Diwali and the Hindu New Year Annakut are two of the most colourful and vibrant Hindu festivals in the calendar, celebrated by millions around the world. However, with the ongoing coronavirus global pandemic and the resultant national lockdown in the UK and various other restrictions across Europe, this year’s festivities were to be very different. They were, nevertheless, no less devout, enjoyable and inspirational. 
With the help of live video streaming, devotees across UK and Europe benefited from a host of online programmes delivered from BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, London. Instead of tens of thousands of devotees visiting the Mandir to celebrate the festival of Diwali, the Mandir reached many more thousands of devotees’ homes with these same Diwali festivities.
In addition, an interactive family Diwali package and a children’s ‘My Diwali’ activity pack provided helpful resources for families to learn about, enjoy and participate in all of the festivities at home.
The main Diwali celebrations on Saturday 14 November 2020 included the Chopda Pujan, streamed live from India in the presence of Mahant Swami Maharaj and senior swamis. Traders, home owners, students and others sanctified their ledgers, savings books, textbooks, etc. and opened new ones in preparation for the year ahead. 
The Hindu New Year (Samvat 2077) was heralded on Sunday 15 November with a host of festivities from the Mandir, beginning with the mangala arti and including prayers for world peace, harmony, protection and well-being. 
While the annakut was offered at the mandir in London, families enjoyed the opportunity to prepare an annakut of their own to offer in their ghar mandir. During the rajbhog thal, they were also able to enjoy darshan of the annakut offerings from the shrines of various BAPS mandirs across the UK and Europe, albeit on a much smaller scale.
In the evening, haribhaktas participated at home with the weekly abhishek and online assembly, in which Yogvivekdas Swami conveyed Mahant Swami Maharaj’s personal message for the New Year, encouraging everyone to remain steadfast in their spiritual endeavours, and his prayers for everyone to be blessed with peace, righteousness and prosperity. 
The online celebrations brought a profound sense of spiritual warmth to thousands of homes across the UK and Europe. Shweta S. Patel, a mother from Edinburgh, shared, “Normally, we would never be able to make it to London for Diwali. But the online programmes this year meant that we could celebrate as a family at home and we still felt we were right there at London Mandir in front of the murtis! The activity packs that were provided also helped us all learn and enjoy Diwali as a family. We really enjoyed it and are truly thankful to be able to participate in these ceremonies and maintain our spiritual connection with Bhagwan and our gurus.”
 

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