News and Events
On 17 December 2007, Michael Whitty, official world record adjudicator and member of the management committee of Guinness World Records travelled especially to India to present two new world records to His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj, spiritual leader of BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha, an international socio-spiritual organisation affiliated with the United Nations.
The Guinness World Records Book is the biggest selling copyright book in history, with more than 100 million books sold around the world in more than 25 languages. This is the first time, though, that a senior member of the Guinness World Records management committee has personally travelled to India to present a World Record certificate. The presentation came on the occasion of His Holiness’ 87th birthday being celebrated as the culmination of the four-day BAPS Centenary Celebrations in Ahmedabad, Gujarat.
The following world records were presented by Michael Whitty to His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj:
Most Hindu Mandirs Consecrated by a Single Person
His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj, internationally revered spiritual leader and head of the BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha, has created and consecrated, in accordance with Hindu rituals, a world record 713 mandirs (temples) in five continents between April 1971 and November 2007. Amongst these, the majestic, ornately hand-carved Swaminarayan Akshardham in New Delhi stands apart as the largest temple in the world.
World’s Largest Comprehensive Hindu Temple
BAPS Swaminarayan Akshardham in New Delhi, India, is the world’s largest comprehensive Hindu temple. It measures 356 ft. long, 316 ft. wide and 141 ft. high, covering an area of 86,342 sq. ft. The grand, ancient-style, ornately hand-carved stone temple has been built without structural steel within five years by 11,000 artisans and volunteers. His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj, revered spiritual leader of BAPS, consecrated the temple on 6 November 2005.
His Holiness is also the creator and inspirer of the internationally-acclaimed BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in Neasden, London, which recently won the Government’s “UK Pride of Place Award” in an online nationwide poll.
Click here for the adjudicator’s own report on the official Guinness World Records’ site.
Disclaimer: BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.
Time Out, the highly respected international publisher of magazines, websites and city guide books, has announced the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in Neasden among its “Seven Wonders of London”.
With forty years’ experience in providing up-to-date, insider information about the world’s most exciting cities – over 120 in total – journalists from Time Out recently set about on an “epic series” celebrating London’s Seven Wonders. They wanted to “pay tribute to” what they considered to be “the capital’s seven most iconic buildings and landmarks”.
With London being strewn with marvels such as the Tower of London, the Houses of Parliament, the Tate Modern Art Gallery, and the London Eye, the journalists admitted they had their work cut out for them. Eventually, they arrived at the choice seven. They are, in no particular order:
- St Pancras International
- The Hoover Building
- Kew Gardens
- The Old Royal Naval College
- The Natural History Museum
- BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir
- The National Theatre
The announcement comes just days after the Mandir was awarded the ‘UK Pride of Place’ Award by Government authorities after a month-long nationwide online poll.
In writing about the Mandir, Jessica Cargill Thompson from Time Out London begins by calling it “Neasden’s answer to the Taj Mahal”.
“It’s the sort of undertaking that requires faith, or one hell of a lot of chutzpah,” she adds. “Build the largest Hindu temple outside India, in the finest materials, using master craftsmen with ancient skills rarely found outside the diaspora. Ask unpaid, untrained members of the community to give up their time to work on the site. Raise more than £10 million to finance it, with no government aid. Finish within three years. And do it all in Neasden.”
She compares this feat to building the great Pyramid of Giza which took 100,000 workers 20 years to assemble its 2.3 million stones. “But the Swaminarayan Hindu Temple can stand shoulder to shoulder with it.”
Describing the sheer beauty of the Mandir, Thompson writes: “Inside, the mandir is a space of almost blinding whiteness and purity. Every vertical surface is carved with stories from the scriptures (veda) and lacy motifs. A forest of pillars fills the floor and above them soars the central dome, stepping up in wedding-cake tiers towards the two-and-a-half tonne keystone which drips downwards like a glorious stone chandelier. Soft lighting brings out the milkiness of the marble and the whole interior exalts in the intimate devotion that has gone into carving each tiny filigree. It is a labour of love and a work of art.”
