News and Events

Observing Universal Children’s Day
Sunday 23 November 2014

Background
Established in 1954, Universal Children’s Day is celebrated by millions as “a day of worldwide fraternity and understanding between children”. The annual celebrations aim to increase awareness and change global attitudes to children’s rights and welfare.

Many countries of the world observe this day on 20 November which marks the day on which the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Declaration of the Rights of the Child in 1959, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1989.

Observance by BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha
BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha, a member of the United Nations Economic and Social Council, has participated in these global celebrations over the years to raise awareness about children’s welfare and holistic development.

This year, children from the Swaminarayan Sunday School at BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, London commemorated Universal Children’s Day on Sunday 23 November 2014.

The special assembly began with a short introduction by Shiv Thakkar, a student at the School, emphasising the Day’s aims and history. This was then followed by an inspiring video presentation depicting the power children have to change society for the better.

Darsh Patel, also a member of the School, further elaborated upon the ‘power of children’, explaining their innate innocence and firm determination. He also drew upon well-known examples of child-devotees from Hindu scriptures to provide inspiration and courage for the current generation.

Manoharmurti Swami shared examples of children who have inspired positive change in their lives as well as those of their families and wider society. He also reminded the audience of the various anti-addiction drives organised by BAPS Children’s Forum. He further shared His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s message ‘In the joy of others lies our own’, discussing the various activities and opportunities Pramukh Swami Maharaj has initiated for children internationally.

In conclusion, Nitanshu Limbachiya, Sharad Patel and Ayush Patel performed prayers for peace, joy and well-being for all children around the world.

To learn more about the Universal Children’s Day, please click here.

Disclaimer: BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.

Launch of 20th Anniversary Celebrations
Saturday 22 November 2014

Since its inauguration by His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj in August 1995, BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, London (popularly recognised as the ‘Neasden Temple’) has become an important part of Britain’s religious landscape.

To officially begin the year-long celebrations leading to the Mandir’s 20th anniversary in 2015, a special evening assembly was held in the presence of Sadguru Pujya Tyagvallabh Swami, a senior sadhu visiting from India, on Saturday 22 November 2014.

The evening programme began with a video presentation charting the key chronological events leading to the opening of the Mandir.

Charity and goodwill have been key values that the Mandir has promoted over the years, and this was highlighted during a cheque presentation made to Diabetes UK. The £20,000 donated had been raised during the BAPS Charities Annual 10K Challenge earlier this year by almost 4,000 participants from around the country.

Satyavrat Swami, Head Sadhu of the Mandir, then explained to the assembly how individuals, families and the fellowship can participate in the celebrations, with the aim of strengthening one’s personal satsang as well as consolidating unity within families and amongst devotees.

In his keynote address, Tyagvallabh Swami encouraged everyone to actively participate in the festivities over the coming months. He drew specifically upon how one can reflect the purity of a mandir in one’s own life.

The evening was concluded with a video presentation of His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s blessings for the Mandir.

£20,000 Cheque Presentation to Diabetes UK
Saturday 22 November 2014

During a special assembly at BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, London on Saturday 22 November 2014, BAPS Charities presented a cheque for £20,000 to Diabetes UK.

The funds were raised by thousands of people of all ages – from young children through to senior individuals in their nineties – who participated in the BAPS Charities Annual 10K Challenge organised earlier this year.

Richard Lane (Chairman), Juliet O’Brien (Diverse Communities Officer) and Benjamin Eydmann (Philanthropy Manager) arrived to receive the cheque on behalf of Diabetes UK – the leading charity that cares for, connects with and campaigns on behalf of every person affected by or at risk of diabetes, including the 3.8 million people in the UK that are currently diagnosed with the disease.

Following the presentation, Mr Lane addressed the assembly and said, “The money that you [BAPS Charities] have raised is absolutely fantastic! Thank you very much indeed.”

He also emphasised the importance of raising awareness in the Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities and announced that the money raised would go towards training ‘Community Champions’ by Diabetes UK and providing dietician support for screening clinics organised by BAPS Charities in London, Leicester and Birmingham.

Dr Sejal Saglani, a lead volunteer for BAPS Charities, added, “We are delighted to partner with Diabetes UK who has helped BAPS Charities organise a number of screening and awareness sessions in the past. The additional expertise provided by Diabetes UK will help us continue to make a positive impact to these communities through our on-going events.”

