In June, Year 10 Religious Studies GCSE students enjoyed a wonderful day at Bhaktivedanta Manor, a Hindu temple, education centre and Goshalla (cow sanctuary). We had a great morning working with Alison who introduced us to some ‘mystery artefacts’ some of which we had come across before, like flower garlands, and others which we had no idea about, like chalk, used to create a tilak (a mark worn on the forehead traditionally to indicate caste, status, or denomination).
Next, we enjoyed a tour around the grounds finding various quotes from scripture at small stops in the woods. It was great to get the chance to interpret scripture and hear how it is understood by ISCKON followers (followers of Krishna/Vaishnavas). We also saw the beautiful garden dedicated to George Harrison, a member of the Beatles who sold the estate to ISKCON (International Society of Krishna Consciousness) for £1! A real highlight in the grounds was being able to feed the cows in the Goshalla and ride on an ox-driven cart.
We really enjoyed trying on saris and wore these down to the shrine room where we were able to observe aarti (light ceremony) and puja (worship) being performed. We were particularly impressed with the fun and loving form of devotion devotees expressed known as ‘bhakti’ since the singing and dancing was loud and engaging. Seeing the shrine took our breath away – it really was beautiful, and the smell of incense really lifted our spirits.
Lunch was delicious! A paneer curry with peas, rice, chips and a puri (a small, round piece of bread made of unleavened wheat flour, deep-fried) and we enjoyed purchasing a few items from the gift shop including jewellery and reading materials.
To conclude the day, we had our face or hands painted with traditional shapes in nature, including fire, lightning bolts and flowers. It was lovely to hear a kirtan (hymn) being sung live with drums before we had to depart for the coach.
This really was a trip to bring our textbook studies to life and we all had a wonderful time.