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The High Commissioner of India to the United Kingdom, His Excellency Mr Nalin Surie, visited BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, London – popularly known as the ‘Neasden Temple’ – with his wife, Mrs Poonam Surie, during the Hindu New Year celebrations on Saturday 6 November 2010. They joined thousands of others as Mr Surie was invited to perform the main ceremonial Rajbhog Arti of the Annakut offering.

The Annakut – literally, ‘a mountain of food’ – is a devout offering of the first meal of the New Year in thanksgiving to God. 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 celebrations at the mandir in Neasden have been recognised as one of the largest of its kind in the world.

After performing the Arti in the sanctum sanctorum in the stone mandir, the delegation moved to the assembly hall where they joined again in the ritual offering and Arti.

Mr Surie was then officially welcomed with a traditional garland by Head Sadhu of the Mandir, Sadhu Yogvivekdas. Mrs Surie was duly welcomed by BAPS senior volunteer Mrs Saroj Patel.

In his address to the assembly, Mr Surie firstly conveyed his Diwali and New Year greetings to everyone before saying: “It is a matter of great honour for my wife and me to be invited here today, to perform the first Arti in this year’s Annakut. Thank you for honouring us in this manner.”

His Excellency then went on to say: “I would like to use this occasion to thank [BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha] for the yeoman work that they are doing, not only in propagating the Indian tradition, Indian culture, Indian religion, but also the social service that they are doing, and most importantly, the school [The Swaminarayan School]…. I believe that it is one of the finest schools in the country.

I have no doubt that it will soon be the finest school in the country. “Ladies and gentlemen, I must tell you how proud we are of our community in the United Kingdom. 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 to the Mandir were able to offer their personal prayers and messages for the New Year through the ‘Share a Prayer’ digital service. Mr Surie wrote:

May the new year bring to all of you good health, peace, prosperity and the blessings of Lord Krishna.
Nalin Surie (Indian High Commissioner)

Before departing, Mr Surie also visited some of the 1,200 volunteers involved in ensuring a pleasant and enriching experience for the tens of thousands who enjoy the festival every year. His Excellency expressed his admiration of His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj for being able to inspire and mobilise so many young people in such positive causes.  

For a full report with photographs of the Hindu New Year Celebrations, please click here.
For the report and photographs of the Diwali Celebrations, please click here.

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