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The Mayor of London Boris Johnson visited BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, London – popularly known as the ‘Neasden Temple’ – during the Hindu New Year celebrations on Thursday 27 October 2011.
Mr Johnson joined thousands of others who witnessed the Annakut – literally, ‘a mountain of food’ – which is a devout offering of the first meal of the New Year in thanksgiving to God. More than 1,200 dishes of sweets, savouries, curries, pickles, salads, desserts, soups, juices, and various other items representing cuisine from around the world had been devoutly and artistically arranged before the Deities. The Annakut offering at the temple in Neasden has been recognised as one of the largest of its kind in the world.
After a traditional welcome at the temple gates, the Mayor and his delegation went on a brief tour of the stone temple complex. They were also given an official London 2012 pin badge of the Neasden Temple which has been voted as the Olympic Landmark for Brent.
After arriving in the assembly hall, the Mayor joined the Head Sadhu of the Mandir, Sadhu Yogvivekdas, and other distinguished guests in performing the ceremonial evening arti ritual.
In his address to the assembly, Mr Johnson firstly conveyed his Diwali and New Year greetings to everyone before saying: “I am very very proud and supportive of what you do in this amazing mandir and the incredible things you do for your community and all communities.”
The Mayor went on to commend the “spirit” of the celebrations in not only joining together in merriment but also helping those less fortunate who are passing through tough times.
He also urged all present to “continue the wonderful things you are already doing” and “join Team London” to “build a sense of community” which makes London one of the great cities of the world.
This year, devotees and visitors to the Mandir were able to offer their personal prayers and messages for the New Year through the ‘Share a Prayer’ digital service. Mr Johnson wrote:
May this year bring peace and prosperity to all Londoners. Thank you and Jai Swaminarayan. Boris
Before departing, Mr Johnson also met some of the 1,200 volunteers involved in ensuring a pleasant and enriching experience for the tens of thousands who enjoy the festival every year. The Mayor expressed his admiration of His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj for being able to inspire and mobilise so many young people in such positive causes.