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On January 14, the sun enters the zodiac constellation of Capricorn. This is known as Makar Sankranti. The date also marks the beginning of the sun’s northbound journey in relation to the earth, and so is also known as Uttarayan. It is considered especially meritorious to donate on this auspicious day, when sadhus also traditionally beg for alms with the ‘ahlek’ (or call) “Swaminarayan Hare Satchidanand Prabho!”

The festival of Uttarayan was celebrated at BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, London on Saturday 14 January 2012 in the presence of Sadguru Pujya Mahant Swami. The evening assembly began with a touching video of Pramukh Swami Maharaj calling the traditional ‘ahlek’ after which kishores, yuvaks and vadils sang the dhun and the bhajan ‘Uttarayanni Punya Parvani’.

Gnanvijay Swami explained the concept of religious charity drawing from the example of several inspiring devotees. This was explored further in an enlightening drama which depicted the inspiring stories of Harkhaashaa, Gangaadhar, Manasiyo Khumaan and Laaldas, all devotees from the time of Bhagwan Swaminarayan.

Following a video presentation of the Uttarayan festival celebrated in the presence of Swamishri in Mumbai earlier that day, Mahant Swami elaborated upon the historical and spiritual significance of Uttarayan in the Swaminarayan Sampradaya.

The traditional ‘ahlek’ was performed by sadhus thereafter before devotees pledged their donations according to their means.

The Uttarayan festival was also celebrated at various mandirs and centres across the UK, including Wellingborough.

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