The Time Out team certainly did their homework. The article contains a detailed account of how the Mandir was built, even retracing the history of BAPS from “when the current Swamiji proclaimed his vision in 1972,… that ‘the stones will inspire divinity in people.’”
“The finished building, inaugurated on schedule in 1995,” she continues, “caused a sensation. Its clean white pinnacles and domes stood proud above the residential streets of NW10. It was unlike anything London had seen before.”
Thompson and her colleagues visited the Mandir on a rigorous research tour, taking note of all the other features of the complex – including the Haveli, ‘Understanding Hinduism’ exhibition, ‘Shayona’ restaurant, and Swaminarayan School – and even stayed to participate in one of the daily rituals.
Briefly casting aside her own “deep-seated scepticism”, the author accepts the Mandir is not merely a beautiful building, but an innately spiritual one. She shares a profound experience from her tour when visiting the upper sanctum where the sacred images are enshrined. “It is impossible to stand inside here without feeling spiritually moved and inwardly contemplative.”
Thompson concludes: “The story of the Neasden mandir could have come from scripture, illustrating the triumph of the human spirit. It is humbling and inspiring that a group of ordinary Londoners could join forces and – using only their faith, hard work and business nous – pull together the money, land, materials and skills to build something so spectacular.”
Excerpts from article by Jessica Cargill Thompson, Time Out London. External photography by Belinda Lawley, Time Out London.
All other photographs courtesy of BAPS, UK.
Disclaimer: BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.
On Tuesday 4 December 2007, the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in London was awarded the ‘UK Pride of Place’ award by Government authorities after a month-long national online poll.
The ‘Pride of Place’ poll was a part of the Government’s ‘Connect to Your Council’ initiative, which aims to encourage citizens to access their local authority services online. After weeks of voting, the Mandir registered the largest number of votes across the country as well as in London, with an overwhelming 81% of votes from the London Borough of Brent. This means the Mandir was voted as the place that generates the greatest pride amongst residents.
This has come as a humbling honour for the Mandir, to add to its catalogue of other awards and accolades.
Upon receiving the award, a spokesperson for the Mandir shared: “When His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj, the spiritual leader who inspired the Mandir, consecrated it in August 1995, he envisaged it as not only a place of worship for Hindus, but as a place of learning, spirituality and peace for all people. This award is a tribute to all the residents of this wonderful borough.”
Communities Minister Parmjit Dhanda said that he was “delighted” that the Mandir had won the nationwide poll. “It is an inspiring building of which the whole country can be proud,” he commented.
Councillor Paul Lorber, Leader of Brent Council, expressed his delight by adding: “The Swaminarayan Temple is an amazing Brent landmark that fully deserves the recognition of topping the Pride of Place poll. It has been described as the ‘eighth wonder of the world’ and attracts visitors from all over the world. It is a building that the whole borough can rightly be proud of. In addition to the magnificent building, visitors to the Temple will also receive a warm welcome from the hundreds of volunteers who give up their time to make the Temple a success.”
Click here to read the official Government announcement of the award. Other details of the poll can be found here.
Disclaimer: BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha is not responsible for the content of external websites.
Following the visit of Their Royal Highnesses The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall to celebrate the Hindu festival of Diwali on Friday 9 November 2007, the morning of Saturday 10 November 2007 heralded the start of the Hindu New Year. Devotees flocked to the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in London from early morning to celebrate this auspicious day.
Vedic prayers for peace and well-being were held inside the assembly hall. The Annakut – the ceremonial offering of food to the deities – followed at midday. A breathtaking variety of over 1,200 dishes were offered to the deities. The head sadhu of the Mandir, Yogvivek Swami, then conveyed the prayers and good wishes of His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj.
Throughout the day, a continual stream of devotees and visitors observed the majestic arrangement of sweets, pickles, salads, fruit drinks and various other items exquisitely prepared by the devotees.
