A young girl draped in a striking pink sari guides an elderly visitor through beautiful decorations at the Neasden Temple on Thursday 23 October 2014, fittingly symbolising timeless values of Diwali.
The volunteer, dressed in pink colours to support Breast Cancer Care during Breast Cancer Awareness Month, was one of many helping the thousands of visitors to the Temple, officially called BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, London. Devotees and well-wishers had arrived to celebrate Diwali and the Hindu New Year, two of the most important and colourful festivals of the Hindu calendar.
Diwali, known as the ‘Festival of Light’, symbolises the triumph of good over evil and is a time for thanksgiving, goodwill and charity. Premvati Patel, a temple-goer, further explained, “The temple has taught me to think about what I have done for others over the year and to try and do a little more to help. It is also a time when I can take stock and strengthen my own relationship with God.”
Present to switch on the pink lighting and launch the spectacular fireworks display were three families – two of whom had sadly lost loved ones to breast cancer, but have been truly inspirational for others, and Remi Brahmbhatt, a long-time survivor of the disease.
On Friday 24 October, the Mandir once again hosted one of the largest New Year celebrations in the country which began early in the morning with prayers for peace and well-being. A majestic arrangement of freshly prepared vegetarian food exhibiting a spectrum of colours, delicious fragrances and intricate art is a sumptuous sight that visitors enjoy every year at the Mandir. This “Annakut” – literally, ‘mountain of food’ – however, is not a feast but “an offering of the first meal of the New Year made in thanksgiving to God for his providence over the past year, and to seek his blessings for the year ahead”, Kirtan Patel, one of the volunteers explained.
Chief Guest on the occasion was H.E. Mr Ranjan Mathai, High Commissioner of India to the UK. Addressing the assembly, he applauded the contribution of Indians in the UK. “I am proud and happy to come here. What you do as a community is reflected best on occasions like this. You maintain your spiritual values in a foreign country without giving up loyalty to the country in which you live – this is the great contribution of Indians and I think a great message which we take away on an occasion like this today.”
Mayor of Brent Cllr Kana Naheerathan and Mayor of Harrow Cllr Ajay Maru, as well as other local councillors, also joined the congregation.
Marie Harry, Breast Health Promotion Training and Support Officer for Breast Cancer Care, was also present and observed the Mandir’s support in action, including the incorporation of pink colours in the decorations. “I’m in awe of the volunteers coming together wearing those [pink] colours. It’s been incredible how the community has come together today. It’s been wonderful to take part in this celebration at the BAPS Mandir.”