THE BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir (Neasden Temple) celebrated Diwali and the Hindu new year.
Thousands of devotees, including British home secretary Priti Patel, Indian High Commissioner to the UK Ruchi Ghanashyam, and others took part in the two-day-long celebrations started on Sunday (27).
Patel launched a pyromusical fireworks display in the presence of worshippers, visitors, as well as members of the local community, to celebrate the festival of light.
She wished the people on the auspicious occasion and said: “Diwali is a very special time for friends, family and everyone in the community, and (also a time) to think of those less fortunate than we are.”
Patel also urged the gathering to “reflect upon the credible strong ties between the great nations of the UK and India and to think of the shared future and values that we believe in very strongly.”
The day following Diwali marks the beginning of the Hindu new year in parts of north India.
The first ceremony of the new year began early morning on Monday (28), followed by prayers for world peace, social well-being and righteous prosperity.
As part of the devotional festivities, an ‘annakut’ literally, ‘mountain of food’ was artistically arranged as an offering of the first meal of the new year to seek the blessings of the God for the year ahead.
Ghanashyam and several other guests also joined the celebrants during the day.
Addressing the congregation, Ghanashyam drew upon the message of unity from the Vachanamrut and spoke about her observations of “community unity and cohesion, as well as the cultural identity that is evident here (at the mandir).”
She also emphasised the “strong relationship between the UK and India” and paid tribute to the efforts of the volunteers involved in planning and delivering the festival.
Sweets, savoury snacks, and various souvenirs were distributed among the devotees during the two-day event.
The mandir, which holds the largest Diwali celebrations in the country, witnessed thousands of visitors for the 25th consecutive year since it opened in 1995.
The mandir was beautifully decorated with traditional Indian artwork reflecting the bicentennial celebrations of the Vachanamrut.
Vachanamrut is a historical collection of 273 spiritual discourses delivered by Bhagwan Swaminarayan between 1819 and 1829.
BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha (BAPS) is an international community-based Hindu organisation affiliated to the UN, caring for individuals, families and societies through its more than one million members, 55,000 volunteers and 3,850 centres.