Their Royal Highnesses had visited the Mandir on the afternoon of Friday 9 November 2007 – the auspicious Hindu day of Diwali – and participated in various traditional ceremonies including food crafting. Their handiwork was also exhibited on Saturday in front of the deities. Prince Charles had spoken highly of the Diwali and Annakut festival at BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in London declaring it “by far the most magnificent in all of Britain.”
Annakut celebrations also took place at all major BAPS centres in the UK and Europe.
His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales, accompanied by Her Royal Highness Duchess of Cornwall, visited BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in Neasden, London, on the afternoon of Friday 9 November 2007 – the auspicious Hindu day of Diwali.
Their Royal Highnesses arrived shortly after 3.30pm and were introduced to several prominent Members of Parliament, local councillors and leaders: Cllr. Harshad Patel – Mayor of Brent, Cllr. Paul Lorber – Leader of Brent Council, Dawn Butler – MP for Brent South, Barry Gardiner – MP for Brent North, Sarah Teather – MP for Brent East, Cllr. Bob Blackman and Cllr. Ann John. The head sadhu of the Mandir, Yogvivek Swami, greeted The Prince in the traditional Indian manner with a chandlo, nada chhadi and a garland. Senior female members of the Women’s Wing simultaneously welcomed The Duchess in the same traditional manner.
The Royal couple then proceeded to the sanctum sanctorum where they offered flower petals at the central shrine. Both spent several minutes absorbing the peace and beautiful intricate architecture of the Mandir. Their Royal Highnesses then together performed abhishek of Shri Nilkanth Varni, after which they were escorted to the Haveli foyer to view the Haveli architecture.
After meeting BAPS volunteers who were busy preparing food and decorations for the following day’s Annakut festival, Their Royal Highnesses made their way into the Haveli Prayer Hall where they were greeted with rapturous applause accompanied by musical fanfare and the waving of flags.
As they progressed inside the Haveli, the Prince and the Duchess each lighted a divo to commemorate their presence on this day of Diwali, the Hindu festival of light. Then, after being garlanded, the Prince and Duchess participated in a symbolic ‘Chopda Pujan’ ceremony while BAPS children chanted Vedic prayers. They then watched an enthralling Diwali dance.
Yogvivek Swami conveyed the prayers and good wishes of His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj in the welcome address, after which His Royal Highness addressed the assembly and spoke of his “great privilege” of visiting the temple on this “tremendously auspicious occasion of Diwali… the most wonderful festival of light.” He specifically thanked BAPS volunteers for their “overwhelming warmth” on his two previous visits to the Mandir in 1996 and in 2001, and felt especially touched on being allowed to participate in the sacred rituals this time, even joking about bringing his own account books to the Mandir so that they, too, could be blessed.
The Prince then went on to recollect fond memories of when he received His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj at St James’ Palace back in 1997, exactly ten years to the day. He recalled being “touched by [His Holiness’] humility and tremendous compassion for all living beings.”
He repeatedly congratulated the “peace-loving and values-based Hindu community” in the UK and thanked them for their “huge contribution to the fabric… of our society.” He also shared his personal belief that the local Hindu community is “one of the most positive forces which help to bind the country together.”
His Royal Highness ended by wishing everyone a “Shubh Deepawali… and every possible success” in the year to come.
Following the presentation of mementos, Their Royal Highnesses bid farewell to the assembly before departing from the Mandir at 5.05pm.
The Diwali celebrations at the Mandir continued into the evening with hundreds of businessmen and women participating in the Chopda Pujan ceremony. At 9pm, thousands of visitors, including members of the local community, gathered to witness the grand finale – a spectacular display of professional fireworks. Late into the night, volunteers continued preparations for the following day’s world-renowned Annakut offering to celebrate the Hindu New Year.
Dr A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, the 12th President of India, visited BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, Neasden, on Sunday 21 October 2007. The pioneering rocket scientist and former President arrived shortly after 7.00pm and was greeted at the ceremonial gates by Yogvivek Swami, Head Sadhu of the Mandir, and the Trustees of BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha, UK.
