On 16 November 2018, a special interfaith ceremony took place to pay tribute to soldiers from India and Commonwealth countries who served in WW1. This event was held and organised by Baps Shri Swaminarayan Temple (http://londonmandir.baps.org/) and supported by Palan Foundation.
Last year marked the 100th anniversary since Armistice Day (11 November 1918) - the day when the war ended. To commemorate this occasion, a programme of remembrance was held at the Mandir. The event coincided with National Inter Faith Week in the U.K.
The occasion brought together representatives of various faiths, where they began assembly by lighting lamps. A trumpeter played British March ‘Colonel Bogey March’ and ‘Qadam Qadam Badaye Ja’- motivational Indian Song for British and Indian armies during World War One. The trumpeter circumscribed by children holding 53 flags of the Commonwealth nations, also performed the national anthems of Great Britain and India.
Poetries by Sarojini Naidu and Rabindranath Tagore were recited by children and soldiers supported with instrumental performances. Inspiring videos depicting gallantry and resilience of Indian soldiers were shown and the event was glorified with faith leaders offered ‘mantrapushpanjali’, an ancient Hindu floral tribute to the departed souls.
HE Euripides L Evriviades, High Commissioner of Cyprus and Chair of the Commonwealth Board of Governors, delivered an eloquent message on behalf of the Commonwealth. Lord Gadhia explained the importance of poppy made from Khadi (the cotton homespun) made by famous Mahatma Gandhi commissioned by the Royal British Legion in recognition of Gandhi’s loyalty to Britain.
Lord Ahmad, Minister of State for the Commonwealth and the UN and the Prime Minister’s Special Envoy on Freedom of Religion or Belief, said the event at the Mandir was “an incredible demonstration of the unity of mankind, the unity of remembrance, appreciation of friendship and ties of kinship”. Sardar Sulakhan Singh, Honorary President of the Namdhari Sikh Sangat UK, reflected on the “sacrifice of servicemen from various faiths who fought in the Great War [to enable us] all to live in happiness today”. Imam Mohammed Mahmoud of Finsbury Park Mosque described the event as “unique and long-awaited” and encouraged everyone to “preserve peace and keep it alive”. Several other faith and civic leaders were also present.
Rt. Hon. Tom Tugendhat MP, Chair of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee of the House of Commons. Mr. Tugendhat laid a wreath at India Gate in New Delhi in respect of Indian soldiers who lost their lives. He spoke of the stories which Britain and India had written together that binds the two countries.
Swami Yogvivekdas, Head Swami of the Mandir, concluded by sharing his holiness Mahant Swami Maharaj’s message for the evening: “I pray for the peace and liberation of the many souls who sacrificed their lives for all of us – not only in World War One but in all the many wars since. May their sacrifices always be remembered and may the need for such sacrifices never arise again.”
The Mandir paid homage to the heroes of World War One by displaying poppy outside the mandir. The Royal British Legion selected this as one of 14 locations and moving messages with large poppies were featured from the First World War generation woven along threads that pointed to 20-ft installation at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, London.