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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.
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Images 1 to 3 in gallery courtesy of www.gov.uk.