‘Festival of Inspiration’ at Neasden Temple
22-31 July 2022, London
Over 75,000 members of the local community as well as visitors from across London and the UK experienced the historic ‘Festival of Inspiration’ at BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, London from 22 to 31 July 2022 as part of the UK’s ongoing celebrations marking the centennial birth anniversary of Pramukh Swami Maharaj.
The event – which was formally inaugurated by His Excellency Sujit Ghosh, Deputy High Commissioner for India to London, and delivered by more than 3,000 volunteers – celebrated the very best of Hindu values and Indian culture. It was dedicated to helping individuals, families and the community enjoy and grow together by learning values that Pramukh Swami Maharaj had fostered throughout his life – harmony, respect, compassion, and hard work.
These values were vividly conveyed at the ‘Island of Heroes’, a children’s cultural adventureland that featured musical productions, a shadow play, a 4D immersive experience, a UV magical jungle, an escape room, an obstacle course, a colouring cave, interactive games, and much more. The fun, immersive journey through various terrains – the ‘Jungle of Gajendra’, ‘Mountain of Shravan’, ‘Sea of Squirrels’, and ‘Village of Shanti’ – was entirely designed, produced, directed and performed by more than 1,100 children and youth volunteers of BAPS UK & Europe. (See full report here for more details.)
Visitors also enjoyed a vibrant blend of live music and dance from the outdoor stage where some of the most acclaimed and sought-after artists of Indian music in the UK performed more than 120 acts over the ten days. These artistic exhibitions were complemented by cultural performances by talented BAPS teams from around the country, nurtured through the vision and blessings of Pramukh Swami Maharaj and Mahant Swami Maharaj. Many visitors enjoyed the performances while savouring the wide selection of delicious, freshly cooked vegetarian cuisine on offer at the ‘Flavours of India’ food court.
The ‘Garden of Divinity’ housed beautiful life-sized figures of some of India’s great saints, sages, philosophers and poets representing the rich, cultural heritage of Hinduism. This was further exhibited through various evening culture programmes delivered by children, youths, swamis and female devotees.
Other Festival highlights included a community health hub where leading British charities and experts delivered screenings, fitness and exercise sessions, well-being workshops and cooking demonstrations, multimedia halls that featured video shows and interactive presentations bringing to life the profound impact of Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s life and work for communities, families and individuals, while thousands participated in the daily maha-arti as a personal tribute to Pramukh Swami Maharaj in front of his 27-foot iconic murti in the Mandir courtyard.
The Festival made uplifting and transformative impressions on families as well as visitors from all walks of society. Paul Scully MP, Minister of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, shared in an online message, “Delighted to visit Neasden Temple this week – an extraordinary place of worship making a real difference to its local community. Really enjoyed seeing the brilliant young performers at the Festival of Inspiration. A huge thank you to all the volunteers I met for their warm welcome.”
Carolyn Downs, Chief Executive of the Brent Council of London, added, “I’m very, very impressed by the beauty of it all. It’s absolutely incredible that it’s all been led by young people and all the volunteers.”
Sophie Quadir, a semi-retired college lecturer, wrote: “It really lived up to the name ‘Festival of Inspiration’! The community is clearly inspired by its leadership as well as members and provides fantastic opportunities for the young as well to learn skills and develop abilities that will set them up for life…. Visitors can see what beautiful things can be done if people are determined and humble enough to work together, respect each other, and each give of their time and skills…. It was lovely to come to a place so busy and yet so peaceful and calm, and, may I say it, ‘clean’. (I’ve never seen such efficient litter management in my life.)”
The festivities concluded with a spectacular outdoor finale, which included an appreciation for the volunteers. The electrifying atmosphere of devotional music and dance brought the community together in joyous celebration.