Beds, Herts & Bucks

Thousands arrive at Janmashtami Festival near Watford

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionThe BBC's Robert Pigott reports from the kitchen where curry is being prepared

More than 60,000 people have attended the first day of a two-day Hindu festival in Hertfordshire to celebrate the birth of Krishna, organisers said.

Organisers of the Janmashtami Festival, being staged near Watford, say it is one of the largest festivals of its kind outside of India.

The festival at Bhaktivedanta Manor is organised by 1,500 volunteers and attracts many people of other faiths.

It includes dancing, music and drama, as well as free vegetarian food.

One of the leading figures in world Hinduism, His Holiness Swami Radhanath, who is at the festival, said he hoped it would promote religious understanding and tolerance.

'Festival of peace'

He said: "Jesus taught to love God with all your heart, mind and soul is the first great commandment, and that's what all great spiritual teachers and great incarnations all teach.

"And rather than fighting over sectarian views, if we understand the essence of our own religion we'll understand that essence within all religion.

"And there will be respect and appreciation and love for each other.

"That's the greatest need in this world."

The festival has also seen the launch of the not-for-profit Ahimsa Dairy Foundation, which sells milk from cows who will be retired when their milking days are over.

In the Hindu faith, Krishna was the guardian of cows.

Hundreds of children dressed up like the religious figure by painting their faces blue, carrying flutes and wearing peacock feathers in their hair.

Srutidharma Das, president of the Bhaktivedanta Manor Temple, said: "This is a festival of peace in what are troubled times.

"Krishna protected cows as sacred animals and we are delighted to be celebrating the cow at this year's festival.

"Also each year we're seeing more and more people of other faiths or none at all coming to enjoy the whole cultural and aesthetic atmosphere.

"They also appreciate the many stalls, the cuisine and vegetarian dishes."

The Bhaktivedanta Manor at Aldenham was donated to the Hare Krishna movement by George Harrison in 1973.

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites