The year-long celebrations marking the 25th anniversary of BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, London, culminated with an eye-opening and gripping documentary-style production that explored the Mandir’s rich history, challenging creation, and profound international impact.
The four-hour finale programme featured a compilation of audio clips, photographs and unseen video footage charting its inception from Yogiji Maharaj’s vision through to the inauguration of Europe’s first traditional stone mandir and its lasting legacy.
The journey began with an insight into the arduous search for suitable land as well as the challenging economic climate in the early 1990s. Narrations from senior swamis, volunteers and devotees revealed Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s unshakeable faith and personal connection that inspired devotees to join a ‘labour of love’ and offer their heartwarming personal sacrifices.
A few days before the Mandir’s opening on 20 August 1995, a magnificent procession took place through the streets of London. Iconic images of Pramukh Swami Maharaj blessing the people of London from a decorated dais at Piccadilly Circus brought back treasured memories for many who were witness to the historic occasion.
Following its inauguration, the Mandir harnessed the efforts and collective spirit of thousands of volunteers who served individuals and families to create a better community, a better nation and a better world. This profound impact has been acknowledged by some of the country’s most prominent individuals. A selection of these, including HRH The Prince of Wales and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, shared their messages of goodwill and gratitude through personal testimonies.
The Mandir’s opening sparked an explosion of local, national and international media coverage, paying homage to its glorious addition to the London skyline and religious landscape of Great Britain. A selection of this coverage also featured in the programme.
Over the last 25 years, the Mandir has provided hope for countless people in the most adverse of circumstances. Viewers learned about some of these life-changing inspirations through powerful and emotive testimonies.
On behalf of all devotees, a young boy offered a concluding prayer inscribed on a paper swan with sentiments of gratitude to Pramukh Swami Maharaj and Mahant Swami Maharaj for the gift of London Mandir.
Mahant Swami Maharaj responded to the prayer by saying: “Today we celebrate 25 years of London Mandir. A day we were all meant to be together. But not a moment has passed where we have been apart. Pramukh Swami Maharaj made this mandir so that you can make yours within your hearts. Your hearts are my mandir, forever my home. We will meet again and reunite – together as a family; together as one.”
His swan joined more than 10,000 others that were created by devotees and placed inside the assembly hall as a symbol of togetherness with him. It marked a fitting end to the overarching theme of the programme, with Mahant Swami Maharaj having written on his swan: “London Mandir is Our Home.”