His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales, accompanied by Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cornwall, visited The Swaminarayan School, London, on the afternoon of Wednesday 4 March 2009 to celebrate the Hindu festival of Holi. The festival of Holi celebrates the arrival of Spring where people celebrate the changing season and the beauty associated with Spring blossoms by spraying colour.
Their Royal Highnesses (TRH) arrived at BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, situated opposite the School, shortly after 1.00pm to pay their respects to the deities in the mandir and were greeted by the Deputy Lord Lieutenant, Mei Sim Lai and then introduced to the Mayor of Brent, Cllr. Ralph Fox. Their Royal Highnesses were then introduced to the Chair of the Board of Trustees – Mr Jitu Patel and other trustees.
The head sadhu of the mandir, Yogvivek Swami, welcomed His Royal Highness in the traditional manner with a chandlo and nada chadhi before garlanding him. Senior ladies of the Women’s Wing simultaneously welcomed Her Royal Highness.
The Prince then proceeded to the sanctum sanctorum, escorted by Yogvivek Swami and Jitu Patel where he offered flower petals at the central shrine. The Duchess led by Mrs Pooja Patel, National Coordinator of Youth Activities for the Women’s Wing, also offered flower petals at the central shrine. TRH spent a few moments absorbing the serene atmosphere and beautiful intricate architecture of the mandir.
Having paid their respects, TRH then walked through the ceremonial gates of the Mandir to the School, where they were introduced to Mr Savjani – the Headteacher, Mr Piyush Amin – the Chair of Governors, Mr Nilesh Manani – head of Senior School and Mr Umesh Raja – head of Prep School.
TRH then made their way to a Performing Arts classroom to hear traditional Indian musical instruments being played. His Royal Highness also participated by trying his hand at a small Indian drum. TRH also visited a Prep School classroom where they interacted with the children about the Hindu festival of Holi.
TRH continued their tour of the School to the Senior School where they visited an arts class and viewed various Holi-based art exhibits.
The final section of the visit was held at the school's sports hall, where the royal couple were welcomed with garlands by the Head Girl and Head Boy of the Prep School. TRH observed children playing Holi in the traditional manner by throwing coloured powder and spraying each other with water. The pupils were showered with flower petals by TRH as a symbolic gesture of their having taken part in the festival.
Following a Holi dance depicting the advent of Spring, TRH were presented with mementos by the Head Girl and Head Boy of the Senior School before bidding farewell. En route to their car, TRH were offered numerous bouquets of flowers by pupils and parents. TRH stopped to speak to many of the children and parents before departing.
Mr Savjani was very touched by TRH. He said, “It was so wonderful and an honour to have HRH Prince Charles and The Duchess of Cornwall at the school to celebrate the Holi festival. TRH enjoyed every bit of the visit, especially the music and dance. They were impressed by the School’s exceptional performance in the results’ league tables in recent years and the fact that the children study 12 GCSEs and that the parents are so supportive.”
Mr Piyush Amin too was honoured by the visit, “It was a pleasure to show TRH firsthand the curriculum set out for the students. They were impressed by the way in which culture and values are included in studies. Yet at the same time, non-Hindu festivals are also celebrated.”
Their Royal Highnesses The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall Celebrate Diwali at BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, London – Friday 9 November 2007
HRH The Prince Of Wales, Prince Charles launches the BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha’s “Sponsor-A-Home Scheme” at BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, Neasden, London – Monday 5 March 2001
HRH The Prince Of Wales, Prince Charles visits BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, Neasden, London – Wednesday 28 February 1996