A special assembly to pay tribute to soldiers from India and the Commonwealth who sacrificed their lives for justice, peace and freedom was held at BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, London, on Sunday 12 November 2023.
Annually commemorated in the United Kingdom as ‘Remembrance Sunday’, this year, the poignant day coincided with the Hindu festival of Diwali, allowing an opportunity for an especially enlightening and moving tribute.
The assembly was attended by several members of the British Army, Royal British Legion, Western Front Association, and various faith community representatives and civic leaders, including His Majesty The King’s representative in the London Borough of Brent, Deputy Lieutenant Mei Sim Lai OBE, and Lucy D’Orsi CVO QPM, Chief Constable of British Transport Police and Deputy Assistant Commissioner in the Metropolitan Police Service.
The evening began with children chanting the Shanti-Paath, an ancient Vedic peace prayer, as guests of various faiths and vocations came together to light the sacred lamps of enlightenment. Fittingly for Diwali, the ceremony symbolises the dispelling of darkness by light and the victory of good over evil. This was followed by a minute of silence, further invoking a profound sense of peace and solemnity, as attendees reflected on the significance of sacrifice and honour.
Former Chair of the Western Front Association, Colin Wagstaff, shared a poetic homage to the fallen: “The valour of warriors, their courage and might; In memory’s embrace, forever shines bright…. On this Remembrance Sunday, we do declare, to cherish their memory, and show we care.”
Captain Nandesh Patel of the British Army presented a poignant reading from the Shrimad Bhagavad Gita, which resonated deeply with the gathering. “O seeker of truth, in life’s ever-turning wheel; Happiness and sorrow, like seasons, they reveal. Perceptions fleeting, they come and they depart; In this impermanence, find strength in your heart.”
Daniel Kennelly, a volunteer manager at a local food bank, was also present on this occasion. He thanked Neasden Temple for its ongoing donation of fresh fruit and vegetables to help feed needy families in the neighbourhood.
In his benedictory address, Yogvivekdas Swami paid tribute to the sacrifice of veterans while also thanking their families and the servicemen and women currently active around the world today. In praying for a peaceful resolution to unrest everywhere in the world, he called for a future of hope and harmony. He said, “Together, may we work towards a brighter future, where the world is free from the shadows of conflict and where our shared values shine brightly for all.”
The assembly concluded with the solemn sound of the Last Post bugle call, a hallowed tradition evoking the sacrifice of civilians and the armed forces, inspiring attendees to strive towards a world of peace, love, harmony and understanding.