To learn more about the work of Diabetes UK, please click here.

Disclaimer: BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.

Teacher Training for Safeguarding Children and Classroom Student Management
Saturday 22 November 2014

The Swaminarayan Sunday School at BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir teamed up with the National Resource Centre for Supplementary Education to educate local supplementary school teachers about ‘Safeguarding Children’ and ‘Classroom Management and Behaviour’ on Saturday 22 November 2014.

The National Resource Centre for Supplementary Education (NRCSE) is a national strategic and support organisation for the supplementary education sector across England. They are the national champion for excellence, innovation and partnership in supplementary schools.

Ertanch Hidayettin and Akhita Benjamin from the NRCSE were on hand to deliver the training. The presentations covered the following material:

Safeguarding Children
 Safeguarding Policies and Procedures
 Checklist for Keeping Children Safe
 Safe Recruitment
 Safeguarding Case Studies
 Assessing Risks
 Code of Conduct/Behaviour

Classroom Management and Behaviour
 Types of Unacceptable Behaviour
 Reasons Why Children Misbehave
 Meeting Children’s Welfare Needs
 Positive Behaviour Strategies and Communication
 How To Create An Effective Learning Environment

Six other supplementary schools were also invited to the training. These were: Al-Iman Arabic School, Dar Al-Huda, Kingsbury Greek School, Peace School, St Raphael’s Supplementary School, and Track Academy.

All attendees found the session very useful and many commended the organisation as well as the practical nature of the learning.

One of the teachers present added, “I now have a better understanding of what actions to take when a child indicates that he or she is being abused, and, as a result of the training, I will take all necessary steps to ensure the children in my care are protected.”

To learn more about the NRCSE, please click here.

Disclaimer: BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.

Worshippers Join Members of Other Faiths to Donate Food to the Homeless
Sunday 16 November 2014

BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in London is committed to engaging, sharing and collaborating with different faith communities in the UK. This is channelled through a number of events around the year, especially during National Inter Faith Week.

Inter Faith Week is an annual event that takes place across the UK in November with the aim of fostering good relationships and working partnerships between people and organisations of different faiths and beliefs.

This year, representatives of five different faiths – Christians, Hindus, Jews, Sikhs and Zoroastrians – gathered at The Swaminarayan School on Sunday 16 November 2014 to offer prayers for the local community.

The event coincided with Mitzvah Day, the day in celebration of the Jewish coming-of-age ritual, when the Jewish community joins others “to donate their time and energy to a diverse range of vital causes that make a tangible difference to those in need around the world.”

Children of The Swaminarayan Sunday School from the Mandir collected more than 150 cans of food for Sufra – a community food bank and kitchen based nearby in the London Borough of Brent. It aims to support disadvantaged families suffering from food poverty in the local area, including the more than 29,000 children in north-west London who are living in severe poverty.

Young members of other faiths also supported the initiative by organising similar collections of their own. Following the prayer meeting, children and adults from the various faiths visited Sufra together to formally donate the food for the homeless.

Mohammed Mamdani, Director of Sufra, thanked everyone for their combined efforts of collecting 161kg of food, which will support 10 families with emergency supplies for at least 7 days.

“We are very proud,” he said, “to have the support of the Hindu, Jewish, Sikh and Zoroastrian communities during Interfaith Week…. This partnership sends out a strong message of unity, and demonstrates the contribution of faith groups in alleviating poverty in our community.”

Darshika Patel, aged 12, sharing her experiences of the event, said: “It was a privilege to meet children like me of other religions and share our prayers. Joining together and helping others taught me that no matter what faith you are, we can all help each other.”

Priti Patel, a volunteer at the Sunday School, added, “Whatever our faith, we all have charity in our hearts. Once again, all faiths pulled together for a good cause.”

Kirit Wadia, interfaith volunteer for BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha in the UK, summarised his thoughts of the day: “It was heart-warming working with people of different faiths for such a worthy cause, and very encouraging to see so many young people getting involved. The event demonstrated the common core of goodwill that exists between all faiths and reinforced the spirit of harmony which His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj has always promoted.”

To learn more about National Inter Faith Week and Sufra, please follow the respective links.

