Houses of Parliament, London, Tuesday 19th April 2016:
Itâ€™s not often one witnesses three saintly figures received in the Houses of Parliament by British MPs and Lords to commemorate the birth of Bhagwan Shri Ram.
Pujya Shri Ram Bapa from London, Pujya Sanjeev Krishna Thakurji from Vrindavan and Gaur Gopal Prabhu from Mumbai, graced the occasion which was held on Tuesday 19th April 2016 at the Houses of Parliament, UK. It was clear to see the enthusiasm displayed by the 180 invited guests, Parliamentarians including Gareth Thomas MP, Virendra Sharma MP. Alok Sharma MP, Lord Navnit Dholakia, Steven Pound MP, Angela Smith MP and Lord Dollar Popat, together with dignitaries Reverend Mark Poulson-(Interfaith Advisor for the Archbishop of Canterbury), Malcolm M Deboo (President of the Zoroastrian Trust Funds of Europe) and Vivian Wineman (Co-Chair of the Interfaith Network for the UK & Former President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews) who had all assembled for the auspicious event.
The introductions were given by Muna Chauhan, Umesh C Sharma, Sanjay Jagatia and Arun Thakur of the Hindu Council UK, all of whom organised the function on behalf of the Hindu Council UK. A diya was lit by the three Saints and the Co-Hosts of the event Gareth Thomas MP, Virendra Sharma MP and Lord Navnit Dholakia opened the event. In the midst were press photographers in competition with everyone on their smart phones taking pictures and videos of the proceedings and wanting to capture this momentous event.
Umesh Chander Sharma, Chairman of Hindu Council UK, started the event with Dhun, Prarthana, and a verse from the Ramayana regarding glorifications of Shri Ramâ€™s pastimes. Umesh Sharma said, â€œObserving Ram Navmi in the prestigious Houses of Parliament, means a special moment for all Hindus and enshrines Shri Ram in the hearts of us all. Today, these premises and the seat of our British Parliament has become â€˜Ayodhyaâ€™, the original birth place of our Shri Ram, Indeed today also, the Houses of Parliament has become Lord Shri Ramâ€™s Parliament. It is now a unique occasion for the world to rekindle the ideals of Shri Ram based on the principles of truthfulness, morality, service, good leadership and love. The very birth of Shri Ram represents the reawakening of the birth or appearance of God in our hearts.â€
Muna Chauhan, Assistant Secretary-General of the Hindu Council UK introduced the three Saints and Co-Hosts and explained that the event had received an overwhelming response with over 500 people requesting a place but we were only able to accommodate 160 people. However, she reassured all those who were unsuccessful that they will have an opportunity of attending a future celebration that the Hindu Council UK will be holding in Parliament. Muna Chauhan said Shree Ram Navmi-the birthday of Shri Ram and is one of the most important festivals for Hindus. On this auspicious day, devotees repeat the name of Shri Ram with every breath and vow to lead a righteous life…… People pray to attain the final beatitude of life through intense devotion towards Shri Ram and invoke him for his blessings and protectionâ€.
SALUTATIONS to Lord Shri Ram, an Incarnation of Lord Vishnu, who is measureless, who is of the nature of pure consciousness and bliss, who is the consort of Sita, Master of Sri Hanuman, and the Lord of the three worlds, who took His birth at His own will in order to establish righteousness, destroy the wicked and protect His devotees. Ram Navmi or the birthday of Shri Ram falls on the 9th day of the bright fortnight of the month of Chaitra (March-April). Shri Ram was the Lord Hari Himself, incarnate on earth for the destruction of Ravana. He was well accomplished, beautiful and endowed with royal marks. His glory and prowess were unlimited. He was peerless on earth. He was free from malice. He was gentle. He was the protector of all His people. He always addressed them in gentle words. He never used any harsh words even when somebody provoked Him. He held sway over the whole world.
Virendra Sharma MP officially opened the event and said, â€œWelcome to the Houses of Parliament and I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Hindu community for all they do for our country. You make an enormous contribution to Britain in so many ways and your role in our nation is a shining example of how communities can integrate and succeed while retaining a strong and proud identity. The Hindu community in UK is a vibrant and dynamic community which is well established and enrich our society, and make such tremendous contributions to the UK economyâ€.
