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Diwali – one of the most auspicious occasions in the Hindu calendar – was celebrated with great devotion and splendour at BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in Neasden, London, on Saturday 17 October 2009. It is traditionally the day when business owners close existing account books and open new ones in preparation for the year ahead. The ceremony – called Sharada Pujan or Chopda Pujan – is also a time to take stock of one’s spiritual relationship with God. Diwali also signifies a time when charity, goodwill, family values and the love of God are celebrated and reinforced.

Devotees and well-wishers gathered in the Haveli Prayer Hall for the Chopda Pujan ceremony, which commenced at 6.00pm. Hundreds of new account books – in a variety of paper and electronic forms – were blessed through the showering of flowers petals and rice grains amid the chanting of Vedic hymns and prayers. In the short assembly which followed, senior sadhu Doctor Swami reflected upon the spiritual significance of the day before photos were shown from Gondal, India, where Pramukh Swami Maharaj had celebrated Diwali a few hours earlier.

Invited guests for the evening programme included the Leader of Brent Council, Councillor Paul Lorber, and Paul Wilson, Manager of the Brent Park branch of Tesco.

The highlight of the evening for both young and elderly was the spectacular fireworks and laser display, which was provided by 1st Galaxy Fireworks. Thousands of spectators, including families and local residents, were enthralled by the colourful 20-minute display that illuminated the October night skies. More than 4,500 explosions were created, roughly corresponding to the distance in miles between London and Gondal.

As the crowds dispersed, the volunteers continued their preparations for the following day’s New Year Annakut.

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