13 November 2004 heralded the start of the Hindu
New Year. Devotees arrived at the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan
Mandir, Neasden, from early morning to behold the
beautifully adorned deities in the sanctum sanctorum.
The first arti - the Mangala Arti - of the New Year
(Vikram Samvat 2061) was performed at 5:30am. After
the Shangar Arti, a special Mahapooja ceremony was
held in which prayers for world peace were offered.
As the clock edged towards midday, the shrines of
the sacred deities and the Haveli were filled with
one of the largest annual offerings of vegetarian
food in the world. The Annakut offering included
some 1,500 items of food, snacks, sweets, pickles,
spicy dishes, salads, fruit drinks and various other
items prepared by volunteers. The items offered
consisted of dishes from various countries of the
world in line with theme of 'Unity in Diversity'.
Through the inspiration of Param Pujya Pramukh Swami
Maharaj, over two months of preparations and sacrifice
of volunteers saw the huge Haveli transformed into
India - the home of beautiful festivals. A tri-coloured
model of Mother India in the centre of the Haveli
was flanked by four giant screens displaying different
aspects of this fabled land. The serene background
of the Himalayas and the undulating river originating
from the model of Mount Kailas at the entrance of
the Haveli was bordered by a replica rainforest
of trees and vines through the centre of the hall.
Stunning scenes depicting India's people, places,
architecture and wildlife encircled the Annakut
offerings to the sacred deities - creating an aura
of Indian culture and beauty witnessed by Neelkanth
Varni during his travels across the land two centuries
The ceremonial arti was performed at noon in this
heavenly setting as thousands of devotees, visitors
and well-wishers flocked to observe the majestic
displays, and experience an atmosphere which would
take them back to the glory of their wonderful homeland
- India! A joyous day concluded as each visitor
left smiling, gifted with a calendar and prasad
as part of the festivities.
Throughout the day refreshments and snacks were
provided by SAYA for the many devotees and visitors
travelling from far and wide to attend the festival.
also had the opportunity to view the trailer of
'MYSTIC INDIA' - an large format film on India's
priceless culture, traditions, festivals, architecture,
landscapes and facescapes with the powerful message
of 'Unity in Diversity'. The 'MYSTIC INDIA' film
is soon to be released in UK in early 2005.