The morning of Saturday 6 November 2010 heralded the Hindu New Year, Samvat 2067.
Following the joyous Diwali celebrations the night before, devotees and visitors arrived at the Mandir continuously from early morning to offer their prayers and seek blessings.
The first ceremony of the New Year was held at 5.30am, followed by prayers for world peace and well-being.
The Annakut – the ceremonial offering of food to the Deities – followed at midday, first in the sanctum in the main mandir and then in the Haveli assembly hall. More than 1,200 dishes of sweets, savouries, curries, pickles, salads, desserts, soups, juices, and various other items representing cuisine from around the world had been lovingly and artistically arranged before the Deities. The Annakut – literally, ‘mountain of food’ – is a devout offering of the first meal of the New Year in thanksgiving to God for His providence over the past year and to seek His blessings for the year ahead.
The main ceremonial Rajbhog Arti (ritual offering) was performed at noon. As guests and visitors passed by to observe the Annakut and offer their prayers and thanksgiving, they took part in the arti ceremony every half hour.
During his short New Year’s address at midday, Head Sadhu of the Mandir, Sadhu Yogvivekdas, read out His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s personal blessings for the people of the UK. His Holiness wrote that he was praying for everyone’s health and well-being, and for the light of spirituality to dispel inner darkness and guide us through difficult times.
Chief Guest for the auspicious occasion was The High Commissioner of India to the United Kingdom, His Excellency Mr Nalin Surie. In his brief address, he expressed his honour at being invited to the Mandir and performing the first arti of the Annakut. He further commented, “You have demonstrated through your hard work, your perseverance and the manner in which you have conducted yourselves in this country that India is a land with old traditions, an old civilisation, yet it is a country that can combine tradition with modernity and demonstrate that without losing our values, our culture, we can be in the mainstream of modernity – that is what you have demonstrated, that is what India is demonstrating, and this is our contribution to the world.”
This year, devotees and visitors were able to offer their personal prayers and messages for the New Year through the ‘Share a Prayer’ initiative. Volunteers engaged with visitors as they flowed along for darshan, helping them type and digitally convey festive messages to friends and family which were then relayed on the large screens in the assembly hall and throughout the complex. Over 1,600 messages were received.
In addition to the celebrations in London, Annakut was celebrated at all major BAPS mandirs and centres across the UK & Europe.