Disclaimer: BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.

The Swaminarayan School Judged “Excellent” In All Areas
Friday 7 November 2014

The Swaminarayan School, Europe’s first independent Hindu school, was inspected by the Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI) in early October. The school was judged to be “excellent” in all areas, confirming its position as one of the best independent schools in the country.

The Swaminarayan School is an independent day school for boys and girls aged between two-and-a-half to eighteen years with 496 pupils. The School was founded in 1992 by His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj to provide the very best of British education while reinforcing Hindu values and traditions.

ISI, the agency responsible for the inspection of all accredited independent schools, examines and reports on all educational provision for pupils, including those less than five years of age. After spending almost a week at the School, the team of seven ISI inspectors reported on the School’s excellent standards, highlighting the success that has been achieved not only through exceptional academic results, but also in providing spiritual, moral, social and cultural development in addition to excellent pastoral care and links with parents and the wider community.

Some key excerpts from the official report include the following:

The Swaminarayan School enables pupils to obtain excellent standards in their work and to develop outstanding qualities as young people. They combine this with achieving excellent results in public examinations throughout the school. Pupils in the EYFS receive an outstanding preparation for the move into Year 1. Excellent teaching throughout the school supports pupils’ academic progress, and provides a good focus on meeting different pupils’ needs.

The quality of the pupils’ learning and achievement is excellent. Results in national tests at age 11 were exceptional in relation to the national average for maintained primary schools. In class pupils show exceptional perseverance and application.

At GCSE pupils achieve three times as many A*/A grades as the national average. At A Level the proportion of pupils gaining A*/B was higher than the national average for maintained schools.

The contribution of curricular and extra-curricular provision is excellent.

The quality of leadership and management, including links with parents, carers and guardians, is excellent. The leadership of the school provides a clear moral compass, which guides every aspect of school life. The quality of governance is excellent. Governors bring considerable commitment and expertise to their work.

The EYFS [Early Years Foundation Stage] setting makes outstanding provision in meeting the needs of the range of children who attend. The contribution of the early years provision to children’s well-being is outstanding. The overall quality and standards of the early years provision are outstanding. Staff provide excellent role models by their considerate, caring behaviour, and relationships between staff, children and parents are excellent.

Headteachers Mr Manani and Mr Raja attributed the ISI’s findings to the collective efforts of everyone involved with the School. “The credit for this success goes to our teamwork – committed and dedicated staff supported by governors, trustees, hardworking pupils and parents who recognise the value of education. But above all, we are grateful for the blessings and continual guidance of the founder of our school, His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj.”

The Full Inspection Report can be found on the School website at www.swaminarayan.brent.sch.uk.

Disclaimer: BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.

Hindu New Year Celebrations
Friday 24 October 2014

Following the Diwali celebrations on Thursday, the Hindu New Year was welcomed with piety and devotion on Friday 24 October 2014 at BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, London.

The first ceremony of the New Year began at 5.30am, followed by prayers for world peace and well-being.

The traditional Annakut – a sumptuous arrangement of freshly prepared pure vegetarian food exhibiting a spectrum of colours, delicious aromas and intricate art – was ready by midday. It is a devout offering to God thanking him for his providence over the past year while praying for his blessings for the year ahead.

Chief Guest on the occasion was H.E. Mr Ranjan Mathai, High Commissioner of India to the UK. Addressing the assembly, he applauded the contribution of Indians in the UK. “I am proud and happy to come here”, he said. “What you do as a community is reflected best on occasions like this. You maintain your spiritual values in a foreign country without giving up loyalty to the country in which you live. This is the great contribution of Indians and I think a great message which we take away today.”

Joining other local leaders in the audience were Mayor of Brent Cllr Kana Naheerathan and Mayor of Harrow Cllr Ajay Maru.

Marie Harry, Breast Health Promotion Training and Support Officer for Breast Cancer Care, was also present and observed the Mandir’s support in action. Following the lighting of the Mandir in pink on Diwali, in support of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the colour had also been incorporated into the various decorations and uniforms on this day. “I’m in awe of the volunteers coming together wearing those [pink] colours. It’s been incredible how the community has come together today. It’s been wonderful to take part in this celebration at the BAPS Mandir and the image that will stay with me is that [of] how the community has come together to support breast cancer.” (To learn more about this support, please click here.)

