Over 1,500 people attended a special five-day parayan held at the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in Birmingham, UK. The programme included skits, videos, bhajans, and dances, and was divided into two sections. The theme of the first two days of the parayan was ‘Paramanand’. The second part of the parayan was entitled, ‘Dharmo Rakshati Rakshitaha – Preserve Values and Values Shall Preserve You’.
The first part of the parayan commenced on Wednesday 27 August 2008 where Anandpriya Swami spoke of devotees that have experienced ‘Paramanand’ in their lives having pleased Bhagwan Swaminarayan and Pramukh Swami Maharaj. Shukmuni Swami then conducted the main parayan from the Swaminarayan Charit Manas, which concluded on Thursday 28 August.
The second part of the parayan began on Friday 29 August where, in the presence of the Mayor and Mayoress of Solihull, the balaks of Birmingham presented an enlightening programme of bhajans, speeches, videos, and a special Bal Parayan. Their programme that was entitled, ‘Our Scriptures, Our Children, Our Future’. Through a unique interactive parayan, Manoharmurti Swami emphasised the importance of sanskars in the children of today and how BAPS ensures that children across the world develop into strong, mature citizens of tomorrow.
The festival of Janmashtami was celebrated with bhajans and videos on Saturday 30 August 2008 followed by an eloquent speech about how children, youths, professionals and people of all backgrounds can use principles from the Bhagavad Gita to attain success in their lives. The Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress of Birmingham, Abdul Rashid and his wife, Shafait Begum Rashid, also attended the event.
The final day of the parayan included a programme by the Mahila Mandal, entitled ‘The Power of Devotion’, depicting how women have achieved great heights through devotion. There were enlightening speeches, a thought-provoking sketch conducted by the Balika Mandal, and an energetic dance that raised the momentum and enthused the audience with devotion. Local councillor Paula Smith attended the evening, and expressed that she is eagerly looking forward to attending the next such event.
Following the programme by the Mahila Mandal, the second part of the evening was focussed on strengthening family unity with a special programme, ‘Family Day – Unity Through the Scriptures’. Yogvivek Swami highlighted teachings from the Ramayan and Mahabharat that guide one towards living as a happy and united family. One devotee expressed: “For years, we have had arguments in the family, but after listening to the parayan today, I feel confident that we can resolve them and live contented as a family.”
At the end of the evening, while addressing the audience, the Mayor said that it had been a great pleasure and honour to attend the event. “Your organisation has worked for the education of women and for the breaking down of classes, and this is something that is globally recognised. The values that you teach the children that come here are vital, particularly now with the pressures of theft, violence and other similar crimes among youngsters.”
The parayan in Birmingham was a resounding success, due no less to the enthusiastic young karyakars who planned and executed the event exceptionally well.
Similar parayans of varying duration were also held throughout the UK during and around the holy month of Shravan. These centres included: Ashton-under-Lyne, Birmingham, Bolton, Bristol, Cardiff, Colchester, Coventry, Crawley, Leeds, Leicester, Loughborough, Luton, Milton Keynes, Newcastle, Nottingham, Reading, Portsmouth, Preston, Southend-on-Sea, Swindon, Wellingborough, and eight boroughs of London. Parayans and one-day shibirs were also held in Paris (France) and Lisbon (Portugal).