Twenty five years ago, more than a million visitors from the UK, mainland Europe and as far as America and Africa flocked to witness a remarkable and historical festival in London – the Cultural Festival of India.
Over eighteen acres of lush parkland surrounding Alexandra Palace were transformed into a cultural wonderland bringing the sights, sounds, tastes and experience of India to north London. For over a month – from 15 July to 18 August 1985 – traditional art, architecture, dance and musical performances as well as enlightening exhibitions helped visitors learn about the rich cultural heritage of India.
To commemorate the Festival’s 25th anniversary, a special two-day programme was organised at BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in London over the weekend of 24 and 25 July 2010 – where cherished memories of those present in 1985 were rekindled, and those who were not present became part of the unique and historic occasion.
The opening evening included video highlights of the Festival and key members of the then volunteer force – including trustees, sadhus and department heads – sharing their experiences about the planning, execution and management of the Festival. Many of those interviewed narrated eye-opening accounts of the huge challenges they had faced and also how they overcame them with unity, determination, hard work and, above all, the blessings and guidance of Pramukh Swami Maharaj.
In conclusion to the first evening, Brahmavihari Swami – who was returning to India from North America and who was also a part of the core team 25 years ago – shared a collection of special memories with Pramukh Swami Maharaj revealing Swamishri’s humility, leadership qualities and devotion to Bhagwan Swaminarayan.
The second day of the two-day celebration focused on the golden memories of the unique Guru Bhakti Din celebrated at Queen’s Park Rangers football stadium on 20 July 1985.
The afternoon’s programme commenced with a grand mahapuja to pray for world peace.
Again, leading volunteers journeyed back in time to give a behind-the-scenes account of how the festival was made possible. Interspersed with video highlights and Swamishri’s blessings, the evening allowed those present to relive those special devotional moments.
Brahmavihari Swami continued to share his experiences with Swamishri, focussing on the events leading to that historic day in 1985.
Following the arti, all haribhaktas were offered an opportunity to partake in a commemorative Tula as Thakorji was devoutly weighed with sugar crystals.