Dr Kalam was welcomed in the traditional Hindu manner. Yogvivek Swami applied a chandlo to his forehead and tied a nada-chhadhi on his right wrist as young BAPS children chanted Vedic prayers. They then proceeded up the Mandir steps to the inner sanctum.
Inside the Mandir, Dr Kalam paid respects to the sacred images by offering flowers, after which Yogvivek Swami explained the spirit of volunteerism of the Mandir and the significance of the intricate carvings. Dr Kalam then walked through the ‘Understanding Hinduism’ exhibition. Yogvivek Swami also discussed the significance of the sacred image of Nilkanth Varni, where Dr Kalam joined him in offering prayers and abhishek.
From there, the party proceeded to the Haveli. After viewing the beautiful wooden carvings, Dr Kalam entered the main Prayer Hall and was welcomed with a standing ovation by the thousands who had gathered. They also greeted him by waving Indian and BAPS flags.
After garlanding the former President, Yogvivek Swami officially introduced Dr Kalam to the assembly. A presentation of Dr Kalam’s association and memories with BAPS followed shortly thereafter.
In his address, Dr Kalam expressed his honour to visit this “temple of beauty” created with the inspiration of Pramukh Swami Maharaj and the dedication of volunteers, young and old. He spoke of the beautiful environment associated with the Mandir, where the mind is enriched and becomes creative. “Every minute of my visit here has filled me with happiness,” he shared. “I offer my thanks for the opportunity to visit this temple, where one can mix spirituality with social service.”
Dr Kalam continued by conveying a personal message, asking the assembly to repeat his words: “Where there is righteousness, there is beauty in character. Where there is beauty in character, there is harmony in the home. Where there is harmony in the home, there is order in the nation. Where there is order in the nation, there is peace in the world.” He concluded by expressing his faith that BAPS would spread this message of righteousness across the world.
After being presented with souvenirs of the visit, Dr Kalam took leave after taking prasad. As he departed, he personally offered his best wishes to many of those gathered in the assembly. He also conveyed his respects to His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj.
As a part of its ongoing multifarious community outreach programmes, BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha, UK, (BAPS) raised £12,000 for Breast Cancer Care (BCC) during the recent BAPS Centenary Celebrations at Wembley Arena in London. A special cheque presentation evening was held at BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, London, on Saturday 20 October 2007, in recognition of this inspiring charity initiative.
Emily Pegg (BCC Head of Services for London and the South) and Davina Green (BCC Outreach and Information Manager for London and the South) arrived at 7.30pm and were welcomed by Mrs Rena Amin before being taken on a brief tour of the Mandir.
The programme commenced with a short speech of gratitude from the BCC executives, both of whom praised BAPS’ generous efforts in raising funds and awareness for this worthy community cause. Both women were then presented with a bouquet of flowers before the main presentation of the cheque.
Ms Pegg and Ms Green were also presented with a souvenir gift as a memento of their visit to the Mandir and were then escorted to a smaller meeting with leading BAPS volunteers where they shared their experiences of the evening and discussed the work of BCC and future opportunities of collaboration with BAPS. Ms Pegg thanked BAPS again for raising so much money, which she added was a really great effort and very worthwhile for Breast Cancer Care, UK.
BAPS and BCC have agreed to continue fostering this new relationship to raise awareness of breast cancer within the UK, especially among the Indian community.
On Tuesday, 4 September, a grand celebration was organised by BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, Neasden, to mark the birth of Bhagwan Shri Krishna.
The day, traditionally known as Janmashtami, began with a grand Annakut being offered to the deities in the Mandir. Throughout the day, visitors viewed the Annakut and all were given sacred prasad of ‘panchajiri’. A special sabha was also held in the evening in the Haveli prayer hall. Sadhus spoke of the glory of devotion to God and sang devotional bhajans extolling Bhagwan Shri Krishna. The finale marking the birth of Bhagwan Shri Krishna was celebrated with the arti ritual and the swinging of the ‘paranu’ (birth-cradle) by all the devotees.
‘Together we can gain respect’ was the message that stood out on the world’s largest finger painting as dedicated BAPS volunteers led a community initiative in London to bring people from various backgrounds together for a hands-on interactive activity to raise awareness for respect.
