On Saturday 23 March 2024, Bhavesh (Bav) Shah was sworn in as the High Sheriff of Bedfordshire for 2024-2025 at BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, Luton.
The High Sheriff role is a non-political, Royal appointment that has been a vital aspect of British tradition for centuries. To this day, the High Sheriff of a county remains the Sovereign’s – currently His Majesty King Charles III’s – representative in that county for all matters regarding the preservation of Law and Order. The High Sheriff operates as a key link between Police forces and the judiciary with the wider local community, ensuring that mutual support and respect remains strong. Upholding peace, strengthening community unity, improving safety, and encouraging individuals in voluntary service are the key aims for the High Sheriff in order to create better neighbourhoods for all. Although largely ceremonial now, the role still holds high esteem and is awarded to individuals of outstanding character who have proven their commitment to community service.
Being a devout Hindu and a BAPS volunteer, Bhavesh Shah wished for his installation ceremony to be held at the BAPS Swaminarayan Hindu mandir in Luton. Local volunteers from BAPS worked alongside members of the High Sheriff’s Shrieval Group to plan and conduct the august event, ensuring all invited guests were warmly received and that the ceremony ran smoothly.
The ceremony was held in the presence of more than a hundred dignitaries and community representatives from across the region and country, including the Lord-Lieutenant of Bedfordshire, the Lord-Lieutenant of Nottinghamshire, several Deputy Lord-Lieutenants and former High Sheriffs, and many more.
The formalities commenced with the ‘deep pragatya’ (traditional lighting of the sacred lamp), to welcome auspiciousness to the occasion, and the Shanti-Path, an ancient Vedic prayer for world peace and harmony. This was followed by speeches from the various representatives.
In his opening address as the new High Sheriff, Bhavesh Shah thanked all in attendance for their continued guidance and support. He thanked his parents for inclucating him with noble values and the BAPS volunteers of Luton for their commitment in supporting the event. He remarked, “Everybody has a story to tell and we all have something to learn from each other. Throughout my year ahead, I will do my best to celebrate the wonderful people and communities that we have in Bedfordshire.” He concluded by saying, “Bedfordshire, let’s all learn together, understand each other, grow stronger together, and most importantly, enjoy life together.”
Hersh Shah, a BAPS volunteer, was appointed by the new High Sheriff to be his personal chaplain during his time in office. This was another first for BAPS, and Hersh Shah will serve alongside Bhavesh Shah in strengthening community relations in the region.
The ceremony concluded with the arti and national anthem followed by light refreshments that provided an opportunity for volunteers and invited guests to learn more about one another’s involvement in voluntary works and community initiatives to develop the local area.
Raj Pancholi, a lead volunteer for BAPS in Luton, shared, “It was a pleasure and honour for us to host the installation ceremony at the mandir. We offer our heartiest prayers that the High Sheriff can serve the entire community of Bedfordshire with integrity, resilience, and moral fortitude. From everyone at BAPS Luton Mandir, we wish Bhavesh all the best in his tenure!”
Bhavesh Shah received the blessings of Shri Akshar-Purushottam Maharaj as well as a personal letter from His Holiness Mahant Swami Maharaj with words of congratulations, motivation and guidance for his year of service. He also received a special gift from BAPS Luton to wish him well in his new role.
The event further affirmed the contribution that BAPS makes in sustaining wider community relations in Luton and beyond as well as furthering community unity, a theme that His Holiness Mahant Swami Maharaj promotes all over the world.

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