Gita Jayanti, the anniversary of the auspicious day on which the Srimad Bhagavad Gita was bequeathed by Sri Krishna to Arjuna on the first day of the famous 18-day Kurukshetra War in the Mahabharata was celebrated with passion and fervour in the United Kingdom (UK). At a grand spiritual ceremony organised online on 28 December 2020 due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic induced restrictions in the UK by the Shree Jagannatha Society UK (also known as Jagannath Temple Trust UK) and the Aylesbury Hindu Temple Trust UK (AHTT UK), scores of devotees from across the UK and the world joined together to observe the 5157th anniversary of the Bhagavad Gita, that is considered the most important and influential Hindu scripture containing the essence of Vedic knowledge.
The programme began with stirring bhajans, mellifluously sung by devotees. Dr. Sahadev Swain, an eminent medical General Practitioner (GP) in the UK, and President of the Shree Jagannatha Society UK (SJS UK), welcomed devotees to the celebrations, and reminded everyone that despite being over 5000 years old, the teachings of the Gita are immortal, providing guidance and solutions to human life problems. The Bhagavad Gita is not simply a philosophical treatise, but rather a call to action – to be read, understood, and ultimately lived. Dr. Swain commended medical professionals across the world, who have lived the values taught in the Gita this year, often engaging in superhuman selfless service to alleviate the sufferings of Covid-19 patients.
CB Patel, Publisher/Editor of Asian Voice, recapped the three main themes in the Bhagavad Gita: knowledge (jnana), action (karma), and love (bhakti). In a year that has seen the entire world face a pandemic that has claimed millions of lives, Mr Patel asserted that Lord Krishna’s exhortation to human beings to restrain the mind and the senses, withdrawing them from the sense objects through the practice of yoga, whilst performing actions without desire, attachment or expectation of reward – leaving the outcome to the cosmic soul, Purushottama – are even more relevant.
Pujya Swami Madhavanand Ji, Acharya of Chinmaya Mission Ranchi, India delivered the keynote address elucidating the importance of balance in body, mind and intellect as propounded in the Gita. He averred that Srimad Bhagavad Gita is the ultimate practical manual that guides us in mind management. He explained how the five Pandavas represented the five properties of the mind – calmness, strength, simplicity, penetration and good company – and the Gita emphasises the importance of withdrawing the mind from sense objects, controlling it by the intellect, and merging it with the Atman (soul) to achieve Samadhi Yoga. Swamiji patiently answered questions from participating devotees and stressed that the profound wisdom imparted by Lord Krishna in the Gita can be experienced as a perceptible reality only when we practically implement the teachings and spiritualise different aspects of our daily life.
Guest Speaker, Prof. Dr. Harekrishna Satapathy, renowned educationist and eminent Sanskrit scholar, Vice Chancellor Kalinga Institute of Social Sciences (KISS) University in Odisha, India explained that the Bhagavad Gita is the journey from Vishaada (state of bewilderment or delusion) to Prasada (confidence), and it teaches us the technique to convert a crisis or challenge into an opportunity with confidence. In the Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna imparts his teachings to Arjuna through discussion and dialogue, and through the millennia it has similarly helped confused devotees address contemporary issues and find solutions to their everyday problems. Enlightening devotees about Purushottama Yoga, Prof. Satapathy remarked that the Gita urges us to establish connection with the Purushottama (Ultimate Being) to become peaceful, happy and self-realised – and in the Kali Yuga this can be done through devotion to Lord Jagannatha (lord of the universe), who is the presiding deity in the Purushottam Kshetra, Puri.
Bri. Nandana Chaitanya, Founder of Arsha Dipa, UK addressed young children in the audience and led them in the chanting of some of the most important shlokas of the Bhagavad Gita. Explaining their meaning, she reiterated the relevance of the Gita in the modern world as an essential guide to better living, conducting business, and communicating. Smt. Sreemarani Das, joining the meeting from Ireland, enthralled the audience with her rendition of soulful devotional songs to Lord Krishna and Lord Jagannatha.
Dr. Chetan Shatapathy, Trustee of Shree Jagannatha Society UK (SJS UK), gave a detailed PowerPoint presentation on the construction of a grand Jagannath Temple in London that is expected to become a prominent landmark and the epi-centre of Jagannath culture in Europe, attracting thousands of devotees annually from across the world. SJS UK (also known as Jagannath Temple Trust UK) has been recognized as a Charitable Incorporated Organisation (Charity No.1191544) by the Charities Commission of England and Wales. The Temple project will be a community-led affair, and SJS UK has initiated an active Membership Drive, kicked-off fundraising activities, and is in the process of acquiring a large piece of land close to the M25 motorway in North West of London for construction of the Temple. Construction of the temple is expected to commence by 2022 with completion projected in 2024. Mr. Lok Nath Mishra, MD and CEO of ICICI Bank, UK encouraged all the participants, and devotees across the world, to join in the pious mission of constructing a grand Lord Jagannatha Temple in London by joining as members of the SJS UK and through donating generously for the cause. He thanked the eminent speakers at the programme for their erudite discourses on the everlasting importance of the Bhagavad Gita and its significance to the world we live in and drew proceedings to a close.
The Gita Jayanti programme was ably organised by Dr. Prakash Dey, General Secretary of the SJS UK and AHTT UK, who also felicitated Shri. Prakash Sahu and Shri. Srikant of Sanket Communications, India for supporting the endeavours of the Trusts and their programmes. The function was expertly compered by Shri Hrusikesh and Smt. Sudipta Panigrahi. Besides the UK, the programme saw participation from devotees from several countries including Ireland, USA, Bahrain, Nigeria, Oman, and India.
SJS UK and AHTT UK are registered charitable incorporated organisations in England, seeking to spread Sanatana Dharma in the UK through the construction of a grand Jagannatha Temple in London and a Hindu Temple in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire. Gita Jayanti falls on Vaikuntha Ekadashi, the Ekadashi day of Shukla Paksha (the waxing phase of the moon) of the Margashira month (November-December) in the traditional Hindu calendar – this year it fell on 25th December, coinciding with Christmas.