When newly crowned King Charles III processed his way out of Westminster Abbey, waiting for him near the exit was Jitu Patel – Chairperson of BAPS UK. Jitu Bhai represented the Hindu faith as part of a multi-faith delegation who delivered a message in unison to the King.
The Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in London, popularly known as Neasden Temple, also marked the historic occasion with a special tribute event led by Yogvivekdas Swami, Head Swami of the Temple and BAPS UK, and Mahant Swami Maharaj wrote a personal letter to the King to extend his warmest congratulations on behalf of the global BAPS Swaminarayan fellowship. Over the course of the Coronation weekend, the temple also participated in the Big Lunch and the Big Help Out to bring together communities and offer free health screenings.
In this exclusive interview with iGlobal, Jitu Bhai shares his experience of being part of the iconic ceremony at the Abbey in London on May 6, the significance of the multi-faith symbolism in an ancient Christian ritual and also some insights into the ongoing tour of Mahant Swami Maharaj to the UK.
Please give us some insights into the historic moments inside the Abbey.
It felt amazing. It was in some ways overwhelming, especially when all these dignitaries and heads of states and then the royalty started arriving. The atmosphere was just out of this world. And then I was seated amongst them at an occasion of such importance; I felt lucky to be able to take part.
How important was the multi-faith aspect of the Coronation ceremony?
This is very important, in my view as it is the views of the other faiths. After all, the King has had these views, not only when he became the monarch but for many, many years. He is a very good friend of BAPS and has been to our Mandir several times, and to Akshardham in India as well.
So, he's a friend of BAPS, a friend of Hindus and of all faiths. He actually facilitated the Chief Rabbi’s needs around Sabbath, and therefore the Rabbi actually resided overnight at St. James's Palace.
We were made to feel very welcomed by all the Bishops and Archbishops; the general atmosphere was very cordial, very welcoming, and we were made to feel as one by everyone. So, I think the atmosphere was for the common good and that's what Christianity is all about, as well, anyway.
What was the message in unison delivered by the faith leaders to the King?
The message basically was that ‘as neighbours in faith, we acknowledge the value of public service and we unite with people of all faith and all beliefs in thanksgiving and in service with you, Your Majesty, for the common good’.
So, it was exactly an apt kind of message of acknowledgement from us, reciprocating his generosity in including us in such a momentous occasion.
Please share your thoughts on Britain’s first Hindu Prime Minister Rishi Sunak reading at the ceremony.
It is absolutely a representation of modern-day Britain. He's born and bred here in the UK. He is very talented, he's got the right values and somebody who’s trying to do his very best for this country.
When he actually stood up, it made me even more proud and I had goosebumps. Wow! The Prime Minister could have been a Muslim, a Jew or a Christian. But here was Britain’s first Hindu Prime Minister who stood up and did proud not only to his position as PM and leader of the Conservative Party, but also to the wider Hindu community as well as all British citizens.
But the most important thing was that it was the King who actually would have been, in my view, the master of the planning as to how he wants his Coronation to reflect. I'm sure he was at the centre of it all behind the scenes.
Everything went really well, and I pray to Maharaj and Swami, long live the King.
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Finally, how is the historic visit of Mahant Swami Maharaj to the UK being planned?
Mahant Swami Maharaj has come here after seven years. So, the community and the devotees are really, really excited by this visit.
Over a six-week period, because of his age, the schedule has been planned accordingly to ensure that he also gets suitable rest in between. There are programmes for the wider community, acknowledging all that he has done throughout his life as a sadhu and also since he became Guru.
So, all that he has given to us and taught us in the last seven years is what we are actually celebrating and acknowledging in front of him. That's the core plan.
There is going to be numerous functions for adults and children and there's going to be one community-wide event, where the community at large has been invited already. We have a very good relationship with all the organisations in the community, be it the other Swaminarayan sects or the other Mandirs or even non-Mandir organisations.
*Info: Neasden Temple