British Prime Minister The Rt. Hon. David Cameron MP and his wife Samantha Cameron joined thousands of devotees and visitors at BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, London on Monday 4 November 2013 to celebrate the Hindu New Year.
This was Mr Cameron’s second visit to the Mandir to celebrate this auspicious occasion, following his previous visit as Leader of the Opposition in October 2008.
Mr Cameron was welcomed at the ceremonial gates by Jitu Patel, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, and Satyavrat Swami (Head Sadhu) who greeted him in traditional Indian manner with auspicious marks of welcome and goodwill. Mrs Cameron was greeted by Rena Amin, lead volunteer of BAPS Women’s Forum.
Mr and Mrs Cameron then performed a ritual bathing of a metallic image of Bhagwan Swaminarayan, after which they proceeded to the sanctum sanctorum where they spent several minutes absorbing the peace and intricate architecture of the Mandir.
Thereafter, the Prime Minister and his wife made their way into the prayer hall where they were greeted with rapturous applause. Mr Cameron was garlanded by Ghanshyamcharan Swami (senior sadhu visiting from India), and Mrs Cameron was similarly garlanded by Pooja Patel (youth member of BAPS Women’s Forum).
In his address, Mr Cameron expressed that both he and his wife “were delighted to be here with you today.” Expressing his awe at the “truly spectacular celebrations” and the Annakut offering, he said, “No matter what you have heard about the Annakut – seeing it is really something. I don’t think I have ever seen such a magnificent display of different foods.”
After expressing his two wishes for the New Year – that the British Indian community “help strengthen our relationship with India” and “becomes ever more involved in shaping the life of our country” – the Prime Minister went on to congratulate the British Indian community: “Your contribution throughout our country shines out.”
He concluded by wishing everyone present as well all Hindus throughout Britain “a very happy Diwali and prosperous New Year.”
In a digital message posted on screens throughout the complex by the ‘Share a Prayer’ app, Mr Cameron also wrote: “Heartiest New Year wishes to all those celebrating today at Neasden Temple. Jai Swaminarayan from David Cameron.”
Before departing, the Prime Minister was presented with a special memento sent from India by His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj.