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Tributes pour in as Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s centennial birth anniversary celebrated at UK parliament

A number of dignitaries recalled the contributions that the late guru had made in the UK; prime minister Rishi Sunak also sent a specially recorded message on the occasion.

Lord Jitesh Gadhia delivers an address at HH Pramukh Swami Maharaj centennial celebration at the UK parliament on December 19, 2022. (Picture: Bhavik Depala)

By: Shubham Ghosh

The centennial birth anniversary of His Holiness (HH) Pramukh Swami Maharaj (1921-2016) was observed at a special commemorative event in the UK parliament on Monday (19). The occasion saw the presence of a number of dignitaries, including the virtual presence of prime minister Rishi Sunak.

At the centennial celebration, special tributes were paid to HH Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s countless contributions during his 19 visits to the UK between 1970 and 2007, and the legacy of his values and culture that he bequeathed to his millions of followers.

Indian high commissioner Vikram Doraiswami at HH Pramukh Swami Maharaj centennial celebration at UK parliament
Indian high commissioner Vikram Doraiswami at HH Pramukh Swami Maharaj centennial celebration at the UK parliament on December 19, 2022. (Picture: Bhavik Depala)

HH Pramukh Swami Maharaj, who set up the iconic Neasden Temple in north-west London, inspired millions around the world and dedicated his life to the greater good of humanity, serving as a global ambassador of love, peace, and harmony.

Among those who present at the event were members of parliament, members of the House of Lords, local government officials, charity partners and faith representatives, who learned more about HH Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s profound impact on life in the UK through several personal testimonies, including from Lord Jitesh Gadhia, who hosted the event.

Speaking on the occasion, he said, “It’s a great honour to be collaborating with BAPS to mark the Birth Centenary of one of the great religious leaders of our time: His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj.

“It feels especially appropriate to be hosting this occasion today in the House of Commons, a location which Pramukh Swami himself visited in 1988 and was felicitated by MPs in one of the Committee Rooms upstairs.

UK PM Rishi Sunak
A recorded speech from UK prime minister Rishi Sunak at play at HH Pramukh Swami Maharaj centennial celebration at the UK parliament on December 19, 2022. (Picture: Bhavik Depala)

“This past year has provided a number of opportunities to reflect on the life, work and wisdom of Pramukh Swami — including the 10-day Festival of Inspiration held at Neasden Mandir during the summer which many of you will have attended.”

Lord Gadhia also used the opportunity to mention the month-long centenary celebrations of HH Pramukh Swami Maharaj that are currently underway in Ahmedabad in the Indian state of Gujarat. The event was inaugurated last week by Indian prime minister Narendra Modi and will continue till mid-January.

The parliamentarian also recalled his meeting with HH Pramukh Swami Maharaj saying while everyone who met him would have their own personal memories, for him, it has been the powerful combination of humility, humanity, and strategic vision which the late guru had embodied that stood the test of time.

“His thoughts, words and actions were in complete harmony. As Hillary Clinton, the former US Secretary of State, said: “Pramukh Swami didn’t just teach virtues — he lived them every day,” Lord Gadhia said, adding, “This is a rare combination even in the business world — and even more scarce, dare I say it — in the field of politics.”

Mayank Shah
Dr Mayank Shah, a trustee at Neasden Temple, speaks at HH Pramukh Swami Maharaj centennial celebration at the UK parliament on December 19, 2022. (Picture: Bhavik Depala)

He said, “Pramukh Swami’s pioneering work has left a strong legacy throughout this country, not only in the form of the iconic Neasden Temple – which has become a source of pride for all 1 million British Hindus but also through the growing activities of BAPS in the UK, with new mandirs recently opened in Manchester and Birmingham.

“And, on the global stage, it is source of huge pride for the entire global Indian community that the first Hindu Mandirs are now being built in Abu Dhabi and Paris.”

Lord Gadhia added, “This global impact is one of Pramukh Swami’s enduring legacies – manifested not only through 5,000 temples and centres outside of India but in the special relationships he forged across the world and the thought leadership he offered.

“It also explains why we are joined this afternoon by a wide cross section of colleagues from across Parliament – from both Houses and representing all parties. Thank you to all my colleagues for joining and also to the High Commissioners of both India and Nepal for their presence.”

Performer
A young presents a flute performance at HH Pramukh Swami Maharaj centennial celebration at the UK parliament on December 19, 2022. (Picture: Bhavik Depala)

Recalling some of HH Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s engagement with leaders of other faiths and addressing global platforms, the parliamentarian said, “In 1984, he met with POPE John Paul II at the Vatican.

“He was amongst the first Hindu leaders to engage with the Head of the Roman Catholic Church and advanced interfaith dialogue at a time when Indians and Hindus were barely seen on the world stage. And, at the turn of the millennium, in the year 2000, Pramukh Swami addressed the United Nations Peace Summit in New York hosted by then secretary general Kofi Annan.”

He said the speech delivered by HH Pramukh Swami Maharaj remains one of the finest ever by a Hindu leader to a global audience and would be right next to the historic address that Swami Vivekananda had made at the Parliament of the World’s Religions in Chicago in 1893.

He mentioned that at the UN summit, HH Pramukh Swami Maharaj had uttered about the open and inclusive nature of Hindu philosophy; environmental awareness and biodiversity that were advanced notions then.

Lord Gadhia also said the words that the spiritual leader had said while concluding his speech: “In the good of others lies our own In the progress of others rests our own In the joy of others abides our own”, were reflected in the book written by former Indian president APJ Abdul Kalam — Transcendence: My Spiritual Experiences with Pramukh Swamiji — as being “like a scientific formula of spirituality”.

British PM Sunak also sent a specially recorded message for the event held in the UK parliament, in which he said, “Pramukh Swami Maharaj lived by the maxim, ‘In the joy of others, lies our own’. Over the past 50 years, these [Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s] efforts have not gone unrecognised. Roads have been named after Pramukh Swami and our iconic Wembley Stadium arch has been lit up to pay tribute to his service and support for our country. Let me pay my respect to his enduring memory and the incredible legacy he has passed on.”

Dr Mayank Shah, a trustee at Neasden Temple, said, “Our heartfelt thank you to Lord Gadhia and the House of Commons for this wonderful tribute. We are very grateful to the British Parliament for honouring Pramukh Swami Maharaj again, after formally honouring him during his visit to the UK in 1988. Pramukh Swami Maharaj brought countless families and communities together through his untiring personal efforts — this was perhaps his greatest contribution to the UK. We hope his legacy continues to inspire peace and hope for generations to come.”

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