This year marked the tenth anniversary of the consecration of Shri Nilkanth Varni at the Mandir by His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj. The metallic abhishek murti of the teenage form of Bhagwan Swaminarayan pays tribute to his arduous travels and austerities. Continuing this theme, the meticulously replicated temples forming the backdrop to the Annakut and the intricate rangolis (colourful floor designs) further charted and commemorated his epic journey.

The New Year is an occasion for thanksgiving. In keeping with this value, devotees and visitors to the Mandir were offered the opportunity to share their gratitude through the ‘Thanks-Sharing’ service. Messages of appreciation to friends, family and loved ones were digitally relayed on large screens in the assembly hall and around the complex.

Guests at the Mandir during the celebrations included visitors from America, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Malaysia, Poland, Russia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Ukraine, and Venezuela.

Diwali Celebrations
Thursday 23 October 2014

The traditions and rich culture of Diwali – one of the most auspicious days in the Hindu calendar – were joyously celebrated at BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, London on Thursday 23 October 2014.

Diwali, known as the ‘Festival of Light’, celebrates the victory of good over evil and is a time not only for merriment but also goodwill, charity and family values.

Worshippers and visitors arrived at the Mandir throughout the day to experience the spirituality and colour of the festival.

In the evening, a special ceremony in the presence of senior sadhu Bhaktipriya Swami (Kothari Swami) was held inside the assembly hall for families and business owners. Existing account books were closed and fresh accounts were opened in preparation for the year ahead. The ceremony also symbolises taking stock of one’s spiritual relationship with God.

A short assembly was held thereafter where Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s Diwali message and blessings from India were shared. Kothari Swami addressed the gathering, offering his warm wishes to all those celebrating Diwali.

A grand fireworks display illuminated the skies of North London high above the domes of the Mandir. Set to pulsating music, the display provided a spectacular fusion of colour and sound for people of all ages in the local community.

“This is what I love about Diwali,” shared Parul Shah, teacher and mother of two who had travelled down from Milton Keynes. “It’s about rejoicing, but together, with the family and the wider community.”

In keeping with the charitable spirit of Diwali, the Mandir was lit up in pink in support of Breast Cancer Care for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Read more about this here.

Mandir Lights Up in Pink for Breast Cancer Awareness Month
Thursday 23 October 2014

BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, London was illuminated in pink on Thursday 23 October 2014 in support of Breast Cancer Care during Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The lighting of the Mandir was seen by thousands who had gathered for the Diwali celebrations and spectacular fireworks display.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month where Breast Cancer Care and other charities spread the important message about the disease and the fight to prevent and cure it.

DID YOU KNOW? Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer in the UK. 1,000 women die of the disease every month!

Present to launch the Diwali fireworks display were three families – two of whom had sadly lost loved ones to breast cancer, but have been truly inspirational for others, and Remi Brahmbhatt, a long-time survivor of the disease.

Dr Sejal Popat, a volunteer at the Mandir, added: “Diwali is a time for celebration, but also of goodwill and charity, so it is a time to reach out and remember those that need our help. By raising awareness about this deadly disease, BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha is truly affirming the spirit of Diwali and the message of His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj in bringing light and joy into the lives of others.”

Support at the Mandir continued the following day, during the Hindu New Year celebrations, with many of the decorations and volunteers sporting the pink colour for Breast Cancer Care’s #PinkFriday drive. Marie Harry, Breast Health Promotion Training and Support Officer for Breast Cancer Care, was also present to observe the Mandir’s support in action. “I’m in awe of the volunteers coming together wearing those [pink] colours,” she said. “It’s been incredible how the community has come together today. It’s been wonderful to take part in this celebration at the BAPS Mandir and the image that will stay with me is that [of] how the community has come together to support breast cancer.”

The Mandir has been a keen supporter of Breast Cancer Care since 2007 when it donated £12,000 as part of the centennial celebrations of BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha. Breast Cancer Care have also featured with stalls and information booths during a number of events organised by the Mandir in London and activities by centres across the UK, including the Cycle Challenge held in Leicester in August 2008, the International Women’s Day celebrations in London in 2010, and during medical screenings at the Community Open Day in London in 2010. In 2009, BAPS also helped in producing and promoting an educational DVD for breast cancer concerns among Asian women.

