The first anniversary of the inauguration of the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir & Canadian Museum of Cultural Heritage of Indo-Canadians was celebrated on July 13, 2008 with prayers, classical devotional music, discourses and children's programs.
The day began with the Patotsav Vidhi (Anniversary Rituals) in the mandir, which included special world peace prayers. In traditional style, the marble murtis were ceremoniously anointed with five auspicious and pure elements (namely milk, yogurt, ghee, honey, sugar) in a ceremony called Panchamrut Abhishek. The murtis were then bathed with holy saffron water. The ceremony was followed by Arti and an Annakut (offering of food) arranged in front of the Murtis. All present were delighted to have the opportunity to participate in the rituals.
The evening assembly consisted of programs by the children and youth of BAPS, devotional music (Kirtans) and inspirational speeches by the sadhus.
Invited guests and dignitaries included Hon. Harinder Takhar, Member of the Provincial Parliament, Ontario, Minister of Small Business and Consumer Services; Dr. Shafiq Qaadri, Member of the Provincial Parliament, Ontario, Etobicoke North and Satish Mehta, Consul General of India in Toronto.
The Premier of Ontario, Dalton McGuinty, sent a special message supporting the celebrations: "My colleagues and I are proud of the Hindu community, whose vital contributions have enhanced Ontario's social, cultural and economic life in many ways. As members of that community, you continue to make Ontario and Canada as a whole an even better place to live."
Since its inauguration on July 22, 2007, the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir has become a symbol of peace and harmony for all Canadians by fostering interfaith understanding and appreciation among Canada's diverse communities. As a place of worship and spirituality, promoting India's priceless heritage of arts, architecture and values, the mandir has hosted many events, festivals and special visitors over the past year including:
- Giving back to the community through activities such as the annual BAPS Family Walk supporting local charities; a Tree Planting campaign to preserve green spaces; health fairs in partnership with community organizations like the Heart & Stroke Foundation, the Canadian Diabetes Association and Canadian Cancer Society.
- Children's activities ranging to heritage music and language classes to Children's Conventions and Children's Diwali Celebrations.
- A 'Gala Event' for the The Canadian Museum of Cultural Heritage of Indo-Canadians which was attended by business, political and community leaders supporting cultural tolerance.
- An invitation for a BAPS Delegation to Parliament Hill to meet with Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
- Special Events included hosting 'Doors Open Toronto' as its premier site; welcoming special group visits from schools, community groups and a 50-member Trade Mission from India.
- Going beyond art and architecture, the mandir has also raised curiosity from a technical perspective with several architectural, engineering and professional group visits.
- A very successful BAPS Women's Conference called 'Investing in Women' brought together several hundred professionals and business women to discuss relevant issues.
- Special Guests ranging from political and community dignitaries, corporate leaders and international dignitaries such as India's President, Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam and the Chief Justice of India's Supreme Court Mr. K. G. Balakrishnan graced the mandir and Heritage Museum.
BAPS continuously strives for opportunities to reach out to the community. The next major community event is the upcoming BAPS Family Walk on Sunday September 7, 2008 organized by the children and youth supporting the Sick Kids Foundation.