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Charles & Camilla's Diwali at Swaminarayan temple
H S Rao in London
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November 10, 2007 21:41 IST

Prince Charles and his wife Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, added colour to the Diwali celebrations in Britain by visiting the Shri Swaminarayan temple in London [Images] and participating in a symbolic 'Laxmi Puja' ceremony.

Yogvivek Swami, the head priest at the temple in Neasden, greeted the Prince on Friday in the traditional Indian way with a garland. Female members of the temple welcomed the Duchess with a 'tilak' on her forehead.

The Royal couple then proceeded to the sanctum sanctorum where they offered flowers at the central shrine.

Both spent several minutes witnessing the intricate architecture of the temple.

After meeting temple volunteers, the Royal couple made their way into the prayer hall where they were greeted with rapturous applause, musical fanfare and waving of flags.

They performed 'abhishek' of Shri Nilkanth Varni before being escorted to the Haveli foyer to have a view of the building's architecture.

The Prince and the Duchess each lighted a 'diya' in Haveli to commemorate their presence on the auspicious day of Diwali. After receiving garlands, they participated in a symbolic 'Chopda Pujan' (Laxmi Puja) ceremony while the children chanted Verdic hymns. This was followed by a dance.

Prince Charles, in his address, spoke of his 'great privilege' of visiting the temple on this "auspicious occasion of Diwali, the most wonderful festival of light."

He specifically thanked the temple volunteers for their "overwhelming warmth" on his two previous visits to the temple in 1996 and in 2001, and felt especially touched on being allowed to participate in the sacred rituals this time, even joking about bringing his own account books to the temple so that they, too, could be blessed.

The Prince then went on to recollect fond memories of his meeting with His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj at St James' Palace back in 1997, exactly 10 years to the day.

He recalled being touched by His Holiness' humility and tremendous compassion for all living beings.

He repeatedly complimented the "peace-loving and value-based Hindu community" in the UK and thanked them for their "huge contribution to the fabric... of our society."

Prince Charles also shared his personal belief that the local Hindu community is "one of the most positive forces which help to bind the country together."

He concluded his address wishing a "Shubh Deepawali" and every possible success to the people in the years to come.

The Royal couple was also presented with mementos.

Several prominent leaders including Councillor Harshad Patel, Mayor of Brent, Councillor Paul Lorber, Leader of Brent council, Dawn Butler, MP, Barry Gardiner, MP were introduced to the Royal couple.

Thousands of devotees visited the temple on Friday and witnessed a spectacular display of fireworks later in the night.

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