As young children chant Vedic peace prayers, from the sacred pit of the yagna a young girl carries a flame out of the hall – igniting an auspicious atmosphere to begin the grand mahila celebrations for the 20th anniversary of BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, London.

The festival, held on Sunday 4 October 2015, was celebrated through a series of video scrapbooks and live performances involving a cast and crew of more than 350 volunteers. The three-hour production transported more than 2,000 women on a nostalgic journey from the inception of the Mandir to the present day – and beyond.

After recollecting Yogiji Maharaj’s vision of a mandir in London, and charting its early history and construction, a panel of speakers paid tribute to the sacrifice of mahilas involved in various projects to make the Mandir possible. Their selfless service during the months and weeks leading to the Mandir’s opening were bought to life with dramatic performances of real life incidents.

The jubilant scenes of the Mandir Mahotsav were recreated with a vibrant procession inside the assembly hall. The audience, led by 38 mothers of youths from the UK who have since become sadhus, also performed the first arti of the Mandir amidst the backdrop of the central mandir shrine.

The impact of the Mandir on the wider community was depicted through a further montage of videos and a speech. Women of various ages then shared personal testimonies revealing the profound impact of the Mandir on their childhood behaviour and values, education and careers, and family and personal lives.

The final video compilation revisited iconic moments of Swamishri’s visits to London since 1995. This transitioned into a reiteration of his vision for the Mandir – to inspire individuals to grow in personal spirituality and to serve the community for generations to come.

The enlightening programme concluded with a spectacular dance performance that brought the audience to its feet.

As the celebrations drew to a close, the young girl that had featured in the opening, once again appeared through a video, performing ritual prayers to Thakorji. She then arrived with Thakorji inside the hall, welcomed by a beautifully sung prayer. The audience devoutly joined in the prayers with an offering of flowers as a symbol of their heartfelt gratitude for the beautiful mandir. Rose petals rained from the ceiling to create a breathtaking and heart-warming climax to a joyous and memorable occasion.

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