A special programme of prayers was conducted on Sunday 24 May 2020 by swamis at BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, London, joined simultaneously by devotees from their respective homes around the UK and in Europe.
The ‘Akhand Dhun’ is held annually at BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, Wellingborough, and usually welcomes thousands of worshippers and visitors to participate in a special day of prayers for peace and prosperity to prevail in communities across the world. Throughout the day, visitors to the Mandir offer their respects at the ‘Akshar Deri’ – a beautiful shrine housed within the mandir.
The day coincided with the same date – 24 May – that the mandir in Gondal, which presides over the original Akshar Deri, was consecrated by Brahmaswarup Shastriji Maharaj in 1934.
Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, families across the UK and Europe joined in the prayers via a live webcast from their houses and participated in a variety of ways – by chanting the Swaminarayan mahamantra, playing instruments to accompany the devotional singing, writing the Swaminarayan mahamantra, and performing pradakshinas around images of the Akshar Deri in their home. Many children participated by creating a 3D model of the Akshar Deri out of card, paper or other creative materials.
Swamis performed the abhishek of Harikrishna Maharaj and Shri Nilkanth Varni Maharaj following the hour-long dhun. Thousands of devotees joined in with their own abhishek at home.
This year’s prayers were especially significant amid the unprecedented uncertainty and adversity faced as a result of the pandemic. Swamis prayed to God to offer comfort, solace and strength to all those affected around the world.
Shreya Patel, aged 13, shared her thoughts of the special prayer programme: “We really enjoyed praying together and taking part as a family. The live webcast gave my younger brother an opportunity to join in by playing instruments. We all prayed together, as a family, for the virus to pass and for all those who are ill, to recover quickly.”