Raksha Bandhan: Police thanked at poignant Hindu peace ceremony at Shree Swaminarayan Mandir Kingsbury in wake of shootings across borough
PUBLISHED: 12:15 24 August 2018 | UPDATED: 17:43 24 August 2018
Senior police joined Hindu leaders at a celebration of peace, tolerance and unity in Kingsbury's Shree Swaminarayan Mandir temple on Wednesday night.
Poignantly, it came days after a triple shooting down the road left three people injured – something speakers at the ceremony had little choice but to address.
Raksha Bandhan is a tradition that celebrates siblings’ relationships, where sisters tie a “rakhi” (bracelet) on their brothers’ wrists that symbolises protection.
The opening night of the festival, which culminates in a special celebration on Sunday, started with a candle-lighting ceremony as a symbol of promoting peace. The idea was to thank those in society who serve to protect these values.
That’s why the Met’s assistant commissioner Neil Basu and borough commander Det Ch Supt Simon Rose were among the invited guests.
“My profession is one of the greatest professions in the greatest city and one of the greatest police services in the world,” Mr Basu told the guests.
“It is so much more than just a job – it is a vocation I live 24/7, 365 days a year.
“One of the most important services is to look out for society’s most vulnerable people in the most vulnerable times of their lives.
“Service to others is the best way to live one’s life.”
Det Ch Supt Rose added: “We at the police are so grateful for the work of the Hindu community.
“Faith is an enormous positive influence society should be grateful for.
“The building of community collaboration and the promoting of peace and tolerance is so important in these difficult times. Thank you for everything you do.”
Speaking on behalf of Hindus, temple trustee Dr Mahesh Varsani told of the importance of the local police for being able to provide the Indian community with “raksha” (protection) and for looking out for society’s most vulnerable people.
“Society will improve,” he added, “but only when individuals within it improve their own conduct.”
Brent North MP Barry Gardiner also attended the ceremony.
He paid tribute to the police in the wake of a string of shootings in Brent over the summer.
Three people were shot outside Kingsbury Tube station on Monday night.
A shooting in Stonebridge at the end of May left a young man seriously injured.
And father of two Leon Reid was fatally shot in Queensbury on May 1.
The MP told the crowd: “Our thoughts are sent out to them after the recent shootings in our community just down the road, and over the past couple of months.
“We must pay real tribute to them and the officers of their force for the way in which they respond to crime and violence in our city in some of the most difficult conditions where they are constrained in terms of finance and resource.
“They always respond immediately.”
He added: “Your life is nothing unless it is service to others. It’s about the bonds of love within a family. It’s about the bonds of love within a community.
“And that is what your mandir has brought here to the heart of Kingsbury.”
During the night, global spiritual leader Acharya Swamishree Maharaj tied a sacred bracelet to the officers to show gratitude for the work of the police across the country.
They were also adorned with a white paagh (turban), which is one of the highest honours in the religion.
Dr Varsani told guests the spiritual leader’s teachings inspire Hindus to help society by being involved in charitable initiatives like blood donation or raising money for local, national or international causes.
Shree Swaminarayan Mandir is also the world’s first eco-friendly temple.
This week’s celebration was part of preparations for the Raksha Bandhan on Sunday, which also marks the fourth anniversary of the temple’s opening.
It is expected to see thousands of Hindus to come together to celebrate and to receive the spiritual leader Acharya Swamishree Maharaj’s blessing.
The Shree Swaminarayan Mandir Kingsbury is run by the Maninagar Shree Swaminarayan Gadi Sansthan branch of the religion.