British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak Offers Personal Tribute to Pramukh Swami Maharaj

14 Dec. 2022, Wednesday, UK

The Rt Hon Rishi Sunak MP, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, sent a personal video message offering his admiration and gratitude to His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj for his countless contributions to the UK.
His video message was shared during the inauguration ceremony of the month-long centennial celebrations on 14 December 2022, attended by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and distinguished guests.
Mr Sunak said: “Pramukh Swami Maharaj lived by the maxim, ‘In the joy of others lies our own.’ In the UK, he was the inspiration behind out magnificent Neasden Temple, a familiar sight on our London skyline known as much for its service to the local community as it is for its beauty. That dedication to seva is found in all fourteen of the mandirs that Pramukh Swami [Maharaj] inspired across the UK.
“During the pandemic, they [the mandirs] stepped up not only to help the Hindu community but thousands who needed support during that difficult time. Over the past 50 years, these 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.
“So, as you gather to mark Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s 100th birth anniversary, let me pay my respect to his enduring memory and the incredible legacy he has passed on. I wish you every success with these anniversary celebrations.”

‘BAPS Swaminarayan Research Institute’ inaugurated at Neasden Temple

29 May. 2022, Sunday, UK & Europe

‘BAPS Swaminarayan Research Institute’ for UK & Europe was inaugurated on Sunday 29 May 2022 at BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, London – popularly known as ‘Neasden Temple’ – in the presence of esteemed guests from the world of academia, including Mahamahopadhyay Bhadreshdas Swami, from India, and Professor James Hegarty, of Cardiff University.

The inauguration assembly commenced with a performance of devotional singing by children of BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha from around the UK. It continued with Vedic peace prayers sung by a choir of 40 children and a recital of Sanskrit verses by other children, including 10-year-old Maharshi Shah of Coventry.

The assembly, witnessed by thousands online and in-person at Neasden Temple, was inspired through the blessings and vision of His Holiness Mahant Swami Maharaj and formed a part of the celebrations marking the birth centenary of His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj.

His Holiness Mahant Swami Maharaj joined the assembly via video link from India and inaugurated the Institute by lighting a lamp, symbolising the spreading of the light of knowledge throughout the world. Guests and members of the congregation in London followed by lighting their own sacred lamps. Mahant Swami Maharaj then blessed Professor Hegarty as well as representatives from various Hindu organisations who had gathered to celebrate the historic inauguration.

Addressing the assembly, Mahant Swami Maharaj said, “Yogiji Maharaj had envisioned such an institute and was passionate about youths learning and discoursing in Sanskrit. The Research Institute has fulfilled this vision. May students excel in their studies and work together to serve society, expanding the circle of unity across the world.”

Mahamahopadhyay Bhadreshdas Swami, author of the ground-breaking and internationally acclaimed Swaminarayan-Bhashyam and Swaminarayan-Siddhanta-Sudha, and widely considered as one of the world’s leading scholars of Hindu philosophy today, delivered the ‘first lecture of the Institute’ by reinforcing His Holiness Mahant Swami Maharaj’s messages of global harmony, public service and academic excellence. He also urged parents to encourage their children in the arts.

Professor Hegarty, Professor of Sanskrit and Indian Religions at Cardiff University as well as Head of History, Archaeology and Religion, also addressed the assembly. He said: “I am incredibly honoured to stand before you today. The young people [who sang and recited in Sanskrit] are extraordinary! I cannot believe what I have seen and heard. I offer my deepest respect and thanks to His Holiness Mahant Swami Maharaj.”

Speaking of the benefits that the Institute will impart, Professor Hegarty added, “The new research centre will soon flourish here in the UK and Europe – and globally – under the sure and skilled guidance of the swamis assembled here today. Research and teaching based on research, if they are themselves based on true and compassionate mastery, can make a difference in the world. The new research institute we inaugurate today will show that. I have no doubt at all.” As an example of the lofty ideals of the BAPS Swaminarayan tradition, Professor Hegarty cited a Sanskrit verse from the Satsang Diksha, authored by Mahant Swami Maharaj, praying for unity, friendship, compassion, tolerance and love to flourish among all people of the world.