Gareth Thomas MP said â€œIt is wonderful to see so many people here today with a queue stretching right into the corridors with people wanting to celebrate their belief and their faith. I want to give you my heartiest good wishes on the occasion of Ram Navmi and applaud the contributions that the Hindu Diaspora makes to the United Kingdom across business, education and the charitable sector in both the UK and India. He continued â€œtodayâ€™s event is a wonderful example of how the British Hindu community in the UK share their values, heritage and culture with the wider communityâ€.
Lord Navnit Dholakia said â€œfirst and foremost we should all be proud that today we are celebrating the birthday of Shri Ram at the historic Houses of Parliament. Well done to the Hindu Council UK for organising such a well turned out event. As a community, British Hindus have made a mark in the UK ever since they first arrived into the country. Today we see Hindus at the top of so many professions: journalism, business, sport, public services and, notably, politics. When we read about Shri Ram thereâ€™s so much that we have to say about the importance of family, about the importance of community, about the importance of voluntary service â€“ these are all the values that our country needs more of. So letâ€™s celebrate our values, and make others also follow our values.
Pujya Shri Ram Bapa provided one of the highlights of the evening, who at the age of 96 delivered a beautiful discourse. His devotion to Lord Shri Ram and Lord Shri Hanuman is well known and he spoke passionately explaining the origin of how Shri Ram came to be in this world in a concise and easily understandable manner. Pujya Ram Bapa assured us that in the current climate of strife, terrorism and extremism one should never fear as whenever there is mortal danger to the principles of dharma and humanity, God comes to earth just as Lord Krishna took the reins of the chariot of Arjuna to destroy the evil. Furthermore, as Hanuman Jayanti was also coming up, Pujya Ram Bapa recited his signature Hanuman Chalisa and devoted it to Sri Hanumanji, who is the greatest devotee of Lord Ram in â€˜dasya-bhavaâ€™ (mood of servitorship), The recital of the Hanuman Chalisa was an awesome sight to see with everyone joining in clapping and singing and raising the roof of the Parliament building.
The Ram Navmi celebration is an opportune period for us to saturate ourselves with the spirit of Shri Ram. We love and adore our ideals because we express thereby our yearning to unite with them. In our worship of God it is implied that we should be virtuous, good and perfect even as God is. Hence the wise instruction: â€œOne should become divine in order to be able to worship Godâ€. One cannot be a real worshipper of Shri Ram unless one makes an honest attempt to grow in the virtues that the Lord represents. On the other hand, worship of Shri Ram is itself the surest means to develop such virtues.
Pujya Sanjeev Krishna Thakurji said â€œI am absolutely overwhelmed and proud of the Hindu Community in the UK because such an event would not be possible in the Indian Parliamentâ€ Pujya Thakurji continued by saying that â€œthe event in Parliament proved that you live in a Country which truly values its Hindu brothers and sisters, a Country which demonstrates the principles of Ram Rajya in practice. Shri Ramâ€™s advent on earth was aimed at the re-establishment of the Truth. He was truly the embodiment of Righteousness. His Life and journey was in perfect accordance with and adherence to â€œSanatan Dharmaâ€ â€“ the Eternal Truth. Despite rigorous trials posed by circumstances, time and again, he set forth an example of ideal living for the entire mankind. Shri Ram was the best of men with a sterling character. He was the very image of love. He was an ideal son, an ideal brother, an ideal husband, an ideal friend and an ideal king. He can be taken to embody all the highest ideals of man. He led the ideal life of a householder to teach the tenets of righteousness to humanity. He ruled His people so well that it came to be known as Ram-Rajya, which meant the rule of righteousness, the rule which bestows happiness and prosperity on all.
