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In the News:
300 Volunteers Meet Every Day to Prepare for Largest Hindu Gathering Outside India

by Radha Mohan (das) BCS (UK Communications)

Posted August 25, 2005

Media Release, 14 August 2005

About 200 to 300 volunteers are meeting every evening for a month to paint, cook, create exhibits, design costumes, practice plays, film videos, construct stages and scores of marquees to prepare for the largest and most colourful Hindu gathering that takes place outside India every year.

On Friday 26th and Sunday 28th August, Bhaktivedanta Manor Hare Krishna temple near Watford will be host the annual Janmashtami festival to receive over 75,000 visitors and pilgrims. The entire festival is managed and run by volunteers from the community who gather every evening after work for a month prior to the event and put in countless hours of hard work for the occasion. Janmashtami is a 5000-year old festival that celebrates the birth of Lord Krishna, worshipped as God by over a billion Hindus worldwide. The festival at Bhaktivedanta Manor includes lively plays, traditional Indian dances, singing, food stalls, multi-media shows, elaborate worship, meditation and chanting, youth tents, games, children's areas, bullock-wagon rides and much more.

"The young and the old alike look forward to the festival as well as helping out," explained Gauri Dasa, President of Bhaktivedanta Manor. "It is a chance for everyone to give something back to the community, but do it in a way that is fun and very productive. Many volunteers form lasting friendships and come back every year. Best of all, this is also an expression of their devotion to God."

"We just look forward to coming after school or work, to bang a few nails in, get our hands dirty in some paint, or learn a couple of things about cooking Indian food," smiled Kaushik Patel, whose entire family meets at the temple every evening to erect marquees or to cook for the volunteers. "At the end of each evening, everyone sits down together, completely exhausted yet blissful, for a satisfying and sumptuous vegetarian feast."

Tulasi Harrison, a 16 year old student from Watford, has been coming to volunteer every year since she was 9 years old. This year, she is involved in co-coordinating the gift shop tent. "I love what I am doing," she says. "Every year I meet so many new people and learn a lot of new things. It makes me feel like a real part of this important festival, and helps me connect on a deeper level with God. With all the distractions in society for people of my age, I feel privileged to be able to come to a safe place and do something which is benefiting so many others."

Dilip Patel, a 44 year old entrepreneur from the West End, has been volunteering for the Janmastami festival for over fifteen years and looks after the mammoth logistical arrangements for the festival. Speaking about the car parking facilities he organizes for the thousands of pilgrims who will arrive in a few weeks, he said, "I'm trying to create better and more effective ways to accommodate all the people who will come, and make their experience safer and easier. We're setting up lighting in the fields and will be putting up signs that are colour coded. I also organize the volunteers who will be in the car parks on the actual days of the festival. I really enjoy my service because of its' physical nature; I like to be out there, interacting with the people, and getting my clothes a bit dirty."

The festival is expected to draw pilgrims from all over UK and receives messages of support from Prime Minister Tony Blair, and leaders of the Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties.