BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, London, heralded the Hindu New Year, Samvat 2076, on 28 October 2019. The Hindu New Year in many parts of India follows the day after Diwali and is one of the most auspicious days of the Hindu calendar, celebrated joyously with devotional festivities, prayers and sharing.
The first ceremony began at 5.30am, followed by prayers for world peace, social well-being and righteous prosperity. The ceremonial rajbhog arti followed at midday, first in the upper sanctum of the Mandir and then in the Haveli assembly hall where the annakut – literally, ‘mountain of food’ – was artistically arranged as an offering of the first meal of the New Year in thanksgiving to God. It becomes a magnificent confluence of culinary skills, art and reverent devotion.
A number of distinguished guests joined the celebrants at the Mandir throughout the day to offer their respects. This included Her Excellency The High Commissioner of India to the UK, Ms Ruchi Ghanashyam, and His Excellency The Deputy High Commissioner of India to the UK, Mr Charanjeet Singh.
This year’s devotional artwork inside the Mandir reflected the bicentennial celebrations of the Vachanamrut, which had been delivered by Bhagwan Swaminarayan between 1819 and 1829.
Addressing the congregation, Ms Ghanashyam drew upon the message of harmony from the Vachanamrut and spoke about her observations of “community unity and cohesion, as well as the cultural identity that is evident here [at the Mandir].” She also emphasised the “strong relationship between the United Kingdom and India” and paid tribute to the efforts of the volunteers involved in planning and delivering the festival.
To add to the festive experience, delicious vegetarian sweets and savoury snacks and various souvenirs were available once again at the ‘Diwali Village’ in the grounds of The Swaminarayan School (opposite the Mandir).
Rena Amin, a volunteer at the Mandir, explained, “Mahant Swami Maharaj always promotes unity within families, society and across the world. The celebrations at the Mandir were a testimony of unity with people of all faiths and backgrounds coming together to enjoy the festivities, as well as young and old volunteers working together to provide an enriching experience for everyone, including the local community.”