More than a thousand dignitaries and invited guests gathered at BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, London on Thursday 22 September 2016 to pay tribute to the life and legacy of His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj.
Pramukh Swami Maharaj, the fifth spiritual successor of Bhagwan Swaminarayan and the leader of BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha, passed away in India on Saturday 13 August 2016. He was 94.
The special assembly, held in the presence of Sadguru Pujya Ishwarcharan Swami from India, was attended by several prominent guests, including His Excellency Navtej Sarna, High Commissioner of India to the United Kingdom; The Rt Hon. the Lord Boateng, former Chief Secretary to the Treasury and Member of Parliament for Brent South; His Grace Sruti Dharma das, President of ISKCON Bhaktivedanta Manor, Watford; Shri Gopichand Hinduja, businessman and philanthropist; and Nigel Lane, architect and planner of the Mandir. Several other MPs, councillors, civic leaders and faith representatives were also in attendance.
Youths began the assembly by chanting Vedic prayers for world peace. The selfless life and humanitarian work of Swamishri was portrayed through a video presentation thereafter.
Yogvivek Swami, Head Sadhu for BAPS in UK and Europe, recalled Swamishri’s dedication to serve God and society, personifying his motto, “In the joy of others lies our own.” A personal testimony from a young man who experienced Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s unconditional love further underlined Swamishri’s universal compassion.
The profound impact of Swamishri’s life has resonated through a long chorus of glowing tributes from many distinguished individuals from around the world. A collection of these were shared with the congregation.
Speakers at the assembly reflected upon their uplifting thoughts and experiences of Swamishri. Nigel Lane explained, “He was our inspiration and leader. His inspiration came to us not through grand speeches but the simple personal connection that he made.”
Lord Boateng described the atmosphere of “peace and tranquillity” that he repeatedly experienced in Swamishri’s presence, including during His Holiness’s visit to Parliament in 1988. Shri Gopichand Hinduja praised Swamishri’s leadership. “The greatest quality he had was leadership with humility.”
His Grace Sruti Dharma das explored some of Swamishri’s personal qualities. He specifically touched upon Swamishri’s kindness, which he noted was “not only for Gujaratis or mankind but for all creatures of the world.” His Excellency Navtej Sarna described Swamishri as a “monumental spiritual figure who dedicated his life in the service of human beings.”
Ishwarcharan Swami, convener of BAPS’s global activities and Project Lead for Swaminarayan Akshardham, New Delhi, offered his insight into His Holiness’s exemplary life of devotion and selfless humanitarian service. His Holiness Mahant Swami Maharaj, the spiritual successor of Pramukh Swami Maharaj, also shared his impressions through a video message.
His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales conveyed his respects through Mr Hitan Mehta, Executive Director of The British Asian Trust. Mr Sadiq Khan, The Mayor of London also sent his condolences with Mr Rajesh Agarwal, The Deputy Mayor of London.
The Mayor of Brent Cllr Parvez Ahmed presented a special certificate in recognition of Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s “outstanding contribution to Brent” by way of the Neasden Temple. The iconic arch of the nearby Wembley Stadium was also lit in orange in honour of His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj.
The tribute assembly concluded with prayers and reflections.