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 Diwali – one of the most auspicious days in the Hindu calendar – was celebrated with great devotion and splendour at BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, London on Tuesday 13 November 2012.

It is traditionally the day when business-owners close existing account books and open new ones in preparation for the year ahead. The ceremony – called Sharada Pujan or Chopda Pujan – also symbolises how one should take stock of one’s spiritual relationship with God.

Hundreds of new account books – in a variety of paper and electronic forms – were sanctified through the showering of flowers petals and rice grains amid the chanting of Vedic hymns and prayers.

A short assembly followed thereafter where Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s Diwali message and blessings from India were shared. Stephen Richards and Rachel Kingston of Macmillan Cancer Support attended the evening assembly for a special cheque presentation from BAPS Charities in relation to the 10k Challenge held across the UK in April this year.

Baroness Warsi (Senior Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and Minister for Faith and Communities) and Cllr Muhammed Butt (Leader of Brent Council) also attended the celebrations.

Baroness Warsi expressed her delight at being at the Mandir – “what greater place to come and celebrate Diwali but at the place that is considered to be the eighth wonder of the world” – and, “on behalf of the government”, wished all the gathered devotees and well-wishers “a Shubh Deepavali and a very, very happy New Year.”

The highlight of the evening for both young and the elderly was the spectacular fireworks display. Thousands of spectators, including families and local residents, were enthralled by the colourful 20-minute display that illuminated the skies of North London high above the Mandir domes.

As the crowds dispersed, the volunteers continued their preparations for the following day’s New Year celebrations, including the grand Annakut offering.

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