British Prime Minister Boris Johnson visited BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, London – popularly known as the ‘Neasden Temple’ – on Saturday 7 December 2019. The visit coincided with the 98th birthday celebrations of His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj, the inspirer and creator of the Mandir.
This was Mr Johnson’s fourth visit to the Mandir. He had also visited Swaminarayan Akshardham in New Delhi, India, in 2012, when he was Mayor of London. This time, he was accompanied by the British Home Secretary, Priti Patel, and his partner, Carrie Symonds.
The Prime Minister was greeted at the Mandir in a traditional Hindu manner with auspicious marks of welcome and goodwill. He then performed an abhishek of Shri Nilkanth Varni, before proceeding to the inner sanctum where he offered flower petals at the central shrine of Bhagwan Swaminarayan.
Along his tour, Mr Johnson met young and old volunteers of BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha (BAPS) and learned about the Mandir’s multifarious activities to serve families, children, the elderly and the wider community.
The Prime Minister also met several leaders of other Hindu organisations and members of the Hindu community.
After arriving in the assembly hall to rapturous applause, Yogvivekdas Swami, head of the Mandir, conveyed to the Prime Minister the blessings of the current guru of BAPS, His Holiness Mahant Swami Maharaj.
The Prime Minister addressed the congregation by firstly thanking His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj for “gifting the UK this magnificent temple.”
Mr Johnson then paid tribute to the values which Pramukh Swami Maharaj promoted – “family unity, service and duty” – before adding, “He dedicated his whole life to service of others. Rarely has anyone in public life served for so long, served so brilliantly, worked so hard and brought so many people together. He has left behind a lasting legacy for us all to follow.”
Turning towards the 25th anniversary celebrations of the Mandir next August, the Prime Minister said, “This temple is one of the greatest gifts to our country. But it is more than just a building. It is brought to life by the amazing community spirit that inhabits it. You are giving back to our society through the great charitable work that you do. Thank you for everything that you do for this country. London and the UK are lucky to have you.”
The Prime Minister also praised the British Indian community for the invaluable contributions they make to enrich the culture, public services and commerce of Great Britain.
The Prime Minister was presented with mementos of his visit before meeting several of the congregation as he departed the Mandir.