BAPS (http://londonmandir.baps.org/) hosted a memorable ceremony to pay tribute to the soldiers from India and the Commonwealth who served during the First World War.
The event took place at BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, London, on Friday 16 November 2018 which also marked the 100th anniversary since Armistice Day (11 November 1918). The event coincided with the National Inter-Faith Week which symbolises peace and harmony between all the religions and that’s what the world war was all about. As quoted by Sardar Sulakhan Singh “Today we pay tribute to all the soldiers who belonged to different religions raised above all the religions difference and came together in harmony to fight the war together in harmony”.
India played a crucial part in the war by supporting the British with the largest army the world had seen, consisting of 1.5 million people, to fight the war alongside the British. Indian soldiers consisted of almost half of the army which fought the war. Gandhi’s principles and loyal support were crucial at the time of war to maintain India’s relations with the British. He said “it was our duty to win their help by standing by them in their hour of need”
While 74,000 Indian soldiers were killed during the great war, 11 Victoria Crosses were awarded to their ranks as it was important to pay a tribute to their sacrifice and courage which is the reason today we are together at peace.
The peace and harmony which the world witnesses today was beautifully displayed at the start of the ceremony when the lighting of the lamps took place where representatives of all the religions were lighting the lamps together symbolising the unity and love that we all share no matter which caste or religion one belongs to.
A trumpeter played the national anthems of both the countries and the monumental march which the British and Indian army had during the World War One which surely gives a person goosebumps with pride and respect for all the soldiers who fought the war to give us the peaceful world which we live in today.
The function commenced with instrumental performances by children to support and uplift the recitals from poetry by Sarojini Naidu and Rabindranath Tagore. Every faith and civic leader present at the function paid their tribute by saying a few words about the soldiers, appreciating the courage and bravery they showed.
Rt. Hon. Tom Tugendhat MP, Chair of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee of the House of Commons attended the event. Also, they had currently visited India to pay respect to the soldier by placing a wreath at India Gate in New Delhi
Head Swami of the Mandir, ‘Swami Yogvivekdas’ shared a few words from his holiness Mahant Swami Maharaj’s message “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 poppy display was installed outside the mandir in order to pay homage to the heroes of World War One. The Mandir was one of the 14 locations that were selected by The Royal British Legion, which exhibited large poppies displaying moving messages from the First World War generation intertwined along threads that pointed to 20-ft installation at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, London.