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 the Neasden temple — on Sunday.
Johnson was presented with a long-sleeved T-shirt with the name Wilfred and a picture of the temple on it for his one-year-old son by a seven-year-old girl, Amisha Patel, on behalf of BAPS, as well as a “onesie” for the second child his wife Carrie is currently carrying.
The home secretary, dressed in a salmon pink lehenga, joined the PM to offer a fruit basket at the central shrine of the temple’s inner sanctum where they observed the annakut — “mountain of food” – artistically arranged before the deities as the first meal of the New Year.
They then performed the “abhishek” of Sri Nilkanth Varni, the youthful form of “Bhagwan Swaminarayan”. They viewed exhibits summarising Neasden temple’s Covid-19 relief efforts, and met some of the BAPS devotees who have been key workers and volunteers during the pandemic.
Johnson praised the “incredible contribution Hindus make to the UK”, from serving in the police and NHS to rolling out the Covid vaccine.
He 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.”
Patel also visited the Iskcon Bhaktivedanta Manor near Watford in Hertfordshire, Iskcon’s largest centre in the UK. The estate was donated to the Hare Krishna movement in 1973 by the Beatles’ George Harrison who was interested in Indian spirituality. “It was an honour to be back at Bhaktivedanta Manor for Diwali blessings today. Thank you all for the wonderful welcome you gave me,” Patel said.
There Patel was presented with a book on Vrindavan in UP. She received blessings in front of the deities and saw the personal rooms where Srila Prabhupada, the founder of Iskcon, stayed. She also fed the cows on the estate’s organic dairy farm, which is run according to ahimsa (non-violent) principles and ancient agricultural techniques.

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