Volunteers from BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, Neasden, London, and the local community took part in the world’s largest finger painting as part of this year’s Brent Respect Festival organised by the Brent Council. The new Guinness World Record was set on Sunday 8 July 2007 at Roundwood Park in Harlesden with the completed painting measuring a huge 16,400 sq. ft., smashing the previous world record of 12,550 sq. ft. set in Spain last year.
Jignesh Patel, a local artist and BAPS devotee, based the themes on values such as respect, peace, love, unity and tolerance, and also incorporated Brent and London icons such as Wembley Stadium and the London Eye. Even the forthcoming London 2012 Olympics got a mention. Jignesh says that he was inspired by the spiritual leader of BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha, His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj, whose credo in life is, “In the joy of others, lies our own.”
Over 650 people of all age groups finger painted on 10 integrated pieces of canvas, each measuring 10 feet by 164 feet, sprawled out on the lawns of Roundwood Park. The painting commenced at 10.30am and was completed by 6.15pm – in less than eight hours.
The sight of a young three-year-old toddler and the oldest participant of 86 years prompted the Mayor of Brent, Cllr. Harshadbhai Patel, to join in the finger painting himself and remark, “I am proud of the residents of Brent who have taken part in this project. It is so nice to see the community coming together to create this record. I would particularly like to thank BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha who have organised this painting.”
The well-known British TV broadcaster, Louis Theroux, also took part in the painting and commented that the painting was a fabulous artistic achievement, “very much in line with the Neasden Mandir that I have heard so much about.”
The good weather allowed hundreds of locals to enjoy the record-breaking attempt and every participant was presented with a certificate for their efforts. In the closing ceremony at 7.30pm, the Deputy Mayor of Brent Cllr. Fox helped children release balloons and wished BAPS the very best in achieving a new world record.
On Sunday 29 July 2007, during the Guru Poonam festival at the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in Neasden, London, a special assembly was held to thank all those who were involved in the creation of the world’s largest finger painting. The Worshipful Mayor of Brent Harshadbhai Patel was present and on behalf of all the residents of Brent, he thanked BAPS for their efforts in organising this initiative. As well as thanking all the sponsors and supporters, Yogvivek Swami congratulated the BAPS volunteers for bringing the local community together and helping to inspire respect for one another.
The Guinness World Record certificate was also displayed for all those present. The certificate reads:
The largest finger painting measured
1,523 m2 (16,400 ft2) and was created
by 650 people from the local community
at an event organised by
BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Sanstha
at the Brent Respect Festival
in Roundwood Park, London, UK, on 8 July 2007.
The painting theme,
inspired by HH Pramukh Swami Maharaj,
was ‘Respect for One Another’ and ‘Unity in Diversity.’
On Sunday 17 June 2007, over 250 fathers and sons gathered to celebrate a special Parents’ Day at the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in Neasden (London). The inspirational event was celebrated as ‘Pitru-Devo Bhava’ and included a colourful cultural programme centred on the Vedic sentiments of revering one’s father as one reveres God.
The programme began at 10am in the Mandir Haveli with prayers sung by the children. After being introduced to the ‘Pitru-Devo Bhava’ theme and its significance in today’s increasingly estranged family setup, everyone enjoyed a touching speech by a young boy on ‘Appreciating Parents’.
This was followed by an entertaining and insightful game wherein the sons were quizzed on their fathers’ habits and likings. The game creatively highlighted Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s emphasis on effective communication for a successful parent-child relationship.
Another game involving the whole audience used a double-sided jigsaw puzzle to drive home another of Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s messages. With a map of the world on one side and a family in a home on the other, it helped explain that if everyone puts their family together, the world will take care of itself!
The programme continued with young children conducting a short Vedic ceremony which included the sons bowing reverently to their fathers. The special ritual ended with each father and son placing a sugar-crystal in each other’s mouths – symbolising their commitment to a sweeter, stronger bond between each other.
