The special feature of this year’s Janmashtami Festival was the new buildings for Krishna’s cows and bulls. Regular readers will know what an important part cows play in the Vaishnava life, but you may be surprised to know to what lengths the devotees at Bhaktivedanta Manor have gone to care for them.
Srila Prabhupada gave us the idea and the means of course. Without him we would not be caring for cows. Back in 1973 he requested that arrangements be made for 150 cows at the Manor. We are not there yet, but we’ve gone some of the way forward and we hope that he is pleased with our attempts.
There’s still quite a lot of internal work and fitments to be done to ready the new goshalla for everything we want it to be, but the roof was on and the major building work completed so that the 60,000 visitors to this years festival could all enter the festival grounds through the oak-beamed structure.
As they did, they could not fail to see how nice it looks and how central caring for cows is for us. If they didn’t quite get the message, then one of our major exhibits this year was dedicated to cow protection. By strolling around the large tent visitors could see the differences between cow protection in Lord Krishna’s day and cow exploitation in 2009. The exhibit avoided any graphic depictions, but attempted through displays and a custom-made video featuring an Indian actress, to get the message of ahimsa, or non-violence, over to the public. People were asked to demand ahimsa milk – milk produced without harming the cow, from the supermarket chains and by doing so to stimulate the market to source such a commodity.
BBC Radio 4’s Sunday programme featured the cow protection theme and you can listen to it here (until 22 August 2009). Listening figures for this show are around 400,000. The festival itself was part of the live nightly television news for London, watched by 5 million people in the capital and just beyond. For us, that was good news!
And, in addition, the entire festival went out live on the MATV channel, enabling devotees living at a distance to enjoy the festival in their own homes.
It took around 1,200 volunteers to stage this years Janmashtami. It is any ISKCON centre’s dream to be able to call upon such an amount of dedicated helpers. Such a volunteer body grows slowly, but steadily, as a result of good congregational care – and repeated happy experiences at the member’s local Hare Krishna temple. Here are some video clips of all the devotional service activities that went on up until the Janmashtami Festival.