To read a report of this event on the Breast Cancer Care website, please click here.

To learn more about the great work of Breast Cancer Care, please visit www.breastcancercare.org.

For expert advice on breast health concerns or breast cancer, please ring Breast Cancer Care‘s free, confidential helpline on 0808 800 6000.

Disclaimer: BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.

Prime Minister Hosts Diwali Reception at 10 Downing Street
Monday 20 October 2014

Prime Minister David Cameron celebrated the Hindu festival of Diwali at 10 Downing Street on Monday 20 October 2014. 

Along with British Hindus from various denominations, also gathered in the Pillared Room of the Prime Ministerial home were Lord Dholakia, Keith Vaz MP, Bob Blackman MP, Shailesh Vara MP, Alok Sharma MP, Priti Patel MP, and several other eminent Britons of Indian origin. 

The event, organised by the Prime Minister’s Office, began with the lighting of the ceremonial lamp amid Vedic chanting. 

A traditional arrangement of Indian food was also on offer to Hindu Deities as part of the auspicious celebrations. Volunteers from BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir had worked hard to set up the decorations and ‘Annakut’ – as it is called in Sanskrit – comprising a colourful selection of Indian sweets and savouries in offering to Bhagwan Swaminarayan, Aksharbrahma Gunatitanand Swami, Shri Radha-Krishna and Shri Sita-Rama. 

In his short address, Mr Cameron began by saying “a very big thank you to Neasden Temple for bringing this extraordinary and beautiful display to Number 10.” After fondly recalling his visit to the Mandir last year with his wife, he went on to reiterate the shared values and history between the British and Indian people. 

After applauding the “huge contribution… that British Hindus and Jains make to our country”, he highlighted the importance given to family, community and public service in the Hindu faith, adding, “those are values that you bring to Britain, values we need more of in our country.” 

In conclusion, the Prime Minister said: “Above all at this time of this great festival let us celebrate the commitment that British Indians make to our country. Let us celebrate the history of the relationship between our peoples and our countries, and of course let us think of the values that unite us as we strive to bring up our children, to strengthen our families, to strengthen our societies and build a better world. You’re hugely welcome here tonight and thank you for all you do for our country. Thank you very much indeed.”

On this special occasion, His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj had sent a message of goodwill to the Prime Minister. His Holiness said he was praying for the peace and well-being of all people in the UK, and for the light and warmth of God to guide us through our challenges. 

In keeping with the spirit of Diwali, the celebrants were presented at the end with the delicacies which had formed a part of the Annakut, to further share with their family and friends. 

Last year, the Prime Minister had visited the Mandir with his wife Mrs Samantha Cameron to participate first-hand in the Hindu New Year celebrations. To see a report with photos and a video of their visit, please click here

A short video and a transcript of the Prime Minister’s speech can be found here on the government’s website. 

Disclaimer: BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha is not responsible for the content of external internet sites. 
Images 1 to 3 in gallery courtesy of www.gov.uk.

Party for the Elderly
Sunday 5 October 2014

BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, London hosted a special party organised by BAPS Charities for 44 elderly residents and 12 carers from local care homes on Sunday 5 October 2014.

The event was part of BAPS Charities’ commitment to ‘Sewa Day’ – an initiative where “thousands of good-hearted people across the world come together to perform Sewa (an act of kindness without expectation of reward) and experience the joy of giving in its truest sense.”

Mayor of Brent Cllr Kana Naheerathan joined students from The School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London and 25 volunteers from BAPS Charities at the gathering.

The guests were welcomed at BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, London by young volunteers before being guided around the sanctum sanctorum and adjoining cultural complex. At The Swaminarayan School in the afternoon, volunteers presented a cultural programme incorporating a fun sing-along and colourful folk dance.

A magic show and comedy interlude brought further entertainment and hearty smiles to all. Volunteers served a delicious meal to the visitors and presented each one with a personalised souvenir before they departed.

Kirit Wadia, lead volunteer of the event, shared, “BAPS Charities is committed to bringing happiness to the lives of others, and the elderly deserve it just as much as any of us. It was really heart-warming to see such lovely smiles. We thoroughly enjoyed our afternoon and look forward to more opportunities to bring laughter and joy to many more in the future.”

