The Hindu New Year – Vikram Samvat 2073 – was devoutly welcomed on 31 October 2016 at BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, London.
The first arti ceremony of the new year was performed at 5.30am, followed with a special mahapuja praying for peace, prosperity and harmony around the world.
The main attraction of the day was darshan of the murtis in the upper sanctum and the iconic annakut offering in the main prayer hall. Worshippers and visitors were captivated by the sumptuous arrangement of over 1,200 freshly prepared pure vegetarian dishes offered in thanksgiving to God as the first meal of the new year.
In the short assembly following the thal, Yogvivek Swami conveyed His Holiness Mahant Swami Maharaj’s new year blessings for the whole of UK and Europe. Also joining the celebrations on this day was His Excellency Dinesh Patnaik, Acting High Commissioner of India to the United Kingdom. In his address, he said that it was “a proud moment” for him to be present at the Mandir on such an auspicious occasion. He also spoke about the “positive energy” created by the Mandir in “bringing the community together in prayer and service.”
Children reinforced this message by collecting funds for victims of the recent earthquake in Italy. The young volunteers engaged enthusiastically with visitors, encouraging all to donate generously in the spirit of His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s teaching, “In the joy of others lies our own.”
As a part of their visit, well-wishers had the opportunity to pay tribute to His Holiness, who passed away in August. He was the creator of the London Mandir and the religious leader of millions around the world.
More than 50 peers, Members of Parliament and councillors also attended throughout the day to lend their support to the community celebrations and pay tribute to Pramukh Swami Maharaj. These guests included Lord Jitesh Gadhia, Lord Raj Loomba, Baroness Usha Prashar, Dawn Butler MP, Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry MP, Bob Blackman MP, Deputy Mayor of London Rajesh Agrawal, Mayor of Brent Cllr Parvez Ahmed, Mayor of Barnet Cllr David Longstaff, Leader of Brent Council Cllr Muhammed Butt, Cllr Krupa Sheth, Cllr Tom Miller, and several others.
Visitors also hailed from several other countries, including America, Austria, Bulgaria, Chile, India, Ireland, Italy, Mexico, Nepal, New Zealand, the Philippines, Romania, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.
Georgia, a local visitor, wrote: “How can I begin to thank you for that wonderful day? It was absolutely tremendous. We learnt so much and felt so privileged and honoured to be treated with such generosity by you all. Please thank everyone involved. I’m still tracking through the whole day in my mind, trying to savour every sight, sound and taste! I’m sure we will come again. The joyful welcome we received and the atmosphere of devotion, dedication and inclusiveness was an inspiration.”