For the first time ever, Annakut was offered in the British Parliament. This was history and the Hindu community was overjoyed by the celebrations steeped with devotion. Volunteers of BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha worked hard to set up the Annakuta and other volunteers worked hard to make the whole celebration a grand success.
The House of Commons in London celebrated Diwali and the Hindu New Year on Wednesday 29 October 2003. Members of Parliament from all the parties, initiated by Keith Vaz, MP organised the Diwali function in association with Hindu leaders. the Prime Minister Tony Blair, graced the occasion. He highlighted Diwali as the Festival that brings hope and family unity. It was held in the Members’ Dining Hall. The Prime Minister spoke with pride of the achievements of Indians in UK.
It was attended by more than 30 members of parliament and almost 250 outstanding members of the Hindu Community, including representatives from 52 Hindu organisations. The Diwali celebration was supported by the Parliamentary Host Committee and was a spectacular success.
The Peace Chant – “Shanti Paath” – was recited in Sanskrit by children of the BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha.
The Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, Chairman of the Conservative Party Teresa May and other ministers and leading members of parliament lauded the Hindu spirit of respect and tolerance. They also stressed that such a celebration in the British Parliament was a natural sequel to the tremendous contribution by the Hindus towards the economy and prosperity of Britain. Many speakers made a special reference to the Swaminarayan Hindu Mission being outstanding in its organising capabilities and in promoting Hindu culture and tradition abroad.
Distinguished MPs from all parties, such as Simon Hughes, Peter Luff, Stephen Pound, Barry Gardiner, Tonny Baldry, Dominic Grieve and Lady Hermon, etc. spoke of Diwali as an important and enjoyable Hindu festival in a flourishing, multicultural Britain.
The highlight of the celebration was offering of Annakut to God. With over 75 vegetarian sweet items offered to Shri Akshar Purushottam Maharaj, Shri Radha-Krishna & Shri Sita-Ram, everyone was deeply touched by the devotion, dedication and divinity of the Diwali celebrations.
At the end, all the guests and visitors were presented a pack of Hindu literature and sanctified prasaadam.