Following the Diwali celebrations on Thursday, the Hindu New Year was welcomed with piety and devotion on Friday 24 October 2014 at BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, London.
The first ceremony of the New Year began at 5.30am, followed by prayers for world peace and well-being.
The traditional Annakut – a sumptuous arrangement of freshly prepared pure vegetarian food exhibiting a spectrum of colours, delicious aromas and intricate art – was ready by midday. It is a devout offering to God thanking him for his providence over the past year while praying for his blessings for the year ahead.
Chief Guest on the occasion was H.E. Mr Ranjan Mathai, High Commissioner of India to the UK. Addressing the assembly, he applauded the contribution of Indians in the UK. “I am proud and happy to come here”, he said. “What you do as a community is reflected best on occasions like this. You maintain your spiritual values in a foreign country without giving up loyalty to the country in which you live. This is the great contribution of Indians and I think a great message which we take away today.”
Joining other local leaders in the audience were Mayor of Brent Cllr Kana Naheerathan and Mayor of Harrow Cllr Ajay Maru.
Marie Harry, Breast Health Promotion Training and Support Officer for Breast Cancer Care, was also present and observed the Mandir’s support in action. Following the lighting of the Mandir in pink on Diwali, in support of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the colour had also been incorporated into the various decorations and uniforms on this day. “I’m in awe of the volunteers coming together wearing those [pink] colours. It’s been incredible how the community has come together today. It’s been wonderful to take part in this celebration at the BAPS Mandir and the image that will stay with me is that [of] how the community has come together to support breast cancer.” (To learn more about this support, please click here.)
This year marked the tenth anniversary of the consecration of Shri Nilkanth Varni at the Mandir by His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj. The metallic abhishek murti of the teenage form of Bhagwan Swaminarayan pays tribute to his arduous travels and austerities. Drawing upon this theme, the meticulously replicated temples forming the backdrop to the Annakut and the intricate rangolis (colourful floor designs) further charted and commemorated his epic journey.
The New Year is an occasion for thanksgiving. In keeping with this value, devotees and visitors to the Mandir were offered the opportunity to share their gratitude through the ‘Thanks-Sharing’ service. Messages of appreciation to friends, family and loved ones were digitally relayed on large screens in the assembly hall and around the complex.
Guests at the Mandir during the celebrations included visitors from America, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Malaysia, Poland, Russia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Ukraine, and Venezuela.