Thousands protest over ban on Hare Krishna worship: Former Beatle's donation of a temple sparks a legal battle over right to practise religion in village

THOUSANDS of Hare Krishna devotees marched through the streets of London yesterday to protest against a ban on them worshipping at a Hare Krishna temple donated by former Beatle George Harrison.

Two women from Serbia and Croatia, dressed as the Hindu gods Rama and Sita, led the procession, followed by an ox-drawn cart, through the City of London.

A party atmosphere flowed through the crowd, estimated at more than 5,000, as it marched on Parliament to protest against a council's enforcement notice banning public worship at Bhaktivedanta Manor, Watford.

Women and children chanted the Hare Krishna mantra as they handed out sweets and painted the distinctive red marks on the foreheads of protesters.

But beneath their smiles was a sense of anger and betrayal that their right to worship had been taken away from them.

Bhaktivedanta Manor - a mock-Tudor mansion set in 17 acres in the village of Letchmore Heath - was bought by George Harrison, the former Beatle, as a theological college for the promotion of the Krishna movement in 1973.

As its popularity grew, thousands of devotees from across Britain and Europe flocked to pay homage to the temple which was once home of the late Bhaktivedanta Swami, the leader of the Vaishnava tradition.

Villagers' complaints about the noise and traffic levels coming from the temple led Hertsmere Borough Council to introduce an enforcement notice in 1981 banning religious festivals at the rural site.

After years of legal wrangling, the enforcement notice banning festivals and public worship finally came into effect yesterday.

'It is now criminal for any of these people to come to the shrine they have been worshipping in for 21 years,' Temple President Akhanadadhi das said.

But Philip Copland, leader of Conservative-controlled Hertsmere council, said no action would be taken against anyone breaking the ban until after a planning application relating to an access road bypassing the village, put forward by the Krishna movement, was considered.

'Although we are legally entitled to prosecute anyone publicly worshipping at the temple from Wednesday, we shall for the moment simply be monitoring the situation,' he said.

Keith Vaz, Labour MP for Leicester East, lent his support to the demonstration yesterday by declaring he was joining hunger strikers by going on a 24-hour fast.

'I don't think I can do it for any longer because I'm not very experienced at that sort of thing,' he said.

For the 600,000 Hindus in this country there are just 90 temples for them to worship in.

The issue has now been referred to the European Commission for Human Rights, which is expected to make a response later this month.

(Photograph omitted)

Leading article, page 21

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
Larry David and Rosie Perez in ‘Fish in the Dark’
theatreReview: Had Fish in the Dark been penned by a civilian it would have barely got a reading, let alone £10m advance sales
News
Details of the self-cleaning coating were published last night in the journal Science
science
News
Approved Food sell products past their sell-by dates at discounted prices
i100
News
Life-changing: Simone de Beauvoir in 1947, two years before she wrote 'The Second Sex', credited as the starting point of second wave feminism
peopleHer seminal feminist polemic, The Second Sex, has been published in short-form to mark International Women's Day
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Assistant / Credit Controller

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are an award-winning digit...

Ashdown Group: Senior VMware Platform Engineer - VMware / SAN / Tier3 DC

£45000 - £55000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior VMware Platform En...

Recruitment Genius: Purchasing Assistant

£10000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A distributor of specialist ele...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Ledger Assistant

£17000 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A distributor of specialist ele...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable