The morning of Thursday 27 October 2011 heralded the Hindu New Year, Samvat 2068.
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, translated His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s personal blessings for the people of the UK. His Holiness had earlier said in Mumbai 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 Acting High Commissioner of India to the United Kingdom, Mr Rajesh Prasad. 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: “I think this Swaminarayan Mandir brings out the best of our community in the sense that it brings them together – people volunteering, doing their best, working together on a common platform for this great event.”
Also present were Rt. Hon. Sarah Teather (MP for Brent Central and Minister of State for Children and Families), Cllr Ann John (Leader of Brent Council), and Cllr Paul Lorber (Head of Liberal Democrats in Brent Council).
Later in the afternoon, the Mayor of London Boris Johnson also visited the Mandir to join in the New Year celebrations. (Please click here for full report with photos.)
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.