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Prime Minister Gordon Brown celebrated the Hindu festival of Diwali by lighting the ceremonial lamp at 10 Downing Street amid chanting of Vedic prayers for world peace, thus becoming the first British Prime Minister to personally host the occasion.

The new Indian High Commissioner His Excellency Nalin Surie, Baroness Vadera, and other eminent members of the Indian community had gathered in the Pillared Room of 10 Downing Street – one of the most famous addresses in the world – along with the hosts for the event, the Rt Hon Gordon Brown MP and his wife, Sarah Brown.

The Prime Minister and his wife were garlanded by volunteers of BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha and also presented with an intricate model of the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in Neasden, London.

A traditional arrangement of Indian food was also on offer to Hindu Deities as part of the auspicious celebrations. Volunteers of BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha had worked hard to set up the ‘Annakut’ – as it is called in Sanskrit – comprising a colourful selection of Indian sweets and savouries in offering to Bhagwan Swaminarayan, Aksharbrahma Gunatitanand Swami, Shri Radha-Krishna and Shri Sita-Rama.

In his short, informal address, the Prime Minister lauded the Hindu spirit of respect and tolerance. He highlighted Diwali as a festival that brings hope and strengthens family and community values, and spoke gratefully of the valuable contribution of British Hindus to the nation.

On this historic occasion, His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj, spiritual leader of BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha, had also sent a message of goodwill to the Prime Minister. His Holiness said he was praying for the peace and well-being of all people in the UK, and the light and warmth of God to guide us to better times.

In keeping with the spirit of Diwali, all the celebrants were presented at the end with the delicacies which had formed a part of the Annakut, to further share with their family and friends. Earlier on Friday, the Prime Minister posted a special Diwali message on the 10 Downing Street website in which he sent his “warmest good wishes… for a peaceful and joyous Diwali” to the Hindu, Sikh, Jain and Buddhist communities of the UK.

Read a brief report of the celebrations on the official 10 Downing Street website here.

For detailed information about the Diwali and Hindu New Year celebrations at the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in Neasden, click here.

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