Celebrating 40 years of ISKCON in London

by Radha Mohan Das
1969 was the year that the late George Harrison of the Beatles produced the chart-topping “Hare Krishna Mantra” single, and the Hare Krishnas made their first appearance on British television, singing live on Top of the Pops.

It has been forty years since ISKCON made its first mark on the streets of London. The unmistakable sounds of cymbals, saffron and shaven heads charmed and startled Oxford Street in London’s West End, reaching the Evening Standard with the headline “Hare Krishna Startles London”. Nowadays ISKCON is woven to the fabric of London life yet still parades of devotees sharing the Holy Names with shoppers, revelers, business people and international tourists is very common.

1969 was the year that the late George Harrison of the Beatles produced the chart-topping “Hare Krishna Mantra” single, and the Hare Krishnas made their first appearance on British television, singing live on Top of the Pops.

Shyamsundar Das, who was one of the first Krishna devotees in London and a friend of George Harrison, said: “To many, the Hare Krishnas represented the psychedelic spirit of the sixties. Although their philosophy is one of actual abstinence, of non-violence and pure vegetarianism.”

Govindas was one of the first vegetarian restaurants in central London which is still going strong. The first ever Radha Krishna deities in ISKCON were in London and Srila Prabhupada installed them in Bury Place, the first ISKCON temple in the UK near the British Museum. In 1979 the Temple moved to Soho Street, just off Oxford Street which is Europe’s busiest shopping street.

To celebrate the 40th anniversary, the Radha-Krishna Temple will be celebrating with a week of festivities with special presentations from senior devotees (including Yamuna, Shyamasundar, Gurudas and Malati prabhus) ending with the final official celebration on Sunday the 22nd November. The main event will be a cultural evening at the historic Troxy Theatre in London on 21st November 2009. The event will celebrate the Hare Krishna’s arrival in London and their achievements in the fields of art, culture, spiritual education, Vedic philosophy, food and ecology.

NB: The event is already sold out, ticketed event only and will, unfortunately be strictly enforced.

“As the Member of Parliament for the Cities of London and Westminster I am looking forward to take part in the celebrations marking the 40th Anniversary of ISKCON in London,” said Mark Field MP. “The chanting processions of the orange-garbed devotees in Oxford Street have become a welcome and indeed exotic part of the city’s multi-cultural landscape. The help that members of the Hare Krishna movement have given to the homeless has been much appreciated and I hope that they will continue their good work for many years to come.”

Editor’s Notes:

In attendance will be over 1300 prominent and over 200 volunteers of the faith community, various politicians and many VIP’s from business, industry, entertainment and inter‐faith leaders. Speakers will include friends of George Harrison who will be sharing rare stories of the Beatles and Hare Krishnas during the early years, as well as other notable figures associated with ISKCON. Presentations will elaborate on the rewarding relationship which the Radha‐Krishna Temple has had with the broader London community and the fascinating growth of ISKCON in the capital, from its early relationship with the Beatles to the development of the first state funded Hindu School and the “Food for Life” scheme.

1. 400 visitors on Weekends at the Radha Krishna temple in Oxford Street (all day)

2. 1600 visitors in a week

Posted in In the News.