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The Radha Krishna Temple

On 22nd August 1969, The Beatles assembled for a photo session, their last ever, at John Lennon’s new country estate, Tittenhurst Park, a Georgian manor house set in 27 acres within the village of Sunninghill, near Ascot, Berkshire.

One of the photographs taken that day was used for the cover of their American compilation album Hey Jude. With dark colours and muted tones, it shows The Beatles standing in the doorway of what became known as The Temple. The name applied to the Radha Krishna Temple, the central place of worship for members of the Hare Krishna Movement in Britain.

When the Radha Krishna Temple arrived, Tittenhurst Park came alive with a new colour, the vivid saffron worn by male devotees that signified a chosen path of abstinence. The temple members opted for a vegetarian diet, meditation, the studying of scriptures, and the chanting of the holy names of Krishna.

The Tittenhurst Temple was a temporary base, and the devotees soon relocated to a site in Bury Place, in Bloomsbury in central London, provided for them by George Harrison. George later donated what became the movement’s permanent home in the UK, another manor house in a rural setting, the one now known as Bhaktivedanta Manor, in the village of Aldenham, near Watford in Hertfordshire.

The name of the manor comprises two words, bhakti and vedanta, in the ancient Indian language of Sanskrit. It translates as "devotional service to genuine knowledge of the Lord", and refers to the movement’s founder and spiritual master, His Divine Grace Tridani Goswami A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.

In Sanskrit, Srila means “learned”, and Prabhupada is an epithet name that means “at whose feet all other masters sit.” Srila Prabhupada founded the Hare Krishna Movement, known formally as the International Society For Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), in the USA in 1966, and brought it to the UK in 1968.

ISKCON is the modern face of a Hindu denomination from eastern India, today’s Bangla Desh, that dates to the 16th century, and is based on traditions stretching back thousands of years. Prabhupada
was the tenth disciple in his line, and the religious tenets he conveyed, and which ISKCON promote today, is a monotheistic belief within the wider context of polytheistic Hinduism.

For ISKCON, the focus is twofold: the worship of the one God, the supreme deity that is the “all-attractive” Krishna, and the worship of his female consort, Radha. The religion’s principal text, the 5,000-year-old Bhagavad Gita, or ‘Song Of God’, tells us that “Krishna enchants the world, but Radha enchants even Him”. The two are eternally linked, hence the Radha Krishna Temple.

Srila Prabhupada was 72 years old in 1968, and had travelled widely, seen much and written even more. His vocation had been to establish temples for Krishna around the world, and his London mission became successful like no other. Through the universal medium of music, Krishna’s message of piety and harmonious living crossed cultural and religious boundaries in a most unprecedented and rewarding manner.

Released at the end of August, 1969, the Apple Records single, ‘Hare Krishna Mantra’, climbed to No. 12 in the UK, and prompted two appearances on the BBC’s pre-eminent music show Top Of The Pops. The record was a hit elsewhere too, and did particularly well in Czechoslovakia and Germany. In early 1970, a second single, ‘Govinda’, became a Top 30 UK hit. The Radha Krishna Temple (London) album, containing both singles, followed in May 1971 and, like the singles, was produced by George Harrison and arranged by Temple member Mukunda Das Adhikary.

Radha Krishna Temple is an album of Sanskrit hymns both to Krishna and to the movement’s spiritual masters. It includes a specially written song, ‘Bhaja Hure Mana’, addressed to the human mind — a reminder that physical life is illusion and that the origin and meaning of existence is not to be found on this earthly plane, but in the spiritual realm. This newly remastered edition of the album includes a previously unreleased bonus track, ‘Namaste Saraswati Devi’, which translates as “I bow to you, the goddess Saraswati,” who is the Hindu goddess of knowledge, music and the arts.

The repeated chanting of mantras such as ‘Hare Krishna Mantra’ and ‘Govinda Jai Jai’ is designed to achieve the goal of ‘Krishna consciousness’, which means transcendent, or out-of-the-ordinary, self-realization. As George explained: “Prabhupada told me once that we should just keep chanting as much as possible. The response that comes from chanting is in the form of bliss, or spiritual happiness."