A brief look at the worldwide activities of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness
Courts Rule In Favor Of Krishna
Two recent court decisions confirming ISKCON’s right to conduct its public programs have increased the scope of the Society’s activities. In California, Los Angeles County Fair officials failed in their attempt to bar devotees from the Pomona fairgrounds. Pomona City Court Judge Howard D. McClain ruled that ISKCON members have a legal right to perform sankirtana (chanting Hare Krishna, dancing and distributing literature) at the fair. After seeing pictures of the wide streets at the site, the judge declared that the thirty devotees going to the fair would not inhibit the flow of the 1.5 million visitors expected, as officials had contended.
In Denver, Colorado, another important victory was won when U.S. District Court Judge Fred M. Winner ruled that city ordinances restricting sankirtana at Stapleton International Airport were unconstitutional. His decision specifically confirmed the legality of “such activities as chanting, dancing, disseminating literature, or wearing the common attire of their sect.” The victory marks a successful culmination of a three-year battle between Denver ISKCON and the Denver City Council, which had issued two ordinances prohibiting the Society’s activities at the airport.
These recent victories highlight a growing legal consensus supporting the public programs of the Krishna consciousness movement. Since the late 1960’s, ISKCON has won dozens of court contests in cities around the world, confirming the right to conduct sankirtana on city streets and parks.
New York ISKCON Moves to Manhattan
A long-awaited move across the East River is taking Lord Krishna’s New York devotees from two Brooklyn Heights brownstones to a twelve-story temple near Columbus Circle in Manhattan. The center at 340 West Fifty-fifth Street has 300 rooms (including offices), an exhibition hall, a restaurant, and a 250-seat theater. On one floor is a magnificent temple room with a beautiful altar of marble and onyx.
Steady growth over the past nine years has gradually taken the New York center, ISKCON’s first, from a one-room storefront on the Lower East Side to this location within walking distance of Broadway, Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, and Fifth Avenue.
Public relations director Pancaratna dasa said, “Being located in the communications hub of the world is a great advantage for broadcasting the Lord’s message more effectively.” Official opening day is set for Sunday, November 9 (the festival of Govardhana Puja.)
Janmastami Celebration Draws Thousands
Over fourteen thousand devotees of Krishna, many from London’s large Indian community, gathered at Bhaktivedanta Manor to celebrate the Lord’s birthday, Janmastami. The manor, ISKCON’s British headquarters, is a country estate located in the village of Letchmore Heath, a tiny London suburb.
Local residents were apprehensive at the prospect of such a huge influx of people, and the town’s small police force braced itself the day before the August weekend festival. But their fears proved unfounded. Indeed, the Watford Observer described the celebration as a “model of peacefulness.”
A colorful wedding, complete with a Vedic fire ceremony, began the two-day program, which continued with movies, slide shows, an art show and lavish vegetarian feasting. The forty devotees who live at the manor also staged an elaborate play depicting a pastime of Lord Krishna and led the guests in chanting the Lord’s holy names.
The story of the celebration was carried in England’s leading newspapers, the London Times and the London Telegraph, both of which ran pictures of the wedding ceremony. Also on hand to cover the event were the Evening Echo, the Watford Observer and the District Post.