More than 550 children from across the UK visited BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, London, over four weekends during March and April 2019.
The visits were part of the festivities leading to the Mandir’s 25th anniversary celebrations in 2020. The bal-balikas discovered and learned about the Mandir’s rich history, key features and uplifting impact since its inauguration by Pramukh Swami Maharaj in August 1995.
The children were greeted in traditional Hindu manner with auspicious marks of welcome and friendship. The opening session of the visit explored the history of satsang activities in the UK which led to the consecration of the Mandir. Swamis shared testimonies of Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s perseverance and dedication amid hardships and setbacks to fulfil Yogiji Maharaj’s vision during the three-year construction period.
The visitors were offered an opportunity to perform abhishek of Nilkanth Varni where they prayed for peace to prevail across the world and for their personal spiritual progress.
During the second part of their day, the delegates learned about the sacrifice and contribution of devotees who made the Mandir possible. A member of the original project team addressed the children during this session, sharing his personal experiences.
The groups were then guided on a five-part tour of the Mandir:
The inner sanctum which houses the murtis where the children learned about the religious significance of the architecture and intricate carvings which embellish the pillars and ceilings.
The ‘Understanding Hinduism’ exhibition where the children gleaned a deeper insight of Hinduism and its key teachings, as well as India’s rich and vibrant history.
The continuation of the art form and contribution to the environment that is visible in the foyer area.
The pillarless prayer hall (Haveli) which has hosted memorable occasions in the presence of Pramukh Swami Maharaj and Mahant Swami Maharaj, as well as numerous large-scale cultural and outreach programmes.
The gymnasium – a testimony of Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s care and affection to provide a purpose-built recreational area for children and youth.
The final session included a series of interactive activities and concluding messages from swamis who engaged the children and encouraged them to develop a sense of ownership for the Mandir. The children were then presented with a special memento of their visit.
The children left with a visible sense of enthusiasm. A child aged 11 from Edinburgh said, “Although this is the home of God, I am proud to say that it is my home as well. Thank you to Bapa [Pramukh Swami Maharaj] for gifting us with this wonderful place of peace.”
Another young girl from South London added, “I am so excited about bringing my friends, teachers and other family members here and sharing the Mandir’s message and beauty.”