Neasden Temple Leads Vibrant Diwali Celebration at Trafalgar Square

9 Oct. 2022, Sunday, London

More than 25,000 people gathered at Trafalgar Square, London, for a vibrant and colourful Diwali celebration hosted by the Diwali in London committee in partnership with the Mayor of London. This year, BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, London – popularly known as ‘Neasden Temple’ – served as chair of the Diwali in London committee, which comprises various religious and cultural organisations, including the Art of Living, Brahma Kumaris, Chinmay Mission, City Hindus Network, ISKCON, Metropolitan Police Hindu Association, Telugu Hindu Association, and several others.

Diwali on Trafalgar Square is a free annual festival in the heart of London and one of the city’s largest Diwali celebrations. Volunteers from the Mandir worked with Hindu, Sikh and Jain communities for this in-person event after a two-year break due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The festival opened with a spectacular performance by 200 colourfully dressed dancers in the main square followed by an exciting mix of cultural performances on the festival stage.

Visitors enjoyed an array of activities at the interactive stalls, including Neasden Temple’s ‘Diwali Festival Experience’ and its own live performances sharing the rich culture and spirituality of Hinduism.

Attendees also participated in dance workshops, yoga and meditation, a Children’s Fun Zone, as well as henna and face painting. Families enjoyed a fusion of delicious vegetarian and vegan South Asian cuisine, while a special light illuminated the Square at dusk to mark Diwali.

This year’s celebration also paid tribute to Pramukh Swami Maharaj on the occasion of his centennial birth anniversary for his longstanding and far-reaching services to the worldwide Hindu community and humanity as a whole.

Many visitors from all backgrounds and cultures engaged in offering a personal pledge to embody Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s life motto, ‘In the joy of others lies our own’. One inspired visitor reflected, “Be kind to the people around you. Bring joy and happiness to everyone. May peace prevail across the world.”

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said Diwali was a reminder of “hope for a brighter tomorrow” during challenging times. “Diwali on the Square is a wonderful and timely opportunity for Londoners to join in that spirit, celebrating our diversity and demonstrating the strength we draw from our many and varied communities.”

Krushali Kataria, a volunteer from the Mandir and a member of the committee, added, “It was really heart-warming to celebrate the universal messages of kindness, goodwill and harmony – values that are synonymous with Diwali – with tens of thousands in-person after a two-year break. It was also an honour to lead the Committee and crowd into the arti ceremony and witness thousands leave this memorable occasion with Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s teaching of ‘In the joy of others lies our own’ embedded in their minds and hearts.”

Pramukh Swami Maharaj Shatabdi Finale Celebrations

27-28 August 2022, London

The grand finale celebrations of Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s centennial birth anniversary in the UK and Europe were held on the weekend of 27-28 August 2022 at BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, London, in the presence of Anandswarupdas Swami, visiting from India.

The celebrations were held across four performances over the two days, allowing more than 9,000 satsangi registrants to honour and thank Pramukh Swami Maharaj for his life of selfless service, divine love and profound spirituality.

Upon arrival, devotees enjoyed a unique opportunity to perform the abhishek of a special murti of Pramukh Swami Maharaj placed at the foot of the staircase leading up to the Mandir, one of Swamishri’s iconic gifts to the world.

The special festive assembly included devotional singing, vibrant dances and uplifting narrations, aided by captivating videos, lighting and special effects.

The inspiring three-hour programme, titled ‘Jivyā Amāre Kāj’, paid tribute to Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s selfless life, covering his tireless efforts (purushārth), limitless love (priti), and our priceless attainment (prāpti) of him as the Aksharbrahma Guru.

Pramukh Swami Maharaj travelled tirelessly and selflessly for the benefit of society, devoting his entire life in the service of others. He connected universally with individuals through letters, phone calls and personal meetings, transcending simple human distinctions. The profound impact of this physical endeavour and personal interactions upon recipients from the UK and Europe was remembered through a series of presentations and videos that delved deeper into the sacrifices that he made, and the lifelong memories that these exchanges forged.

His borderless love touched the lives of millions – irrespective of age, education, faith, nationality or social rank. This unconditional love was artistically depicted through excerpts from emotive bhajans performed by swamis and youths, and was further revealed through the eyes of swamis who had travelled with Pramukh Swami Maharaj and witnessed this divine love first-hand over decades. Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s love was further brought to life with a series of personal testimonies, explaining how it restored faith and provided solace in times of tremendous adversity and challenge, and, ultimately, it was his divine love that guided countless souls towards the highest spiritual enlightenment.

Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s love and labour for the sake of others provides a perspective of his spiritual greatness, concurring perfectly with Hindu scriptures when revealing the Gunatit Guru. A musical montage of Sanskrit verses extolling the divine glory of Pramukh Swami Maharaj were supported by personal recollections by senior swamis who shared inspiring incidents from their travels with Pramukh Swami Maharaj in the UK and around Europe. They also reinforced the continued presence of Aksharbrahma through Mahant Swami Maharaj.

A poem, specially composed for the finale celebration, guided the programme throughout, in which it gave voice to everyone’s wish to experience Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s presence “one more time”. At the conclusion, the poem moved to pray: “O Pramukh Swami Maharaj! How can we experience you all of the time?” To this, Mahant Swami Maharaj wrote in an emotional and fitting video climax: “Pramukh Swami Maharaj is forever present. Just remember him and you will feel his divinity and presence. This is my promise. Let us together celebrate Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s shatabdi.”

The complete programme can be viewed on the BAPS UK & Europe channel here.

‘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.