Thereafter, a sadhu presented an enlightening speech highlighting qualities from Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s life – such as love, trust, and mutual respect – necessary in developing an ideal father-son relationship.
The first session ended at 1pm with each son presenting his father a letter he had prepared the previous week. The letter contained emotional statements that began: “I am thankful for…”, “I am sorry for…”, and “My message to you is…”.
After the lunch break, when everyone was treated to a delicious meal, the fathers attended a special Parent’s Seminar conducted by members of the BAPS Parenting Department.
As everyone departed, one father remarked: “I read the message my son wrote for me and I was deeply moved. Today’s programme has not only been thoroughly enjoyable, but also an eye-opener. I now promise to spend more quality time with my son.”
A similarly themed event was also hosted at various other BAPS centres around the country, where many more fathers and sons also enjoyed a colourful and inspirational programme.
Jack Lundie, Deputy Editor of BBC – Blue Peter and Dr Paul Michael Knapton of the British Heart Foundation visited the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir on the evening of Saturday 19 May 2007 to conclude their two projects that the Mandir had been working closely with them for. The two distinguished guests arrived in the evening festival assembly shortly after 8pm and were welcomed by the trustees.
With the help of enthusiastic young volunteers, children from BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir and The Swaminarayan School had collected 4,221 pairs of shoes for the Blue Peter Shoebiz appeal, in support of a worldwide UNICEF campaign, aimed at helping needy children in Malawi orphaned through AIDS. Many of the pairs of shoes collected were new and unopened which provided a testimony to the generosity of the donors. The children had launched the appeal four months previously in the presence of Blue Peter presenter Andy Akinwolere on Saturday 27 January 2007. Jack Lundie presented a certificate in the assembly in recognition of the collective efforts of the BAPS organisation and offered his gratitude and praise for the dedication and commitment of the volunteers.
Also in the evening assembly, the Director for Prevention and Care at the British Heart Foundation was presented a cheque of £25,000 for the funds collected by volunteers of BAPS nationally, from this year’s Annual Sponsored Walk. This year’s event – held on Sunday 15 April 2007 at 10 centres across the country – contributed funds for the BHF to facilitate vital research into heart disease. Dr Knapton praised the spirit of volunteerism and the meticulous organisation of the walk and offered his gratitude for the welcome he was given on this his first visit to the mandir.
Amidst glorious April sunshine, the annual BAPS Sponsored Walk was held on Sunday 15 April 2007 at nine BAPS Swaminarayan Mandirs and Centres across the UK. The year’s event coincided with the Centennial Celebrations of BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha and was held in conjunction with the British Heart Foundation (BHF).
The main walk at BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, Neasden, London, commenced shortly after 9am from the Ceremonial Gate of the Mandir with the performance of Vedic rituals. These were led by sadhus in the presence of Tyagvallabh Swami, a senior sadhu visiting from India. Invited guests included Vikram Solanki (England cricketer and Worcestershire Cricket Club captain), Mr. Jagadeesan (Economic Minister at the Indian High Commission), and Ian Stewart (Community Fundraising and Volunteer Manager for BHF). Expressing his gratitude and privilege to be associated with the event, Mr. Stewart praised the organisation of the Sponsored Walk and advised participants to embrace a healthier lifestyle though improved diet and exercise.More than 3,400 participants between the ages of 7 and 95 walked the distance of 10km at various centres throughout the country, with 2,300 walking in London alone. The route was stewarded by BAPS volunteers and provisions for medical assistance and refreshments were also available at rest points. Special arrangements for younger walkers between the ages of 4 and 7 were in place for them to walk within the Mandir complex. In addition to the BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha’s various charitable activities, funds were also raised for the British Heart Foundation.
At 5.30pm, at the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in London, the awards ceremony was held in the presence of Tyagvallabh Swami to reward the endeavours of individual efforts and to thank all those who had lent their kind support and time to make the Sponsored Walk an overwhelming success. The event proved to be a great testimony of collective effort and determination.
