The colourful Hindu festival of Diwali was celebrated by thousands of Hindus and members of the local community at BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, London – popularly known as the ‘Neasden Temple’ – on Sunday 27 October 2019. The Mandir, which holds the largest Diwali celebrations in the UK, welcomed visitors for the 25th year since it was inaugurated by Pramukh Swami Maharaj in 1995.
Diwali at the Mandir is a community celebration, reinforcing charity, goodwill, family values and devotion to God. Diwali is one of the most auspicious dates in the Hindu calendar. It is also known as the ‘Festival of Light’ because devotees light rows of lamps symbolising the triumph of good over evil.
The celebrations at the Mandir included a special ceremony in the evening called ‘Chopda Pujan’. This is when business owners close their existing ledgers and open new ones in preparation for the year ahead. Students similarly sanctified their textbooks and notebooks. The ceremony also symbolises how one should take stock of one’s spiritual relationship with God.
Special video blessings for the occasion from Mahant Swami Maharaj were shown in which he wished everyone a ‘Shubh Deepavali’ and prayed that one and all may become spiritually enlightened.
After the assembly, thousands of worshippers, visitors as well as members of the local community gathered for a pyromusical fireworks display that was launched by Secretary of State for the Home Department The Rt Hon. Priti Patel MP. Ms Patel wished a “happy Diwali to all” and urged the gathering to “reflect upon the credible strong ties between the great nations of the United Kingdom and India and to think of the shared future and values that we believe in very strongly.”
Hot delicious snacks and festive souvenirs were available from stalls at the ‘Diwali Village’ in the grounds of The Swaminarayan School (opposite the Mandir). Volunteers were also on hand to shuttle worshippers and visitors to and from nearby car parks.