Mary Nolan from Kenwood Nursing Home added: “The residents had a wonderful day, enjoying the music, dancing, comedy and magic. All your hard work, time and effort made the day a very special one. The residents and their families really appreciated the photographs and will have them as a lasting memory of the day.”

To learn more about Sewa Day, please click here.

Disclaimer: BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.

Clean-Up of Local Park
Sunday 5 October 2014

Over 60 children from The Swaminarayan Sunday School at BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir teamed up with volunteers from BAPS Charities to collect litter from Gibbons Recreational Park opposite the Mandir on Sunday 5 October 2014.

The event was part of BAPS Charities’ commitment to ‘Sewa Day’ – an initiative where “thousands of good-hearted people across the world come together to perform Sewa (an act of kindness without expectation of reward) and experience the joy of giving in its truest sense.”

The importance of sewa and caring for the environment was explained to the children during classes at the Sunday school.

The children, aged between 8 and 14, enthusiastically collected rubbish for three hours and filled ten large sacks with the help of adult supervisors. Aluminium cans that were found in the park were retained for recycling.

Raahi Patel, 12, said, “It was good to do something fun and help improve the park where so many people play and enjoy. I was surprised to find so much litter there… It feels really good to make it better.”

The Mandir is committed to working towards a cleaner environment for the local neighbourhood. Other recent projects have included the ‘Big Tidy Up’ in Brent, a clean-up of the Brent Feeder Canal, and recycling clothes as part of Climate Week.

To learn more about Sewa Day, please click here.

Disclaimer: BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.

Health Screening Session for Under-40s
Saturday 27 September 2014

BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, London, held a health screening session for under-40s organised by BAPS Charities on Saturday 27 September 2014.

Cardiovascular disease and diabetes are common conditions observed in the South Asian community. Early detection of risk factors is the only way to prevent long-term complications.

The health screening programme measured blood sugar, cholesterol, body mass index, blood pressure and body fat. Participants were given an opportunity to discuss the findings with a doctor.

A total of 39 adults aged between 24 and 40 were screened. Risk factors were identified with six individuals, who were subsequently referred for a more detailed cardiovascular screening clinic that is regularly organised by BAPS Charities in collaboration with The Royal Free Hospital.

The session was very well received with positive feedback from all participants. The average rating for the satisfaction and conduction of the programme was 9/10.

A youth at the event shared: “Thank you very much for the opportunity to address these important health issues. The consultation was very useful and I’ll definitely be making some changes to my lifestyle to safeguard my health.”

Dr Lalit Nirmal, a volunteer at BAPS Charities added: “These sessions are very useful because they encourage members of this high-risk community to improve their understanding and awareness of diabetes, obesity and blood pressure. People are empowered and supported to take on sustainable lifestyle changes which will benefit not just them but their entire family, thus helping reduce the likelihood and impact of such diseases.”

Similar events are planned for this age group in the future to continue to identify early risks of heart disease and promote general health awareness.

Celebrating ‘Open House London’
Saturday 20 & Sunday 21 September 2014

BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, London joined more than 800 sites to celebrate Open House London – the capital’s principal architectural festival – on the weekend of 20-21 September 2014.

Open House London is part of a growing global concept “showcasing outstanding architecture for all to experience, completely for free. Open House initiatives invite everyone to explore and understand the value of a well-designed built environment.”

The annual event began in London in 1992, providing an opportunity to “get out and get under the skin of the amazing architecture in every London neighbourhood.” Open House, a small, not-for-profit organisation, falls under the umbrella of Open-City, London’s leading architecture education organisation.

The Mandir was amongst a number of well-known buildings to be featured in Brent, including the Capital City Academy, Cottrell House, Wembley WC Pavilion, Roe Green Village, and the Underground Bunker in Neasden. The Mandir also joined other local places of worship such as Christ Church in Brondesbury and Ruach City Church in Kilburn.

Tourists, members of the local community as well as visitors from various walks of life streamed through the doors of the Mandir throughout the weekend to appreciate the history behind the Mandir’s construction as well as the significance of its religious architecture. Guests also enjoyed a tour of the ‘Understanding Hinduism’ exhibition during their visit.

“Revealing”, the theme of this year’s Open House, intended to “shed light on issues that are relevant to local communities.” Volunteers of the Mandir were therefore able to provide a deeper insight on the various activities that the Mandir regularly organises to engage with and support the local community.

