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HVK Archives: Archbishop of Canterbury visits Swminarayan Mandir

Archbishop of Canterbury visits Swminarayan Mandir - The Observer

Posted By Ashok V Chowgule (ashokvc@giasbm01.vsnl.net.in)
21 December 1996

Title : Archbishop of Canterbury visits Swaminarayan Mandir
Author :
Publication : The Observer
Date : December 21, 1996

On 13 December 1996, The most Reverend George Carey, the Archbishop of
Canterbury visited Europe's first traditional Hindu Mandir in Neasden,
London.

The freezing temperatures of the outside were quickly forgotten with the warm
and hearty welcome that he received. Indeed, the Archbishop said that the
welcome had surpassed his imagination. He was greeted by the Mahant (Head),
Sadhu Atmaswarupdas, the High Commissioner for India, Dr L M Singhvi and
trustees of the Swaminarayan Hindu Mission. In keeping with Hindu tradition,
the Archbishop removed his shoes.

He was then introduced to various community leaders and prominent businessmen
amongst whom were Srichand Hinduja and Ravi Tikoo.

The Archbishop then commenced his tour of the Mandir accompanied by Sadhu
Atmaswarupdas. Pointing to a larrge murti (photo) of His Divine Holiness
Pramukh Swami Maharaj, Sadhu Atmaswarupdas explained that it was only with
his vision and inspiration that the Mandir completed in a record three years.

Sadhu Atmaswarupdas spoke of the selfless spirit of dedication of the
volunteers involved in the construction of the Mandir. Walking up to the
inner sanctum, the Archbishop was introduced to the deities in the cental
shrine, namely Lord Swaminarayan, Akshar Brahman Gunatitanand Swami and
Gopalanand Swami.

The Archbishop was then introduced to the hierarchy of the Akshar Purushottam
Swaminarayan Hindu Faith and the other deities. He also viewed the key
features of the Mandir including the magnificent central dome and the
intricately carved marble pillars. He was spellbound by the breathtaking
beauty of the Mandir.

The group then moved to the ground floor where he was guided through the
permanent exhibition 'Understanding Hinduism' which gives both an insight
into the origins and values of Hinduism and the contribution it has made to
the world.

On his tour of the Cultural Centre he next visited the Haveli where he was
impressed with the exquisite workmanship of the wooden carvings. He met the
volunteers in the Gym with their various fund raising projects. He was
particularly interested to note that most of them were young people.

After a private meeting with Pujya Atmaswarup Swami, the Archbishop was
escorted by children in traditional dress as he proceeded into the Main Hall
where he was given a rousing reception by the gathering.

Following the garlanding ceremony, the blessings of HDH Pramukh Swami Maharaj
(the Spiritual Head of the movement) were relayed to the meeting vis a video
presentation.

He said, "today, we are happy that His Grace is present in the Mandir. It is
a mutually beneficial meeting. It will inspire spiritual feelings in the
followers of both the faiths. Once more, we should like to convey our
appreciation for your presence, and offer our most respectful Jay
Swaminarayan."

His Grace addressed the meeting and said, "I have been impressed by the
exquisite workmanship and the care and love that have gone into the building
of this Temple. We need to express generosity and genuine tolerance in
listening to the experiences of those from traditions different to our own.
Interfaith dialogue is not an option but a necessity".

He went onto say that, "we can together stand against the vils of racism and
challenge the materialism that threatens to become all enveloping."
The Archbishop was presented with a memento that had been sent by HDH Pramukh
Swami Maharaj on this occasion. lie than left the stage and walked past the
appreciative audience who applauded.


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