News & Events
BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, London, brought together tens of thousands from the local community to experience the vibrant sounds, flavours and colours of Diwali – the Hindu ‘Festival of Light’ – and the Hindu New Year on Monday 24 October and Wednesday 26 October 2022, in one of the largest devotional celebrations in the UK.
This year’s celebrations coincided with the centennial birth anniversary of Pramukh Swami Maharaj. His message, “In the joy of others lies our own”, inspired the ‘Community Food Drive’ in which the Mandir and other BAPS mandirs around the country will donate food items to local foodbanks and shelters supporting those impacted by the ongoing cost of living crisis. The Mandir also partnered with The Felix Project to support the provision of free fresh fruit and vegetables to the local community in London.
The festivities began at the Mandir from 10am on Monday, the day of Diwali, which included the Sharda Pujan ceremony, paying homage to Saraswati Devi, the Hindu deity of knowledge, arts and wisdom. Also known as ‘Chopda Pujan’, the ceremony involved blessing new account books and textbooks as families prayed for success and happiness in the coming year.
Later in the evening, visitors and the local community enjoyed a beautiful pyromusical fireworks display. The specially composed track commemorated the illuminating life and work of His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj in celebration of his centennial birth anniversary.
The Mandir celebrated the Hindu New Year on Wednesday 26 October. As part of the festivities, visitors were able to experience the ‘annakut’ – hundreds of food dishes lovingly prepared, artistically arranged and devoutly offered to the deities by worshippers in thanksgiving as the first meal of the New Year. The sanctified food was later distributed among devotees, volunteers and visitors.
To add to the festive experience, delicious vegetarian sweet and savoury snacks and various souvenirs were available at the ‘Diwali Village’ opposite the Temple across both days.
Addressing the congregation, Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said, “I want to thank everybody involved in this Mandir – the swamis, trustees, volunteers. You are a beacon for the wonderful religion of Hinduism. One of the greatest teachings of His Holiness [Pramukh Swami Maharaj] is ‘In the joy of others lies our own’, which this Temple teaches. You make me proud to be the mayor of this great City.”
Reflecting on the donation of food from the Mandir, David Lammy MP, Shadow Foreign Secretary, commented: “It is particularly poignant to know that people will receive nourishment and support from this great Temple.”
Vikram Doraiswami, High Commissioner of India to the United Kingdom, encouraged everyone to bring “friends, neighbours and people from all communities” to be blessed equally by “this wonderful Temple” and “share its compassion”.
Neha Patel, a volunteer at the Mandir, further explained, “Diwali and the Hindu New Year bring values of goodwill, charity and harmony across communities in the UK, which have perhaps never been more important than today. This year’s celebrations were also a tribute to Pramukh Swami Maharaj, on the occasion of his centennial birth anniversary. Pramukh Swami Maharaj devoted his life to bringing light, peace and harmony to others through selfless service, and our celebrations this year revolved around serving others and those who need us more than ever as we tackle these adversities together.”
The Diwali festivities from the Mandir extended to other parts of the community in partnership with various organisations and institutes, i.e. at Wembley Park, on Trafalgar Square, at the British Airways head office in Waterside, at The British Museum, and also at 10 Downing Street.