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Bath Spa University hosts ISKCON conference

October 27, 2016

This spring BSU had the honour of holding an academic conference to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the International Society of Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON).

ISKCON follows Hare Krishna, a new religious movement that started in 1966 in the United States before coming to the United Kingdom and spreading across the globe. It has long collaborated with different cultures and societies including John Lennon in the 1960s.

The conference on 23 April included a range of academic talks and discussions from speakers such as Professor Kim Knott of Lancaster University, who spoke about the importance of ISKCON’s history. ‘ISKCON worked tirelessly to achieve what it has and has collaborated with all types of cultures and people,’ Knott stated. Hare Krishna was founded by AC Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupāda and since its establishment has provided over one million meals a day in more than 75 countries. ISKCON has set up countless education programmes and has become a keen promoter of the arts.

© Bethany Preston

Other conference speakers included Professor Dermot Killingley, a senior associate researcher at the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies, and Rasamandala Das, who works with ISKCON and runs its educational programmes. BSU was one of three institutions to hold these academic conferences, the others being Harvard and Washington DC. The BSU event was organised by Catherine Robinson, Senior Lecturer in the Study of Religions, Philosophies and Ethics. At the university, ISKCON is taught as part of Hinduism and also as part of new religious movements.

As well as the discussions, the day showcased traditional dancing from Sheetal – who joined the Hare Krishna movement about thirteen years ago – and a play entitled The Boatman and the Scholar. It brought a new atmosphere to BSU’s Commons building; as part of its programme ISKCON provided meals for the guests and the atrium was filled with the aromas of the vegetarian cuisine.

The event ended with a panel discussion about ISKCON and questions from the audience. Ekta Mahajan – an organiser for the day and second-year Creative Media Practice student – presented a shawl to His Grace, Vraja Bihari das Brahmacari, as a gift from BSU, alongside garlands of flowers made by the university students.

Mahajan said:

‘It was an extreme honour to present this shawl. I’m extremely proud and joyful to see different cultures working together in this way.’

Support Technician (Film & TV) Tricia Hastings who was the media facilitator for the day said: ‘Students from various courses played a major role in participating and documenting the ISKCON event. It was clear to see their collaboration, enthusiasm and practical filmmaking skills shine throughout the whole event.’

Beth Preston – a first-year Nutrition student – took photographs alongside the social media team. The event allowed her to gain new experience in media. She felt it was a great opportunity and said: ‘The whole day was very inspiring. The atmosphere at the ISKCON event was incredible. Everyone had an a amazing day – it was uplifting.’

Hastings organised a team of students from courses ranging from Creative Media Practice to Religion, Philosophy and Ethics to Nutrition and even Education who worked together wearing tailored orange kurta from India. The event provided a high level of collaboration, not only between students providing the media coverage, but also cultural collaboration and the collaboration between BSU and ISKCON.

© Marianna Anthi

© Marianna Anthi

A huge thank you to everyone involved in this memorable day, which brought Indian traditions to BSU and made for an amazing 50th anniversary celebration.

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