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Boris Johnson joins Priti Patel for Diwali prayers at London temple

Johnson and Patel visited the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, as it is officially known, on Sunday and after a tour of the stone temple complex they offered prayers to the gods

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson, right and Home Secretary Priti Patel pour water over a gilded brass image of Shri Nilkanth Varni (Bhagwan Swaminarayan) in a ceremony as they attend Diwali celebrations during their visit to the Hindu temple, BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, in Neasden, London. (AP)

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his Indian-origin Cabinet minister, Priti Patel, offered Diwali prayers at the world-famous Neasden Temple in London, as an acknowledgement of its active role within the community during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Johnson and Patel visited the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, as it is officially known, on Sunday and after a tour of the stone temple complex they offered prayers to the gods. Johnson was also presented with gifts for his one-year-old son Wilfred, who he said he would bring along to the temple on his next visit.

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson, centre and Home Secretary Priti Patel pose for a photo as they attend Diwali celebrations during their visit to the Hindu temple, BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, in Neasden, London. (AP)

“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,” said Johnson.

He and Patel, the UK Home Secretary of Gujarati heritage, offered a fruit basket at the central shrine of the temple’s inner sanctum, where they spent some time reflecting on the architecture of the intricately built temple and also observed the annakut or “mountain of food”, which is artistically arranged before the deities as the symbolic first meal of the New Year.

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Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson, centre left and Home Secretary Priti Patel attend Diwali celebrations during their visit to the Hindu temple, BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, in Neasden, London, Sunday. (AP)

“The Prime Minister and I have been joining in the religious ceremonies and participated in the abhishek. The temple has been at the forefront of every single activity in the local community, but also at a time of a national crisis which, of course, the pandemic was,” said Patel, in reference to the temple’s outreach work-related of Covid-19 vaccinations and charity efforts.

Johnson and Patel then reviewed exhibits summarising Neasden Temple’s UK-wide pandemic relief efforts – an initiative inspired by Mahant Swami Maharaj, the spiritual leader of BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha (BAPS), the international Hindu fellowship behind the Neasden Temple in north-west London.

They also met some of the volunteers, including workers who prepared and delivered food to the vulnerable and the team working on keeping diaspora communities connected and informed through online services.

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The BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, popularly known as Neasden Temple, opened in August 1995 and is among one of Europe’s most well-known Hindu temples.

First published on: 08-11-2021 at 11:28:59 pm
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