In 1970, His Holiness Yogiji Maharaj and a group of 12 swamis arrived in the UK. It was the first time that swamis of the Swaminarayan Sampradaya were visiting the country. During their one-and-half-month stay, Yogiji Maharaj inaugurated a mandir in Islington, north London – one of the very first Hindu temples in the UK and the first ever Swaminarayan mandir in the western hemisphere – setting in motion a grand legacy that lives on and thrives today.
A grand celebration commemorating the 50th anniversary of this historic occasion was webcast to many thousands across the world on Sunday 14 June 2020. It was exactly 50 years to the day when Yogiji Maharaj performed the murti-pratishtha ceremony in Islington, on Sunday 14 June 1970. The ceremony then had concluded with the first arti of the murtis at 12.22pm, which was replicated 50 years later at precisely that time with the original murtis under the dome of the new, stone temple in Neasden that Yogiji Maharaj himself had prophesised 50 years ago. An annakut of 50 cakes, 50 dry fruit delicacies and several other items had also been offered to the murtis in the shrines.
The day began much earlier, at 1.30am BST, when the swamis of London performed a medley of kirtans during Mahant Swami Maharaj’s puja. The live performance in London relayed to Nenpur via video conference facilities retold in brief the history and impact of Yogiji Maharaj’s visit in 1970. The performance celebrating its 50th anniversary also served as the 50th of 100 musical tributes being offered to His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj on his birth centenary. The kirtan narrative was interspersed with audio recordings of Yogiji Maharaj himself, much to the interest and delight of Mahant Swami Maharaj in India.
The climax of the celebrations was a riveting, eye-opening three-hour documentary-style production reliving one of the most momentous periods of BAPS history. Told through rare video footage, photographs, letters and audio records as well as eyewitness accounts from senior devotees, swamis, His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj and His Holiness Mahant Swami Maharaj, it brought to life the history in a way never seen before. [Details of the visit are presented in the accompanying gallery, ‘Yogiji Maharaj in the UK: A Photo Story’.]
In his video blessings from India, Mahant Swami Maharaj drew upon this golden history and Yogiji Maharaj’s unfathomable vision, encouraging everyone to continue his ethos of humility, devotion and sincere service with samp (unity) – values close to Yogiji Maharaj’s heart.
The grand celebrations concluded with the evening arti and a closing prayer offered to Yogiji Maharaj paying tribute to his love, pristine saintliness and exuberant enthusiasm, with heartfelt pledges to live by his teachings and wishes.
Families had joined in the celebrations from home throughout the day by decorating their ghar mandirs, offering celebratory food to their murtis, and participating in the special arti at the end.
The unforgettable programme rekindled golden memories for those present in 1970, while for others, it presented an opportunity to learn, appreciate and be inspired by the priceless history upon which they stand today. Shilpa Patel, one of the thousands who watched the webcast, said, “It’s very rare to watch a historic documentary and feel as if you were really there. What a truly wonderful programme. My whole family, including my younger children, were captivated and learned so much about the history of satsang and the legacy that Yogiji Maharaj created for Hindus and the many migrant Indians from East Africa.”