40 years of ISKCON in London

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 “Krishna Chant 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 well-known. For example, in a recent survey amongst iconic symbols of London the devotees were voted third after red double-decker buses and black taxi cabs.

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 celebrated 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 was a cultural evening at the renowned Troxy Theatre in London on 21st November 2009. The event celebrated the Hare Krishna’s arrival in London and their achievements in the fields of art, culture, spiritual education, Vedic philosophy, food and ecology.

The Troxy theatre, a huge and classy venue, was vibrant with atmosphere as devotees, Patrons, VIPs and well-wishers poured inside. Hundreds of volunteers were present, who were an essential part of the event. The evening included a three course meal which was provided by Soho Street and Bhaktivedanta Manor. The stage program, MC’ed by Kripa Moya prabhu, included performances by The Radha Krishna Temple Band, the Subadra dancers, Krishna Club and not least the Gauravani and his talented band, which included Gurukulis from the US and Britain.

One of the highlights was when Syamasundar, Malati, Guru das and Yamuna prabhus sang the Hare Krishna to the tune that is featured in the original Radha Krishna Temple Album. Many devotees were in tears and everyone stood with arms raised.

“As the Member of Parliament for the Cities of London and Westminster it was a pleasure to take part in the celebrations marking the 40th Anniversary of ISKCON in London,” said Mark Field MP , Key note speaker at last Saturday’s Gala Dinner. “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.”

Editors Notes:

PHOTOS – Royalty free, no copyright attached to any pictures downloaded from the following link.


Published onSaturday, November 21st, 2009

One Response to “40 years of ISKCON in London”

  1. Harish Says:

    Hare Krishna. I had the pleasure of seeing Sri Prabuphadji with two devotees in Nairobi, Kenya in 1971. I attended the London Rath Yaatra of I think (1973) when Shri Prabhupadyaji was also present.
    For many years I used to visit your Bury Place Iskcon temple from 1974 to 1979. I was a very close friend of a full time devotee called Bhumadeva whose wife was also a full time devotee and they used to live at this temple. I last met him sometime in 1983 or 1984 when he told me that he was moving with his wife to a Iskcon temple in USA and that was the last time I saw him. Please see if you can find out where he is now.
    My late father – Mohinder Pal Chand was a life time member of Iskcon, your Watford Temple. I have been watching lots of videos of Shri Radhanath Swamiji on my IPad and would like to meet him to find out how to achieve inner mental peace as I suffer from depression and high anxiety. I live with my family in Buckhurst Hill, Essex and work two days per week only as I am 65 years old and want to sort my health out. Thanks and Hare Krishna to all the devotees. From – Harish Chand

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