Our summer school trips have been taking place well before this week, and last Thursday 29 June, Year 10 Religious Studies GCSE students enjoyed an educational day at Bhaktivedanta Manor in Watford.
A Hindu temple, Education Centre and Goshalla (cow sanctuary), the spiritual sanctuary was established 50 years ago when Dhananjaya Das, a Hare Krishna devotee saw that the property was for sale and encouraged George Harrison (from the Beatles) to buy it for ISKCON. In February 1973, the purchase was completed and the devotees moved in, after which it was renamed Bhaktivedanta Manor in honour of A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.
Students started the morning with a session studying religious artefacts, consolidating their classroom studies of worship in Hinduism. Volunteers got the opportunity to dress up as the Trimurti (the trinity of supreme divinity) while the rest of us took photos, and learnt more about the symbolic objects they hold in their many hands. As the sun came out we explored the gardens and cow sanctuary where we fed the cows carrots and saw the kitchen where they make the delicious paneer cheese from the cows milk that is freshly collected by hand.
We then donned traditional saris and joined the daily worshippers to observe their midday darshan which involved joyous drumming, singing and clapping. Luckily for us, this happens 7 times a day – I don’t think we would have made the 4.30am slot! We ended our visit with a delicious bottomless lunch of paneer curry, chips and bread. Students also had time to squeeze in some retail therapy in the gift shop where cow themed hair scrunchies seemed to be the popular choice.
Experiences like this are so valuable in our subject as they show our students how Hinduism is such a vibrant faith which gives meaning to the life of the individual believer and religious community.