The inauguration of the new BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in Preston, UK was celebrated over the weekend of 7-8 November 2015 in the presence of Sadguru Pujya Swayamprakash Swami (Doctor Swami) and sadhus from India and the UK.
The Mandir marks the steady growth of Satsang activities in Preston over the years since His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj first visited Preston in 1974 and a further eight times until 2000.
The first BAPS Swaminarayan mandir in Preston was established in 1984, in a disused synagogue. With the rise in the number of worshippers, the need for a larger facility arose. A property was acquired in the heart of the city with fundraising activities to support the project lasting over five years. The long-awaited opening of the new mandir is the fruition of tireless efforts by Swamishri, sadhus and volunteers.
The two-day Mandir Mahotsav began with a special mahapuja where devotees and well-wishers offered their prayers for peace and well-being to prevail throughout the local community.
The murtis (sacred images) to be consecrated in the Mandir travelled through the heart of Preston in a colourful Nagar Yatra (literally, ‘City Procession’) to bless the city and inhabitants of the Mandir’s new home. The streets were filled with people who had gathered to enjoy the procession of beautifully decorated floats, traditional dances and the sounds of joyous devotional music.
The murtis were infused with the divine presence of God by Pramukh Swami Maharaj in Sarangpur, India on 29 June 2015. On the morning of Sunday 8 November, the murtis were ceremonially consecrated in their respective shrines by Doctor Swami amid Vedic chanting and rituals.
Neetal Parekh, a volunteer at the Mandir, shared, “The consecration of the murtis was incredibly emotional. It is something which is only witnessed once in a lifetime in your home city, and I am privileged to have been a part of this historical event.”
The auspicious occasion was marked with a vibrant kirtan-bhakti programme at the University of Central Lancashire where sadhus and youths sang bhajans to the accompaniment of an array of musical instruments.
On Sunday, a colourful dedication assembly took place in the same auditorium in the presence of guests, civic leaders and various community representatives.
Mark Hendrick, Member of Parliament for Preston, said in his address: “I would like to extend my warmest congratulations to everyone at the Preston Mandir. I would like to congratulate all the individuals who have no doubt worked extremely hard over the last few years to get this ambitious project completed.”
Local resident Jamie Goodwin added, “It’s wonderful to have such a beautiful place of worship nearby where there is such a strong sense of community spirit. I am delighted to see such a diverse and multicultural community within the city of Preston.”
The new Mandir will serve as the hub of spiritual, community and charity services for BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha in Preston and the wider Lancashire area.