Prem Rawat's Palace Of Peace
The Palace of Peace, previously the Odeon Cinema, 72 Grove Vale, East Dulwich, London, S.E.22, became the grandiosely title Palace Of Peace for a few brief years in the mid-1970's. It was no longer needed nor affordable after the collapse of Divine Light Mission in 1976 and was on the market by the new year advertised in The Times of London. At one time it was known as London House.
There were times when even the Lord of the Universe graced its stage to deliver his deathless words. With youthful impetuosity and aided and abetted by the crazy Indian Mahatma Ashokanand the English premies raced ahead creating a Palace of Peace on a foundation of undeliverable hopes and dreams. A utopian and wholly false article was written about it in the Divine Light Mission Australia Golden Age magazine
The Palace of Peace is the centre of a hive of activity in the East Dulwich area of London. It is a reconditioned cinema which only a few months ago needed chain gangs working with buckets under the holes in the roof, during the nightly Satsang meetings. Now it is carpeted, gleaming white, has a new stage design featuring a picture of Guru Maharaj Ji which ??? a swan, and is to have heating and a closed-circuit video system installed. All the work is done by devotees of Guru Maharaj Ji, working through Divine United Organisation, a company run for the benefit of Divine Light Mission.
The Palace is the nightly meeting place for all premies in London. They come between 7.30 and ten o'clock though it usually stretches to eleven), to hear satsang, interspersed with devotional music from the band, which is about twelve strong, most of the members having played with Blue Aquarius. Somewhere around nine o'clock, one, two or three Mahatmas come on to the stage, and give Satsang, explaining lucidly just what Divine Light Mission is all about and why Guru Maharaj Ji's Knowledge is so important today. Mahatma Ashokanand who is Manager of DLM in the U.K. and Mahatma Ved Praktanand who always tells stories to illustrate his satsang are permanent residents of the Palace of Peace ashram, and are at the meetings every night. After the Mahatmas' Satsang, Arti, a traditional devotional song, is sung, sometimes accompanied by the entire band, or else by a quiet guitar. Up to a thousand people attend, some of whom are from France, Switzerland, Ireland, and other European countries, hoping either to receive Knowledge or to see Maharaj Ji or one of his family. The premie visitors find accommodation in the nearby households.
The Palace contains, as well as the hall and balcony (capacity about 3,000), and the DLM and DUO offices, a nursery for children whose parents are either attending Satsang or engaged in service, a refreshment bar serving cheap vegetarian meals (cooked on the premises) between 10 am and 3 pm, and also evening meals from 6 pm. There is also the eating area, which used as an international Satsang Room for visitors, a Knowledge Room, where Knowledge is revealed to about twenty at a time, usually twice a week; a publications stand in the entrance foyer selling the Mission's publications, the Divine Times newspaper and Divine Light magazine, and pictures of Guru Maharaj Ji; the DUO information desk; the Medical Service room; a Tender Loving Care bench, stocking products of TLC (another DUO activity), incense, jewellery, and a herbal tonic called "Nature's Grace", made in Prem Nagar ashram by Mahatmas.
The estimates of how many premies there are in England range from 7,000 to 20,000. Certainly there are several thousands of active premies: those who are practising and propagating Guru Maharaj Ji's Knowledge. However, what confuses the estimates is the number (quite a large proportion) of people who, although they have received Knowledge of the Soul, often two or three years ago, are not currently practising it, or who are meditating, but do not attend many of the DLM meetings or activities. Also, the number of premies is rising steadily, both from regular Knowledge Sessions at the Palace, and from those held in provincial ashrams by touring Mahatmas (less frequently). The majority of devotees are (as in Australia) the "disillusioned younger generation" who have been searching for truth through drugs, and are mainly in their teens and twenties.
Within 2 years the bubble had burst and the utopian dreams faded into forgotten embarrassments.
Back in the 1930's they played a particularly prophetic double-header at the Odeon, "Elephant Boy" and The Charge of "The Light Brigade". We all know what happened to the Light Brigade, led by idiot Lords and blindly following orders and wasting their lives.