THOUSANDS of people will join hands in a chain of peace at the stroke of midnight on Wednesday (August 16) They will pray for victims of war and chant a peace mantra at the organisers say will be the largest Hindu gathering in Britain.

The two-day annual Janmastami festival at the Bhaktivedanta Manor Hindu temple in Letchmore Heath, near Watford, commemorates the 5,000th anniversary of the birth of Lord Krishna.

The manor is the headquarters of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (Iskon) which is connected to the I-Foundation, the charity planning the UK's first state-funded school in Harrow.

His Grace Gauri Dasa, president of Bhaktivedanta Manor, said: "As the world watches the violence in the Middle East, we want to remind everyone of the simple message of Love at this Krishna Janmastami Festival.

"The prayer for peace and the human chain will express this in a powerful way to help repair the global bonds of trust and love that have been strained this year."

Bhaktivedanta Manor is one of the largest Hindu Temples in Europe and preparations for Janmastami began over six months ago, supported by more than 1,300 volunteers.

A highlight of this year's event will be a specially constructed walkway with a flowered pergola through spiritual gardens.

Using the manor's forest and lake as a backdrop, the story of Lord Krishna's birth will be depicted by way of large dioramas.

The festival draws pilgrims from across the UK as well as MPs, diplomats, business leaders, and representatives of other faiths.

The organisers said: "The festival provides a colourful taste of mystic India with live stage shows, colourful costumes, enchanting music, mediation and exotic food set in a picturesque setting with a lake and an ancient forest."