Jasmin Shah, a volunteer at the Mandir, shared: “Open House is a great opportunity for the Mandir to provide a more focussed and customised experience for the variety of people that arrive to learn about the architectural significance, community activities and its spirituality. We are always pleased to welcome worshippers, visitors and guests throughout the year – and entry is always free – but the Open House event enables us to spend more time with people interested in its architectural beauty and religious meaning.”

Many visitors also shared experiences of their visit in writing. Below are a few of those impressions:

Superb building lovingly maintained. Moving experience to witness the worship. Interesting exhibition which enlarged my understanding of Hinduism. Thank You. – Ann (Retired Teacher)

A wonderful temple built with great devotion. Very helpful guides & volunteers. –Catherine (IT Manager)

We are very grateful that you open this space to the general public and are so welcoming. It’s been a pleasure to see inside this special building. – Tanya (TV Producer)

Beautiful place, excellent tour and very friendly guides. Thank you. – Aine (Business Analyst)

Really enjoyed the visit. Very nice and friendly people. And the building is a real true wonder. – Carla (Administrator)

Really interesting. Beautiful to look at and lovely serene experience. Very well organised and everyone so helpful and friendly. “Oasis on the North Circular!” – Paul (Model Maker)

It’s exquisitely beautiful and peaceful. The introduction to Hinduism is so well presented. Nice way to teach children as well as people of other faiths all about Hinduism. – Shankari (Accountant)

Really beautiful and peaceful place. Tolerant of kids (I had my 2½ year old with me). Lovely space. Very beautiful. – Sonya (Accounts Manager)

I was very impressed by the beautiful carvings and the dedication that went into constructing this amazing building. Thank you for sharing it. – Kaye (Teacher)

Very interesting & a lot more to see than I expected. – Anders (Campaigns Manager)

I find it a very enriching and exciting experience having never been in a Hindu temple before. It was truly interesting. Thank you! – Katrina (Media Monitor)

Very beautiful and spiritual place. We thoroughly enjoyed our visit and will definitely be back. I personally found a new sense of calm and spirituality. – Loraine

A beautiful place built on beautiful principles. – Elizabeth (Writer/Editor)

For further information about Open House London, Open House Worldwide and Open-City, please follow the respective links.

Disclaimer: BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.

Observing International Peace Day
Sunday 21 September 2014

Background
In 1982, the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution declaring an International Day of Peace. In 2001, the General Assembly adopted 21 September as the permanent date for this annual event.

The Day is envisioned to provide “an opportunity for individuals, organizations and nations to create practical acts of peace on a shared date.” As the resolution specifically states: “Peace Day should be devoted to commemorating and strengthening the ideals of peace both within and among all nations and peoples.”

Since its inception, Peace Day has grown to include millions of people in all parts of the world, and each year events are organised over the week to commemorate and celebrate this idea.

Observance by BAPS in London
BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha, a member of the United Nations Economic and Social Council, observed the Day at BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in London on Sunday 21 September. The special evening assembly was inaugurated with the traditional lighting of the lamp and the choral singing of the Shanti-Paath, an ancient Vedic peace prayer.

Further devotional singing was followed by an enlightening discourse by Brahmavihari Swami (visiting from India). He expounded upon the teachings of Bhagwan Swaminarayan and narrated several insightful incidents from the life of His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj, particularly elaborating upon how he continues to bring peace to millions around the world and how his spiritual teachings can induce a truly lasting, meaningful peace in the hearts and homes of people first.

This message was reiterated in a short video of Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s blessings.

Thereafter, a statement of prayer and reflection was read out reiterating the UN Secretary-General’s message for 2014:

Today is the International Day of Peace.
Peace is a long road that we must travel together – step by step, beginning today.
Let us all reflect on peace – and what it means for our human family.
Let us hold it in our hearts and minds and tenderly nurture it so it may grow and blossom.

The assembly concluded with meditative chanting to pray for all fellow humans suffering in war-torn, conflict-stricken zones, and for the bereaved and those who had lost their lives or been injured by acts of violence or in natural disasters. A special prayer was also said for the orphaned, homeless, ailing, poor and deprived, and especially for those affected by the tragic acts of terror on-going around the world.

