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From its inauguration in August 1995, BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, London (popularly recognised as the ‘Neasden Temple’) has brought a profound sense of peace, inspiration and devotion to its community and beyond. This spirit of religiosity and service to society was celebrated on Saturday 11 August 2012 to mark the seventeenth anniversary of the Mandir’s opening. Traditionally known as a ‘patotsav’, the occasion celebrates the anniversary of the murtis (sacred images) since they were first infused with the divine presence of the deities.
The special evening programme began with devotional singing extolling the values of a mandir. This was elaborated upon further by the sadhus as they shared examples of how the Mandir has inspired young and old alike over the years.
The most memorable moments at the Mandir have been experienced in the presence of His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj. A video montage recounting the visits of Pramukh Swami Maharaj to London both before and since the Mandir opened revived memories for many children, youths and senior devotees.
Shrutiprakash Swami, a learned sadhu visiting from India, then drew from Hindu scriptures to explain the need for a mandir within society. He elaborated upon the spiritual benefits that a mandir offers to an individual and the wider community, particularly the peace and values that help foster positive change.
The evening also saw members of the Indian Olympic Team visit the Mandir, including Brigadier Muralidharan Raja, Chef de Mission and executive member of the Indian Olympic Association. He was joined by Ramesh Trivedi (physiotherapist), Sanjogita Soodan (medic) and Harpal Singh Bedi (press attaché) for the Indian contingent at the London 2012 Olympic Games.
The assembly concluded with the key address of Narendraprasad Swami (Acharya Swami), a senior sadhu also visiting from India. He spoke further of the devotional and spiritual significance of a mandir with supporting examples from the life of Pramukh Swami Maharaj.
The patotsav festivities continued on the morning of Sunday 12 August when sadhus performed an elaborate set of Vedic rituals in the central shrines. Devotees also participated in the abhishek (ritual bathing) of the smaller murtis. An array of sweet and savoury dishes was then offered to the deities, traditionally known as an annakut (literally, ‘mountain of food’).
Devotees and well-wishers visited the Mandir throughout the day to offer their respects and prayers.