Diwali – one of the most auspicious occasions in the Hindu calendar – was celebrated with great devotion and splendour at BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in Neasden, London on Wednesday 26 October 2011.
It is traditionally the day when business owners close existing account books and open new ones in preparation for the year ahead. The ceremony – called Sharada Pujan or Chopda Pujan – is also a time to take stock of one’s spiritual relationship with God. Diwali also signifies a time when charity, goodwill, family values and the love of God are celebrated and reinforced.
Devotees and well-wishers gathered in the Haveli Prayer Hall for the Chopda Pujan ceremony, which commenced at 6.00pm. Hundreds of new account books – in a variety of paper and electronic forms – were blessed through the showering of flowers petals and rice grains amid the chanting of Vedic hymns and prayers. In the short assembly which followed, Yogvivek Swami read out Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s Diwali message and blessings before photos were shown from Mumbai, India, where Pramukh Swami Maharaj had celebrated Diwali a few hours earlier.
Invited guests for the evening included Cllr Ann John OBE (Leader of Brent Council), Cllr Muhammed Butt (Deputy Leader of Brent Council), Cllr Zaffar Van Kalwala (Councillor for Stonebridge), Cllr Colum Maloney (Councillor for Stonebridge), and Cllr Ketan Sheth (Councillor for Tokyngton).
Also present was Marie Geiger (Breast Health Promotion Training & Support Officer) from Breast Cancer Care. With October being Breast Cancer Awareness Month, BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha added its continuing support to the worthy cause by illuminating the Mandir in pink. (See here for photos and a brief report.)
The highlight of the evening for both young and the elderly was the spectacular fireworks display. Thousands of spectators, including families and local residents, braved the cold as they were enthralled by the colourful 20-minute display that filled the October night skies.
As the crowds dispersed, the volunteers continued their preparations for the following day’s New Year Annakut.