His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj inaugurated BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, London – the first traditional Hindu mandir outside of India – on Sunday 20 August 1995. Over the past 26 years, the internationally renowned Mandir has served the local community and inspired millions of worshippers and visitors from across the world to experience a profound sense of peace, fulfilment and spiritual harmony.
The 26th anniversary of the Mandir was celebrated with a host of devotional festivities. These began with darshan and the abhishek of Shri Nilkanth Varni for worshippers from 20 to 22 August, providing an opportunity for private worship in line with the current health protocols for the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
On Saturday 21 August, families joined in an online mahapuja conducted by swamis from the Mandir in London. Families across the UK and Europe participated fully in this ceremony from their respective homes with materials and all necessary items previously provided by the Mandir. During the ceremony, the swamis offered collective prayers for family harmony and world peace, and particularly for those who continue to be impacted by the ongoing pandemic.
The ‘patotsav’ – marking the anniversary of the Mandir’s opening – began on the morning of Sunday 22 August with a Vedic ceremony, which was streamed via a live webcast. This included prayers to seek the blessings of God for continued peace, righteousness and prosperity in the world.
Sunday was also the auspicious day of Raksha Bandhan – a joyous Hindu festival when sisters traditionally tie a ‘rakhi’ (sacred thread) around their brothers’ wrists, affirming their sibling bond and praying for their protection. For devotees, the rakhi symbolises the spiritual bond between the Guru and disciple. A special ceremony was held to commemorate this blessed occasion, which included spiritual discourses and bhajans from swamis as well as video blessings from Pramukh Swami Maharaj that further explained the spiritual significance of the festival.
A variety of sweet and savoury dishes were artistically arranged before the deities in the main shrines to thank God for his providence and protection. Yogvivekdas Swami paid tribute to the vision of Yogiji Maharaj and tireless endeavours of Pramukh Swami Maharaj that culminated in the inauguration of the Mandir in 1995. He also reflected on the inspiration that the Mandir has provided to millions who have walked through its doors and encouraged everyone to strengthen their spiritual bond and relationship with God.
The festivities concluded with the ceremonial patotsav arti. Mahant Swami Maharaj also performed the arti of the murtis of London Mandir during the sandhya arti in Sarangpur, India.
Avani Patel, from Watford, shared, “Visiting the Mandir for darshan and abhishek was a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the Mandir’s 26th anniversary and also Raksha Bandhan. My two young daughters were overjoyed to participate in the ceremony at the Mandir and also at home, and I am so grateful to the Mandir for continuing to keep us all connected throughout Covid.”