Dr A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, the 11th President of India, visited BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, Neasden, on Sunday 21 October 2007. The pioneering rocket scientist and former President arrived shortly after 7.00pm and was greeted at the ceremonial gates by Yogvivek Swami, Head Sadhu of the Mandir, and the Trustees of BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha, UK.
Dr Kalam was welcomed in the traditional Hindu manner. Yogvivek Swami applied a chandlo to his forehead and tied a nada-chhadhi on his right wrist as young BAPS children chanted Vedic prayers. They then proceeded up the Mandir steps to the inner sanctum.
Inside the Mandir, Dr Kalam paid respects to the sacred images by offering flowers, after which Yogvivek Swami explained the spirit of volunteerism of the Mandir and the significance of the intricate carvings. Dr Kalam then walked through the ‘Understanding Hinduism’ exhibition. Yogvivek Swami also discussed the significance of the sacred image of Nilkanth Varni, where Dr Kalam joined him in offering prayers and abhishek.
From there, the party proceeded to the Haveli. After viewing the beautiful wooden carvings, Dr Kalam entered the main Prayer Hall and was welcomed with a standing ovation by the thousands who had gathered. They also greeted him by waving Indian and BAPS flags.
After garlanding the former President, Yogvivek Swami officially introduced Dr Kalam to the assembly. A presentation of Dr Kalam’s association and memories with BAPS followed shortly thereafter.
In his address, Dr Kalam expressed his honour to visit this “temple of beauty” created with the inspiration of Pramukh Swami Maharaj and the dedication of volunteers, young and old. He spoke of the beautiful environment associated with the Mandir, where the mind is enriched and becomes creative. “Every minute of my visit here has filled me with happiness,” he shared. “I offer my thanks for the opportunity to visit this temple, where one can mix spirituality with social service.”
Dr Kalam continued by conveying a personal message, asking the assembly to repeat his words: “Where there is righteousness, there is beauty in character. Where there is beauty in character, there is harmony in the home. Where there is harmony in the home, there is order in the nation. Where there is order in the nation, there is peace in the world.” He concluded by expressing his faith that BAPS would spread this message of righteousness across the world.
After being presented with souvenirs of the visit, Dr Kalam took leave after taking prasad. As he departed, he personally offered his best wishes to many of those gathered in the assembly. He also conveyed his respects to His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj.