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 BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in Neasden, London, hosted Community Open Days over the weekend of 17 and 18 September 2011, which also coincided with Open House London, the capital’s annual festival of architecture.

The Community Open Days provided an opportunity for visitors to explore the Mandir and enjoy and engage with the multitude of activities on offer inside the Swaminarayan Haveli (adjoining cultural complex). A series of dedicated zones depicting a diverse range of themes – including Art, Music, Sports & Fitness, Lifestyle, Celebrations, Values, Peace, Youth, and Welfare – provided an interactive experience for the visitors, both young and old alike. In addition, live musical and dance performances were staged throughout the day, while food stalls served delicious vegetarian fare.

The opening ceremony for the Open Days was performed in the presence of a number of interfaith and civic leaders, including local councillors Ann John (also Leader of Brent Council), Muhammed Butt and Zaffar Van Kalwala. The Mayor of Brent Cllr Aslam Choudary also graced the occasion on Sunday 18 September 2011.

The multifarious healthcare initiatives undertaken by BAPS Charities, UK were also presented, including an opportunity to learn about and participate in the Organ Donation Appeal. Qualified medical volunteers were also on site offering visitors a free basic healthcare screening. In addition, a motivational seminar on “Win or Lose, You Choose” by Billy Schwer, a former European and Commonwealth boxing champion, was conducted on the evening of Saturday 17 September.

From Monday 19 September to Friday 23 September 2011, the interactive learning zones were specifically open for visiting schoolchildren. Seventeen school groups with over 750 pupils had the opportunity to learn about Hinduism (as part of their designated RE curriculum) and the community support activities offered by BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir inspired by these Hindu values.

The Mandir is also a regular participant of Open House London, an annual “celebration of all that is best about the capital’s buildings”, organised by Open-City, “an independent organisation that champions the role of well-designed places in making a vibrant city.” The Mandir contributed to this event by offering guided tours throughout the weekend where visitors learned about the making of the Mandir and the significance of its religious architecture. Open House visitors had the advantage of visiting the interactive exhibitions as well.

Harish Trivedi, a volunteer at the Mandir, shared: “Our doors are always open to everyone, but this was an opportunity to welcome the local community and provide guests and visitors with a variety of different experiences to suit their tastes and interests. We hope visitors could learn a little more about what this Mandir offers to the community and our passion about working with everyone for the common good.”

Many visitors of the Open Days and Open House also shared their views of the event and the Mandir. Some of these include:

To learn more about Open House London and Open-City, please follow the respective links.

To learn about BAPS Charities, UK, please visit its independent site at www.bapscharities.org.uk

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