On Tuesday 27 March 2007, worshippers at BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, Neasden, London celebrated the sacred festivals of Shri Swaminarayan Jayanti and Ramnavmi. To mark this auspicious occasion, annakuts were offered to the deities.
At 12 noon, the sadhus performed the birth arti of Shri Ramchandraji. All the devotees had the opportunity to rock the cradle of Shri Ramchandraji.
Throughout the day, devotees were also given the opportunity of offering abhishek to the sacred image of Nilkanth Varni (Bhagwan Swaminarayan).
In the evening, bhajans and speeches extolling the virtues and greatness of Bhagwan Swaminarayan and Shri Ramchandraji were presented. The grand assembly culminated in the celebrations of the birth of Bhagwan Swaminarayan at 10:10pm.
On Saturday 31 March 2007, further celebrations of Shri Swaminarayan Jayanti took place with a colourful programme in the evening. The event was organised and performed by kishores through dramas, sketches, mono-acts, bhajans and dances. Kishores, dressed up as paramhansas and devotees of that time, vividly portrayed how Bhagwan Swaminarayan inspired people to lead morally upright lives. The kishores also depicted how society in the early 19th century was transformed through His teachings.
On Sunday 18 March 2007, over 300 mothers and daughters gathered to celebrate a special Parents’ Day at the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in Neasden (London). The inspirational event was celebrated as ‘Matru-Devo Bhava’ and inclulded a colourful cultural programme centred on the Vedic sentiments of revering one’s mother as one reveres God.
The programme started at 11am in the Haveli Prayer Hall in front of a beautifully decorated stage. After being introduced to the Vedic theme and its significance in today’s estranged family setup, everyone enjoyed a touching presentation about a mother’s love for her young child.
This was followed by a moving play about a teenage girl’s demands for more freedom from her mother and the ensuing friction between both. Only after a guardian angel reminds the girl of her past – a past of being ungrateful and spiteful towards her mother – and then brings her back to the present, does the teenager understand her mother’s intentions to protect her from harmful worldly influences. The play ended with the young girl being transported to the future where she, too, is a mother and has to face the responsibilities of motherhood herself. The play creatively highlighted Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s message of love, mutual trust and effective communication as essential tools in a successful parent-child relationship.
The programme concluded with young girls conducting a special Vedic ceremony. The ritual served as a prayer for mothers and daughters to strengthen the loving bond between each other. Everyone departed after being treated to a delicious lunch. For both mothers and daughters, it had been an enjoyable and inspirational day.
A similarly themed event was also celebrated by the Leicester Children’s Forum at BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in Leicester, where 170 mothers and daughters also enjoyed a colourful and inspirational programme.
On Saturday 17 March 2007, BAPS Youth Forum, London, hosted “Mother and Daughter – A Sacred Bond” – an evening of inspirational presentations for mothers and their adolescent daughters.
The event was organised to promote family unity by improving the relationship between parents and their children. This event concentrated specifically on the intricate dynamics between mother and daughter – offering advice and information, and highlighting areas of concern for both.
A senior member presented an informative talk on mother-daughter relationships, including the psychology underlying them, common pitfalls and advice on how to avoid these and develop a mutually rewarding bond. Another presentation focussed on values from Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s life – such as understanding, patience, love and trust – essential in becoming a better parent and child. This was followed by an engaging question-answer session in which both mothers and daughters discussed the practicalities of their relationships, and how they could address common issues such as socialising and education.
The evening was a great success with over 250 mothers and daughters leaving inspired and motivated.
Friday 16 February 2007 marked the celebration of ‘Maha-Shivratri’ at the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in Neasden, London. The day began with the sacred abhishek of the Shivalinga performed by the sadhus.
Throughout the day, all visitors had the opportunity to offer bili-patra and perform abhishek of the Shivalingam. All had darshan of the Annakut in which many varieties of ‘falahar’ items were offered at the shrines of Ghanshyam Maharaj and Shiv-Parvati.
The ice Shivalinga on display at the Haveli entrance evoked memories of Amarnath in India where a natural ice Shivalinga exists.
In the evening assembly, the significance of Shivratri was explained in the discourses.