Following his visit to BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, London on Monday 4 November to celebrate the Hindu New Year, British Prime Minister David Cameron celebrated the Hindu festival of Diwali at 10 Downing Street on Wednesday 6 November 2013.
Along with British Hindus from various denominations, also gathered in the Pillared Room of the Prime Ministerial home were Shailesh Vara MP, Alok Sharma MP, Priti Patel MP, and several other eminent Britons of Indian origin.
The event, helped organised by Bob Blackman MP, began with the lighting of the ceremonial lamp while schoolchildren chanted ancient Vedic prayers.
A traditional arrangement of Indian food was also on offer to Hindu Deities as part of the auspicious celebrations. Volunteers from BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir had worked hard to set up the decorations and annakut – comprising a colourful selection of Indian sweets and savouries in offering to Bhagwan Swaminarayan, Aksharbrahma Gunatitanand Swami, Shri Radha-Krishna and Shri Sita-Rama.
In his short address, Mr Cameron began by recalling his visit to the Mandir. He said: “You get to make some extraordinary visits as Prime Minister, you get to meet some extraordinary people and you get to do some extraordinary things. But very few will actually compete with my experience on Monday, going to the Mandir in Neasden. It was a beautiful service; it was lovely to see so many people packed into a temple and queues stretching round the block; people wanting to celebrate their belief, wanting to celebrate their faith, and wanting to do so with their families, with their neighbours, with their friends. It was a really wonderful thing to do and I want to thank those that asked me to take part.”
He then went on to reiterate his two wishes made at the Mandir on Monday – that the British Hindu community can help “forge great relationships between Britain and India” and “becomes ever more involved in shaping the life of our country”.
After applauding the “enormous contributions that British Hindus make to our country”, he highlighted the importance given to family, community and voluntary service in the Hindu faith. In conclusion, the Prime Minister said: “So, as you celebrate your values, let’s make them our values, and let’s have more of them in Britain.”
On this special occasion, His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj had sent a message of goodwill to the Prime Minister. His Holiness said he was praying for the peace and well-being of all people in the UK, and the light and warmth of God to guide us swiftly through this period of austerity.
In keeping with the spirit of Diwali, the celebrants were presented at the end with the delicacies which had formed a part of the annakut, to further share with their family and friends.
Earlier on Monday, the Prime Minister had visited BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in Neasden, London, with his wife Samantha Cameron to participate first-hand in the Hindu New Year celebrations. To see a report with photos and a video, please click here.
For detailed reports of the Diwali and Hindu New Year celebrations at BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, please follow the respective links.