From as early as 5 a.m., devotees were coming in to the mandir complex for their first darshan of Thãkorji on the Hindu New Year [Vikram Samvat 2060]. The day started at 5.30 a.m. with mangalã arti in the mandir. The murtis were then beautifully adorned and shangãr arti was performed at 6.45 a.m. At 7.00 a.m., the New Year mahãpujã commenced in the Haveli, where prayers for world peace were chanted.
The climax of the day was soon approaching, when over two months of devotion by hundreds of volunteers working day and night was about to bear fruit. The Annakut offering of over 1500 items of food, snacks, sweets, pickles, spicy dishes, salads, fruit drinks and various other dishes had been prepared by volunteers. The items offered consisted of dishes from the world over.
By 11.00 a.m., the Annakut was placed in front of the sacred deities in the shrines in a grand and decorative manner in the mandir and on the 100-foot stage in the Haveli assembly hall. The theme of the decoration was the peacock, the national bird of India. The sãdhus amidst a packed mandir then sang thãl. At 11.45 a.m., the third ãrti, the rãjbhog arti, was performed in the Mandir.
In the Haveli, multicoloured rangoli designs and floral decorations lent to a picturesque grand display which was marvelled by everyone as part of the annual celebrations. The festival of lights was portrayed through a magnificent stage setting against a backdrop of giant lamps and peacocks celebrating the illumination of light and colour in people's lives. The first ãrti was performed at 12noon. This was the first of many ãrtis performed during the day.
Both young and old, participated in the festivities wearing colourful new clothes, enjoying snacks and sweets, meeting and rejoicing with relatives and friends in an atmosphere of happiness. Hundreds of volunteers assisted on this most auspicious day helping the elderly and young who had travelled from all over the UK to visit the Mandir.
Prayers were offered to Bhagwan Swaminarayan, together with a special message from His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj, the spiritual leader of the BAPS Swaminarayan Sansthã. He prayed for "peace and prosperity throughout the world".
The Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone and Minister for Transport, Tony McNulty, MP'h also visited the Mandir on this occasion.
By early afternoon, long
queues had started to form outside the mandir with devotees waiting
patiently to have darshan of the truly magnificent Annakut. Throughout
the day, thousands of people came for darshan. All those visiting were
given free tithi calendars and prasãd to take home.