna Temple’ and Twitter handle ISKCONLondon.