Established in 1973, Bhaktivedanta Manor has truly developed into a spiritual hub like no other. It is organized, structured, and methodologically presented in such a way that it leaves a lasting impression on visitors all year round. Śrīla Prabhupāda’s presence is felt in every corner of the Bhaktivedanta Manor grounds; from the temple room to the Tulsi house, from George Harrison’s memorial garden to the beautiful lake, and from the Haveli to New Gokul Farm, our beacon cow sanctuary!
Caring for cows has been an integral part of Bhaktivedanta Manor’s history and the first cows were brought onsite soon after the estate was acquired by the devotees with the financial help of the late Beatle, George Harrison. Over time, the cow sanctuary facilities grew and in 2010, HH Bhakti Charu Swami arrived to open the brand-new goshala complex dedicated to taking the Manor’s cow protection program to a whole new level. The facilities feature modern barns, a cow hospital, and a milking room to draw ahimsa milk from our happy cows! A special feature of the new complex is the integrated classrooms, a small bakery kitchen and a nursery pre-school!
Currently we are caring for a herd size of 64 and our primary breed is the hardy Meuse Rhine Issel. Our cows produce nourishing milk which is used to make delicious offerings for our residing deities, the ever-beautiful Sri Radha Gokulananda, the merciful Sri Sita Rama Lakshman Hanuman, and of course our dearest Sri Gaura Nitai! We have two mating bulls and any males born into our family are employed for draught work to help us cultivate the land to grow our own vegetables!
New Gokul Farm is managed by a small team of permanent staff as well as a whole host of enthusiastic volunteers. Together, a real sense of service to the herd can be seen as everyone is collectively committed to ensuring their wellbeing and happiness is maintained. The team milk the cows, feed them, and wash them regularly. People also eagerly come to help on our small agricultural plot which is connected to the cow pasturing land, and the produce is sold to visitors as well as cooked for our prasadam distribution programs. During this COVID-19 pandemic we’ve been growing tomatoes, aubergine, courgettes, spinach, carrots, beetroot and pumpkin! We really are extremely grateful for the time and energy our volunteers direct towards New Gokul Farm to make it what it is!
2010 was a monumental time for us as the new sanctuary facilities gave us a platform to practically display to the world the meaning of Cow Protection. Now, in 2020, we are taking our Cow Protection program to the next level which focuses is education and preaching. It began with social media to raise awareness of New Gokul Farm as well as Śrīla Prabhupāda’s vision for cows within ISKCON. Now as our social media platforms have been established and we have a consistently growing following, we are planning to teach a short introductory course on the topic of Cow Protection through our education department called School of Bhakti! We hope this becomes a catalyst for further cow related courses being established in our educational curriculum. It really is exciting times!
The ultimate and ideal goal of our cow protection preaching efforts must be to inspire people to take up the responsibility of caring for cows themselves. As the grips of Kaliyuga strengthen, there is an immediate need for devotees to take up this common Vaisnava duty of caring for cows and cultivating the land to produce crop. Śrīla Prabhupāda’s cow protection vision and the teachings of the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam regarding Varṇāśrama is not something to just think of as a utopian but unrealistic way of life. We must see it as sublime and something to actively strive towards. We often keep cow figurines as altar paraphernalia and we heartwarmingly think of the Lord’s sweet pastimes in Vṛndāvana with His cows. This remembrance of Lord Kṛṣṇa is integral for our spiritual development and now is the time to transform this remembrance into action for the descendants of Surabhi.
We learn that the killing of cows is hugely detrimental to the peaceful progression of society and the karmic reactions from such a gross activity is immense. Through reading scriptures such as the Bhagavad-Gītā and Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, we know cows need to be protected and cared for if society is to be spiritually uplifted. Bhaktivedanta Manor stands strong in this purpose! We hope that our preaching efforts will inspire others to give cow protection a serious thought as a complete occupation or as an integrated, spiritually motivated pastime.
Our wider congregation is huge, ever growing, and we have supporters and well-wishers all over the UK and beyond. We are in an extremely blessed situation! Our close proximity to the nearby towns and the city of London has certainly got its benefits for preaching purposes however we have learned one thing; the majority of us have been conditioned to accept a fast-paced city life as opposed to an agrarian one. It has become clear to Bhaktivedanta Manor that alongside structured education on the topic of cow protection, devotees leading more self-sufficient lifestyles will be an important factor in the development of this essential cow-caring part of our dharma. The idea is that with proper knowledge, land and community support, devotee families can lead more self-sufficient lifestyles where some fruits and vegetables can be produced, and a cow or two can live peacefully and in harmony with the family. Of course, if it is not feasible to make such changes in our lives, we must still honour our duty of cow protection therefore we encourage the support of already existing cow protection initiatives, including our New Gokul Farm!
Śrīla Prabhupāda regularly enquired about the wellbeing of the cows at Bhaktivedanta Manor and mentioned His desire to have 100 cows onsite. We are 36 short of that target but with no neighboring land available to purchase currently, a new solution may need to be considered. That, alongside the GBC’s resolution for more ahimsa milk may mean a New Gokul Farm sister facility could be the answer and talks are ongoing regarding this idea. Again, it is exciting times here at Bhaktivedanta Manor!
Ultimately our goal is to lead by example with regards to Cow Protection in our movement and beyond, and for us to do this we must deeply study the scriptures such Bhagavad-gītā and Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam and read over everything Śrīla Prabhupāda has said about the topic. It is everyone’s duty to protect cows, and Bhaktivedanta Manor’s congregation folds their hands in appreciation and in honour for everyone in this world who is working to see Śrīla Prabhupāda’s vision for cow care and sustainable farm communities manifest. Hare Krishna!