• Monday, November 28, 2022

HEADLINE STORY

Johnson, Priti visit Neasden temple to celebrate Diwali

Prime minister Boris Johnson and home secretary Priti Patel at the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in north London on November 07, 2021, on the occasion of Diwali. (Photo: baps.org) 

By: Chandrashekar Bhat

PRIME minister Boris Johnson and home secretary Priti Patel visited the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in Neasden, north London, on Sunday (7) to celebrate Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights.

The leaders, who were welcomed with traditional Indian garlands at the Neasden temple, also paid tribute to volunteers who helped during pandemic and the vaccination efforts and joined religious ceremonies. They offered a fruit basket at the temple’s inner sanctum, where they spent several minutes viewing the intricate architecture.

They also viewed the ‘annakut’ – food artistically arranged before the deities as the first meal of the Hindu New Year.

Both politicians performed the abhishek (offering water over a sacred idol) of Shri Nilkanth Varni, the teenage form of Lord Swaminarayan.

Johnson and Patel viewed exhibits summarising the temple’s nationwide Covid-19 relief efforts – an initiative inspired by His Holiness (HH) Pujya Mahant Swami Maharaj, the spiritual leader of the BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha.

Johnson said, “What His Holiness (the late Param Pujya Pramukh Swami Maharaj) has contributed to the United Kingdom has been incalculable. I see it here today at the Neasden temple. I have been here many times, but I don’t think I have ever been here at a time when the Neasden temple has been so central to the life of the whole of the London community.”

Patel said the temple has been at the forefront of “every single activity in the local community, but also at a time of a national crisis which, of course, the pandemic was.”

She also praised the “incredible work” of the temple, which the prime minister added as “an absolutely perfect representation of community spirit in action”.

Johnson who, along with Patel, also met BAPS volunteers, shared a video of the temple visit on his Twitter handle and praised the organisation for its efforts in fighting the pandemic.

“We have met some of the people who have done such an incredible job just over the road in the community centre, vaccinating people. They’ve vaccinated, I think, 120,000 people including boosters and they are still coming in. They have done an amazing job,” the prime minister said.

“Happy Diwali to everyone in the wonderful Hindu community here in the UK”, he said as both the prime minister and the home secretary greeted people on the Hindu new year.

The video gathered more than 89,000 views on Monday (8).

“Inspiring to see community spirit in action @NeasdenTemple today. @PritiPatel and I saw the incredible contribution Hindus make to the UK, from serving in our police and NHS to rolling out the Covid vaccine. Happy New Year and Shubh Diwali to our wonderful Hindu community!” the prime minister said in his Twitter message.

Sanjay Kara, a BAPS trustee in the UK, said it was an honour to have the prime minister and the home secretary join the local community of British Hindus to celebrate Diwali at the temple.

“We offer our prayers that they can serve the public ably and look forward to working with them in support of our great nation,” Kara said.

Eastern Eye

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