The impetus for the institute in London has been a growing interest from both young and senior members of the community to learn Sanskrit and gain a deeper understanding of the scriptures of their faith.

Through its rigorous teaching of Sanskrit, classical Vedic literature and Hindu beliefs, values and practices – all in a traditional Gurukul style – the institute will strive to foster social harmony, interfaith dialogue, public engagement and academic discourse as it generates opportunities for the highest level of value-based education, innovative research and creative expression.

Earlier, on Friday 27 May 2022, the Indian calendrical day of Yogji Maharaj’s birth anniversary, hundreds of devotees had gathered to participate in the ‘Satsang Dikshā Homātmak Pāth’. This unique three-hour ceremony involved offerings to a sacred flame based on the recital of each verse from the Satsang Diksha scripture, in prayer for an auspicious beginning to the new research institute.

‘The First of its Kind’ Finale: A Global Tribute to Pramukh Swami Maharaj

2-3 April 2022, UK & Europe

Between December 2021 and April 2022, the weekly episodes of ‘The First of its Kind’ captivated audiences around the world. This gripping 14-episode documentary series chronicles the untold history of BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, London, and, through it, reveals the work, wisdom and virtues of its creator, Pramukh Swami Maharaj.

The final episode, titled ‘Not Humanly Possible’, was screened at London Mandir on the weekend of 2-3 April 2022 and at mandirs across the UK, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, as well as in the Middle East and Canada. This truly global event was also marked with celebrations by families at home across Africa and North America.

The extended series finale served as a culmination of the journey and provided a unique and unforgettable pre-show experience to complement an immersive large-screen showing.

In London, the gates of the Mandir were transformed into a traditional box office setting where attendees collected their tickets for the show upon arrival before proceeding to the courtyard for their pre-screening photo against the special backdrop designed for the occasion – the iconic image of Pramukh Swami Maharaj at the summit of the marbled staircase, with cinematic lighting to commemorate his centennial birth celebrations.

Guests continued through an outdoor tunnel flanked with polaroid photographs of Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s life. A photograph was also provided to every visitor to scribe their personal reflections of Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s virtues, which were then pinned to the giant ‘Wall of Virtues’ as a personal tribute.

The final leg of the pre-show experience comprised a beautiful exhibition with artefacts and memorabilia that were presented throughout the series. Exhibits from the ‘Museum of Memories’ deepened the connection with the journey of the Mandir and brought to life its rich, extraordinary history.

During the screening itself, viewers participated in the concluding deepānjali (offering of light) to Pramukh Swami Maharaj, who has been the source of energy, warmth and enlightenment for millions around the world. With senior swamis and haribhaktas from around the world, and Mahant Swami Maharaj at the Akshar Deri in Gondal also lighting divas as a part of the final sequence, it became a truly global tribute to Pramukh Swami Maharaj on the occasion of his centennial anniversary.

Reena Patel shared her impressions after the event in London: “What a wonderful occasion! This was truly a ‘box office’ experience and has provided me with memories that I will cherish forever. The episodes I have seen now have greater meaning and the opportunity to contribute to the show was so special. What a brilliant contribution to Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s Shatabdi [centennial birth] celebrations.”

Harsh Brahmbhatt, who attended the screening at the mandir in Toronto, Canada, echoed the sentiments of many when he shared, “I’ve never been to London Mandir – but I can’t wait to see it for myself now. Already, it feels like my mandir. And amazingly, watching this whole series, especially this final episode, it has strengthened my commitment to my local mandir here in Toronto. This is the universal impact of Bapa’s work; it could appeal to everyone everywhere and still feel like their own.”

Viewers departed with a specially prepared pack of take-home mahaprasad. With each of its items associated with a special memory of Pramukh Swami Maharaj, it was aptly titled, “The Pramukh Swami Smruti Menu”.

Pramukh Swami Maharaj 100th Janma Jayanti Celebrations

11-12 December 2021, UK & Europe

Brahmaswarup Pramukh Swami Maharaj was an inspiration to millions worldwide. Personifying his motto, “In the joy of others lies our own”, he dedicated his entire life to serving and inspiring others for the greater good of humanity. Throughout his life, his selfless compassion and humble prayers uplifted countless people and led thousands on the path of spirituality. As the Guru, Pramukh Swami Maharaj visited the UK 18 times between 1974 and 2007.

Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s 100th janma jayanti was celebrated with a series of devotional offerings and enlightening programmes on Saturday 11 December and Sunday 12 December 2021 at BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, London.
Devotees and well-wishers visited the Mandir throughout the weekend to offer their prayers and respects. A special annakut (devotional offering of food) of 100 sweet and savoury items was displayed inside the shrines of the Mandir to mark Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s centennial birth anniversary.

An enlightening programme of videos, narrations by swamis and cultural performances was held at the Mandir and streamed via a live webcast to commemorate this momentous occasion. It served as the national celebration for all mandirs and centres in the UK as well as in Europe.

The programme began by welcoming Pramukh Swami Maharaj on a decorative palanquin flanked by youths who performed a traditional welcome dance.

Swamis discussed a collection of Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s virtues, including his love, dedication and singular devotion to his gurus. Their discourses were supported with enlightening examples. Devotees who have been recipients of Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s selfless love and sacrifice also shared some of their personal testimonies. The programme was interspersed with excerpts and accompanying photographs from the ‘Upkar Geet’ – a bhajan describing the unconditional love that Pramukh Swami Maharaj showered upon humanity.

To celebrate Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s 100th birth anniversary, a series of uplifting projects were launched during the assembly. The projects will comprise a year-long programme of inspirational initiatives and will include ways in which individuals can grow in their personal spirituality and strengthen their bond with Pramukh Swami Maharaj while sharing his profound messages with others. The activities will also include outreach programmes to serve the wider community across the UK and in Europe. Devotees offered their personal pledges to become immersed in these activities during 2022.

Swamis conducted the mantra-pushpanjali thereafter by offering flower petals to the murti of Pramukh Swami Maharaj. The vibrant programme concluded with swamis and devotees joining together to hail these year-long celebrations that were officially launched by Mahant Swami Maharaj in Chansad, Gujarat – the birthplace of Pramukh Swami Maharaj – on 11 December 2021

Grand Musical Tribute for Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s Centennial Birth Celebrations

20 Aug. 2018, Monday, UK & Europe

A grand musical tribute to commemorate the life and work of His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj was held at BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, London, on Sunday 20 May 2018.
The event brought together more than 200 children, youths and senior participants – from the age of 6 to 70 – from around the UK. They sang a series of bhajans in honour of Pramukh Swami Maharaj, while talented musicians accompanied the singing with a variety of musical instruments.

This was the first of 100 such musical tributes that will take place over the coming three years in commemoration of the centennial birth anniversary of Pramukh Swami Maharaj (1921-2016). Similar programmes are planned to take place in towns and cities across the UK and in Europe to celebrate his inspiring life, work and values.
The grand launch included a choral performance in which more than 150 vocalists sang in unison. Swamis also joined in the devotional singing by accompanying a video recording of Pramukh Swami Maharaj singing a bhajan praising Yogiji Maharaj in London in 1988.

Swamis also interspersed the singing by narrating personal experiences with Pramukh Swami Maharaj, while videos and photos depicting his universal love and compassion for humanity were shown throughout the evening, complementing the lyrics of the bhajans being sung.

His Holiness Mahant Swami Maharaj provided inspiration for the celebrations by sanctifying a special flag that will journey across each of the 100 tribute venues. He also blessed the initiative by sending a special video message in which he spoke about the spiritual significance of devotion through music.

Rakesh Gunchala, one of the lead volunteers for the performance, shared, “Pramukh Swami Maharaj was a great patron of the performing arts and always encouraged involving everyone, so it was very heart-warming to see so many singers and musicians of all ages come together from around the UK for this event. In many ways, this is the perfect way to pay tribute to an inspiring life lived for the joy of others – by sharing the joy and inspiration of music. We’re really looking forward to the next 99 now, which will also help identify, nurture and harmonise musical talent across Europe.”

Further details about upcoming events will be posted in due course.