In thus observing the International Day of Peace, BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha affirmed its support of a shared vision of our world at peace and in harmony, and its commitment to converting these noble aspirations into a reality – here and now for us, and for generations to come everywhere.

To learn more about the United Nations International Day of Peace, please click here.

Disclaimer: BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.

Healthy Lifestyle Medical Seminar
Saturday 20 September 2014

On Saturday 20 September 2014, BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, London hosted a seminar organised by BAPS Charities on ‘Achieving a Healthy Lifestyle’. In collaboration with MIND and Diabetes UK, the seminar raised awareness and provided practical guidance on working towards a healthy body and a healthy mind.

Dr Rajeev Dhar, consultant psychiatrist practising in Harley Street, was a guest speaker at the event. Dr Dhar’s lecture addressed the importance of recognising symptoms of poor mental health that can compromise daily functioning and, in turn, impact physical health.

Dr Dhar highlighted sleep disturbance, low mood and poor concentration as key factors that may represent early signs of poor mental health. He also stressed acknowledging that optimal mental health is as important as physical well-being and urged those suffering to seek professional help.

Dr Markand Patel, a radiologist and a volunteer at BAPS Charities, spoke of the importance of maintaining a healthy body. He firstly explained the vital signs of heart disease and stroke. After emphasising the high genetic risk of heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure among the South Asian community, he went on to provide useful guidance on how each of these can be prevented or at least controlled by an active lifestyle, a healthy diet, and, if necessary, prescribed medication.

The concepts from both lectures were further reinforced during interactive workshops.

Members of the Harrow and Brent branches of MIND conducted a workshop on “Dealing with Chronic Pain” where they explained the emotional impact of chronic pain and shared practical tips on how to minimise its effects on daily living.

Volunteers from Diabetes UK led a workshop on “My Lifestyle as a Diabetic”. This included a Gujarati food quiz, testing the delegates’ knowledge of a balanced diet. Additionally, a recently diagnosed diabetic shared his personal journey through the condition helping further educate the attendees.

BAPS Charities volunteers also led a yoga session demonstrating how both body and mind can benefit from physical exercises and relaxation techniques.

The event was attended by approximately 40 people from the local community, with lots of positive feedback. Most shared that they were grateful that mental health and well-being were discussed so openly and given as much prominence as physical health.

Narendra Patel, a medical volunteer for BAPS Charities, commented: “Sadly, there’s still a stigma in the community attached to mental health problems and so too often they are swept under the carpet, meaning people who need the help the most don’t receive it. We wanted to break that taboo and bring both mental and physical health out in the open on par. We hope this seminar can be a step in that direction and are pleased we have been able to provide some practical guidance too with the help of these experts.”

To learn more about MIND and Diabetes UK, please follow the respective links.

Disclaimer: BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.

Seminar for Dental Professionals
Thursday 18 September 2014

A special seminar for dental professionals was held at BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, London on Thursday 18 September 2014.

Organised by BAPS Charities, the event was co-sponsored by AAA Laboratories, My Dental Order and Septodont, and brought together more than 100 participants, including dental nurses, hygienists, therapists, general practitioners and specialists.

Guest speaker Dr Nik Pandya addressed the delegates on ‘Managing Periodontal & Peri-Implant Disease in Practice.’ Dr Pandya is an implant surgeon and a specialist in periodontics, tutoring postgraduate students in periodontology at The Barts and The London Queen Mary School of Dentistry. His presentation was well delivered and covered contemporary thinking in this specialised field of dental care.

The evening concluded with a meal where delegates had the opportunity to network among colleagues.

The event as a whole counted towards three hours of Continuous Professional Development for the delegates.

Dr Pandya welcomed the opportunity to share knowledge on the subject matter and thanked BAPS Charities for organising the event. “It was very encouraging to be able to address such a large audience and I am very grateful to BAPS Charities for all the hard work that has gone into making this event such a success. It was a welcome and important step forward in sharing knowledge and best practices among dental professionals.”

Kuldipsinh Gohil, a BAPS Charities volunteer added: “This was our inaugural dental CPD event but we’re delighted with the attendance and overwhelmingly positive response from everyone. We look forward now to building upon these relationships and growing together in our knowledge to help each other better serve our patients.”