By Aastha K Singhania
London, July 22 (BAN): On July 13th2019, a never seen before celebratory event is taking place at one of London’s first Hindu temples dating back to 1975, the Shree Swaminarayan Temple in Willesden, to commemorate 31 years of being established. Not only that, with all the volunteering work and donations, the organisation has opened a sheltered accomodatiom for elderly right next to the temple, known as the Bhakti Dharma centre, which was inaugurated by the highest spiritual Guru of the temple, Acharya Maharajshree Koshalendraprasadji who is the 8th generation of Lord Swaminarayan. This is a nine day event and is due to finish on Sunday July 21st2019.
It was an eye opener to see thousands of volunteers who are coming forward in these nine days of celebration, helping out in all areas with complete dedication and organisation. We had a chance to speak to the leader of their security team, Nitish Patel who said, “We are expecting about 3000 people this morning with more later and have had almost 10000 everyday, especially in the evening also as the children are now off from school. We do this all voluntary and have full time job on the other side.” Women in high numbers were seen in the kitchen preparing the religious prasad for almost 10000 people for the day. Women, dressed in all red, signified unity and the colour of Hinduism and solidarity. To make it fun and show community cohesion they have decided on a colour code for each day of the 9 days.
The temple looked beautifully decorated and it is amazing to see how the place was originally a church and in 1981, the temple bought the place and developed it to great heights. Today the temple has 2 beautiful banquet halls which can accommodate nearly a 1000 people, yoga classes, day crèche for children, weekend Gujarati classes and all of this is run voluntarily by the community of the place. In October 2018, the three statue idols of Hare Krishna were stolen and this year the temple is bringing new ones to get reinstated at the temple and this requires a 9 day ceremony and hence the call of ‘Hare Krishna Mahostav’.
For the event, thousands of flowers have been delivered fresh from Kenya, donated by a religious donor. Many women could be seen putting the flower decorations together, who would remain on duty for the next 9 days. All volunteers have to go through a mandatory health check, and health training; teachers are DBS checked, and as they are a registered charity they have to comply with all the rules for people working at the temple. The coordinator of the temple said, “We make sure our children do not only study the scriptures and the religion but to primarily understand what it takes to be a good person.” This was stated with example when we met the temple’s President’s daughter Rasika, a volunteer at the temple who said, “My daughter, who is 4 years old, decided to grow her hair and donated it to the cancer charity fund only because her friend suffered from cancer and lost all her hair. It comes from within and I was happily surprised to see her think this way.” One of the moto’s of the temple is ‘we rise by lifting others’ and have raised £150,000 for charities ranging from Great Ormond Street Children’s hospital to the disaster fund relief for Nepal.
Navin Shah, the elected member of Brent and Harrow (who is almost ready to pass the baton to the next member) was present for the inauguration. Speaking candidly with British Asia News he said, ‘this was project was right for the community & neighbourhood and fits in with the character of the area and this has been a difficult project and I am here to celebrate the fruits of our labour.” On asking how he sees our Indian community opening their minds towards retirement homes he said, “It is the need of the hour and with changing generations, the attitude and the society has changed and I am sure this will cater to that and there is nothing wrong in that. Times have moved on.”
Cllr Krupesh Hirani has stepped in for the nomination of being the Cabinet member for Brent and Harrow and his vision for the community and the area looks strategically clear when he said, “I will be a beacon for the community, special focus on the young people. People are crying out for support having seen a high rise in youth violence and youth crime. One of my pledges is to set up a young peoples steering room for Brent Harrow to take these issues to the Mayor of London. This area has a population 600, 000 people out of which 125,000 people are Guajarati’s and its only right to have a Gujarati leader representing them at one of the posts atleast to be a part and parcel of the decision making process.”
The inauguration of the regeneration project care home for the elderly took place successfully with all the priest present and Acharya Maharajshree Koshalendraprasadji cutting the ribbon and welcoming the public to view the beautifully designed 19 en-suite rooms. Which come with open plan kitchens, large communal living and dining spaces, beautiful landscaped gardens and communal laundry facilities. The accommodation will have lunch and dinner provisions, on site managers including out of hours provision, secured access with CCTV throughout and emergency response options. The accommodation is now officially open and accepting applications.
The temple Pooja and celebration continued inside into the evening and many more devotees and community members came to celebrate the day.
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