His Holiness Mahant Swami Maharaj inaugurated BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, Chigwell on Sunday 8 October 2017. The 5th anniversary of the Mandir was marked with a host of devotional festivities on the weekend of 15-16 October 2022.
The festivities began on the afternoon of 15 October with a grand procession through the streets of Chigwell. The ‘Nagar Yatra’, as the devotional parade is traditionally called, brought together hundreds of men, women and children for a colourful, joyous occasion along Chigwell High Road. The procession featured traditional Indian folk dancing, devotional music, and decorative chariots.
This was followed by a special cultural programme of dance, devotional singing, and discourses. The keynote addresses from swamis explained the importance of mandirs and the benefits they provide to society.
The Vedic rituals to consecrate the murti of Shri Nilkanth Varni Maharaj were conducted by Aksharviharidas Swami, Yogvivekdas Swami and other swamis from BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, London. Previously, the murti-pratishtha ceremony of Shri Nilkanth Varni Maharaj had been performed by His Holiness Mahant Swami Maharaj in Sarangpur on 19 August 2021.
This ceremony was performed alongside the ‘patotsav’ rituals – a special Vedic ceremony performed by swamis marking the anniversary of the Mandir’s opening when its murtis were first infused with the divine presence of God. Over a thousand devotees also prayed for God to bless the local community and the world with peace, prosperity and harmony by participating in the mahapuja.
A variety of sweet and savoury dishes were offered to the deities in the main shrines to thank God for his providence. Devotees and well-wishers observed this ‘annakut’ throughout the day and had the opportunity to perform abhishek of Nilkanth Varni Maharaj. The observances culminated with a special assembly concluding the two-day festival.
Palak Joshi, a volunteer at the Mandir, shared, “The two-day celebrations brought back wonderful memories from the inauguration ceremony by Mahant Swami Maharaj in 2017. My family were overjoyed to participate in the nagar yatra through the heart of Chigwell and the murti pratishtha celebrations. I am so grateful to the Mandir for keeping us all connected to our faith and traditions, and it was wonderful to share that with that the local community.”