Hare Krishna community 'thriving' in Norwich
A new Hare Krishna community in Norfolk is rapidly gaining members to its weekly programme of worship.
Sunday meetings in Norwich are regularly bringing in 30 attendees and their Hidden Glories of India festival in January attracted 130 people.
Local interest in the eastern faith has blossomed since two female Latvian devotees came to the city from Watford.
"People in Norwich are being very kind," said community co-founder Chandra Mohini.
Chandra and Madhuera Gaurangi first came to Norwich in 2010 after being sent by the International Society of Hare Krishna Consciousness to establish a mission in the county.
Since then, people from Norfolk have been very receptive to Hare Krishna, with individuals from all races and backgrounds being attracted to its philosophy and lifestyle.
"Mums and dads, artists and musicians, the homeless, professionals and people who are interested in finding out about an alternative lifestyle are finding out about us," said Madhuera Gaurangi.
"Perhaps they are attracted by seeking a self-realisation, a simpler lifestyle, like the idea of vegetarianism and living in harmony with the environment, and want some space and connection in their busy lives," she added.
Community meetings, which take place every week at Friends Meeting House in Upper Goat Lane, include the chanting of holy mantras, reading sessions from the holy book, meditation and a vegetarian feast of blessed food.
Some even have visiting monks who play music to accompany the chanting, with the harmonium, hand cymbals and a mrdanga - the traditional holy drum - all providing the mantras' rhythms.
Chandra and Madhuera joined the Hare Krishna movement some years before they moved to England.
For Chandra, the journey to find her faith began after studying in India and Bangladesh, before she joined the International Hare Krishna community in the UK.
The pair's former bases in Britain include Bhaktivedanta Manor in Hertfordshire, where the manor and land was donated to the local Hare Krishna followers by late Beatle George Harrison.
Latvians are not new to the faith and many Bulgarians, alongside white British, Arabs and Asians, are congregating in their droves to be part of the Norfolk Hare Krishna community.
"Many people from eastern Europe have been drawn to Hare Krishna in recent years," said Chandra.
Food For All
"Under Soviet rule religion was discouraged and when the bloc collapsed there was a thirst for finding spiritual connections.
"Hare Krishna flourished and grew massively in the Ukraine and Bulgaria after the collapse."
The next venture the pair are keen to try out in Norwich is to create a local version of London's thriving Food For All campaign.
In the capital it currently delivers food to thousands of homeless people and those in need.
The food is donated by supermarkets and is cooked by the community to provide hot dishes at a variety of locations.
"It is an ancient philosophy from India that within nine miles of a temple no-one should go hungry," said Madhuera.
Businesses in Norwich are already showing their support for the cause and Madhuera is confident that the county's support of Hare Krishna will continue to grow for a long time.
"Market stalls are giving us flowers for our temple. Vegetable stalls and a shop in the Royal Arcade are both donating food that we can use for preparing the feasts at our Sunday meetings," she said.
"On Christmas Day we handed out 500 portions of halva [sweets] in the streets of Norwich. People were very surprised that we were giving away food for free."