Pujya Gaur Gopal Prabhu was the third of the Saints to speak and the audience eagerly waited to listen to him and he did not disappoint them by wowing them with his unique mix of deep knowledge and witty humour and delivering his talk in a digestible, enlivening and practical way. Pujya Gaur Gopal Prabhu highlighted how democracy embodies the aspirations of Ram Rajya. He said â€œMy message is that we need to always apply ancient wisdom to run our fast moving modern living, and that we can learn a lot from the principles that Shri Ram governed with. One who approaches Shri Ram with love and worshipfulness becomes large-hearted, pure in spirit, good-natured and dispassionate in thought, word and deed. A true devotee of Shri Ram is His representative, with His power and His knowledge. Material joy has two problems – It makes one insensitive and irresponsible, but spiritual joy makes one super sensitive and supper responsible, always attentive and accessible to his people. Shri Ram is worshipped and hailed by allâ€“he is the best example of perfect character and human conduct, inspiring human beings for countless succeeding agesâ€. The underlying theme of Pujya Gaur Gopal Prabhuâ€™s talk brought out the idea of gaining true, spiritual understanding through realizing oneâ€™s self as the Atma and leading a life in accordance with Shri Ramâ€™s ideology. Gaur Gopal Prabhu stated â€œwithout first developing devotion to Shri Ram who is the Self, who lives in the hearts of all beings, who is all bliss and who is peerless, how can man cross the ocean of worldly life which has sorrow, pain and misery for its waves? Even a great sinner who is full of evil qualities and who is fond of other peopleâ€™s wealth is freed from all kinds of faults that pertain to worldly life if only he remembers the Lord always. He attains purity and goes to the supreme abode of the Lord. Learn to change yourself first before you try to change othersâ€.
Sanjay Jagatia, Director/Secretary General of Hindu Council UK reminded everyone of the loving devotion held for Shri Ram in the hearts of all Hindus. He said â€œtoday we are here to celebrate Ram Navmi in this majestic building, the Mother of all Parliaments, the Palace of Westminster. It is absolutely right that we celebrate the birth of Shri Ram here. He was the embodiment of Truth, of Morality, and above all the ideal King. The Law maker himself. The world is an increasingly unstable place, the future uncertain, both gain and loss in life is assured, but if we can strive to live each day with a dedication to Shri Ramâ€™s fundamental principles â€“ â€˜Truth, Love and Compassionâ€™ – for ourselves, for each other & for the Earth – what more could ever be asked from us? – These principles are, in fact, the only everlasting guide we have on this journey called life. In these turbulent times, waking up day after day to news of war and strife, death, despair and disaster – not a corner of the globe is untouched – it is more important yet harder than ever to find a sense of peace within us. World Governments find it hard to act, religion provides no safe haven and the Earth appears to be destroying itself and us with every passing environmental calamity. Thus, Lord Shri Ramâ€™s is a paragon to be emulatedâ€.
Bharat Sarolia, one of the authors of the forthcoming Hindu Report spoke about the background to the biggest ever consultation that had taken place over the last 9 months with the Hindu Community in the UK. He said â€œThe strength of all great religions lies in the faith and voice of its day to day followers. For the first time the British Hindu Report will allow the Hindus of Great Britain to air their concerns, aspirations and contributions to the rest of the country. The report which has been compiled will show that while there are many interpretations of the Hindu faith within Great Britain in the end all British Hindus are united by the core values that are at the centre of the “Sanatan Dharma”, Hinduism.
Arun Thakur, Director of Hindu Council UK responsible for Temple engagement concluded the event with a vote of thanks. He thanked the Members of Parliament who had hosted the event and everyone who attended. He gave special thanks Himalaya Herbals and Poonam Sweets, who had sponsored the Ram Navmi event and had provided a gift bag containing mitai boxes (sweets), prashad and samples of ayurvedic products for everyone attending.
The attendees of the event felt extremely blissful, spiritually nourished and enlivened by the in-depth, focused talks made by the three Spiritual leaders that had graced the occasion. The Shree Ram Navmi event connected with the members of the audience to commemorate the birth and legacy of Bhagwan Shri Ram. Today, we see the continuation of this journey where the Hindu Community lead a life infused with deep spirituality and greater purpose and navigating their day-to-day lives, while experiencing the profound peace that Hinduismâ€™s ancient traditions strove to attain and teach. Events such as this prove how we Indians and Hindus manage to permeate our culture and peaceful religion in 21st century UK right in the heart of the Government. We simply live by our Dharma and do not either want to be looked inwardly or be constant subject of media interest. Our Sanatan Dharma principle is universal, pure and workable in any situation and Hindus should unite and partake in the democratic process and vote accordingly to ensure that our values are preserved for our future generations.
Hindu Council UK