LONDON: UK prime minister Boris Johnson and Indian-origin British home secretary Priti Patel celebrated Diwali and the Hindu New Year with devotees at the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, London – popularly known as ‘Neasden Temple’ – on Sunday.
During the visit Johnson was presented with a long-sleeved T shirt for his one-year-old son Wilfred by a seven-year-old girl Amisha Patel, on behalf of BAPS, as well as a ‘onesie’ with an image of the temple on for his second child which his wife Carrie is currently carrying.
Johnson was greeted at the north London temple in traditional Hindu manner with auspicious marks of welcome and goodwill before being taken on a brief tour of the stone temple complex.
The home secretary, dressed in a stunning pink lehenga, was similarly welcomed upon her arrival and joined the prime minister to offer a fruit basket at the central shrine of the temple’s inner sanctum, where they spent several minutes absorbing the peace and intricate architecture.
Here,they also observed the annakut – literally, ‘mountain of food’ – artistically arranged before the deities as the first meal of the New Year, offered in thanksgiving for God’s gracious providence and to be later shared among worshippers.
They then performed the abhishek (an ancient Hindu practice of prayerfully pouring water over a sacred image) of Shri Nilkanth Varni, the youthful form of Bhagwan Swaminarayan, a popular Hindu deity.
They then viewed the exhibits summarising Neasden Temple’s Covid-19 relief efforts – an initiative inspired by His Holiness Mahant Swami Maharaj, the spiritual leader of BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha. The global Hindu leader had issued a call in March 2020 for all BAPS volunteers to serve the elderly, needy and vulnerable in local communities during the pandemic.
They later met some of the Indian-origin BAPS devotees who had been key workers as well as those who had been volunteers, preparing and delivering food to the vulnerable, and the team keeping communities connected and informed through online services.

Johnson said: “What His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj has contributed to the United Kingdom has been incalculable. I see it here today at the Neasden Temple. I have been here many times, but I don’t think I have ever been here at a time when the Neasden Temple has been so central to the life of the whole of the London community. Happy Diwali and Happy New Year to everyone in the Hindu community here in the UK.”
Patel is a BAPs devotee who regularly frequents the Neasden Temple. Born in London to a Ugandan-Indian family, her parents and grandparents were devotees at the BAPS Temple in Kampala, Uganda. Her grandparents, born in Gujarat, had, in the 1950s moved to Uganda. The family was then expelled by Idi Amin, the former president of Uganda, and Patel’s parents moved to Britain. Her grandfather was chairman of BAPS Uganda.


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