The Hindu New Year (Samvat 2069) was devoutly heralded on the morning of Wednesday 14 November 2012 at BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, London.
Following the joyous Diwali celebrations of 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 upper 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 an 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 joined in the arti ceremony every half-hour.
Satyavrat Swami, senior sadhu at the Mandir, reiterated the Diwali message from the Prime Minister David Cameron and also read a letter from His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj conveying his blessings to everyone.
Guest of Honour for the auspicious occasion was the High Commissioner of India to the United Kingdom, His Excellency Dr J. Bhagwati. In his brief address to the gathering he shared that he “felt blessed to be here [at the Mandir] at a time to reinforce light over darkness which transcends all religions.” He also expressed on behalf of the Indian High Commission how “proud they are of the achievements of Indian people, not only materially and intellectually but also spiritually.”
“This hall is filled with people,” he observed,“who have the deepest thoughts of piety and of feelings for their fellow human beings. You remain moored to your spiritual and religious roots. Today is a day to reflect, to pause and to thank our parents, friends and good fortune for what we have on this planet. I would like to wish you the very, very best for the coming year.”
As in recent years, devotees and visitors were able to offer their personal prayers and messages for the New Year through the ‘Share a Prayer’ service. 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.