UK Devotees Meet With Prime Ministers Cameron and Modi
ISKCON devotees in the United Kingdom recently got the chance to meet with both British Prime Minister David Cameron, and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
On November 10th, for the third year in a row, Bhaktivedanta Manor temple president Srutidharma Das was invited to chant prayers at an official Diwali function at Number 10 Downing Street.
Around 100 religious leaders from the Hindu, Sikh, and Jain communities, as well as leading Hindu businesspeople, attended the event at David Cameron’s office/residence. Indian High Commissioner in London Ranjan Mathai, and Minister for Employment Priti Patel were also present.
After the lamps were lit, Srutidharma chanted the first verse of Sri Isopanishad, beginning “Om purnam adah purnam idam,” in which the Personality of Godhead is described as the “perfect and complete” source of this world. He then chanted the Hare Krishna maha-mantra, and wished everyone a happy Diwali.
“I then got to shake the Prime Minister’s hand and expressed how lovely it was to celebrate Diwali with him again,” says Srutidharma. “I also mentioned to him that the Krishna Avanti primary school’s first results had come out, and that the children were in the top two per cent academically in the country.”
Prime Minister Cameron speaks on Diwali, while Srutidharma stands by to chant prayers
In his speech, the Prime Minister praised the different Diwali celebrations happening around the UK, and said, “When we think of this religion, we think of the importance of Karma, and inner peace and pleasure. But of course, what’s really at the heart of it all, is Dharma rather than Karma. The guide to life, and how to do the right thing. And as we bring up our children, I think explaining to people good conduct, and doing the right thing, and the importance of conduct is so vital. So to me, that’s what I take from this extraordinary festival, and the extraordinary story of the Ramayana.”
Before leaving, Srutidharma presented the Prime Minister with a box of Mangala-arati sweets offered to Bhaktivedanta Manor’s presiding Deities Sri Sri Radha-Gokulananda.
Two days later, at a Wembley Stadium event where 60,000 people welcomed Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Srutidharma was one of just fourteen people selected to officially greet both Modi and David Cameron.
When Srutidharma shook his hand, Cameron commented, “My kids are still eating all the sweets you left at Diwali!”
Meanwhile Modi fondly recalled his 2005 visit to Bhaktivedanta Manor for its Janmashtami festival.
At the Wembley event, during which Modi spoke about his economic goals for India and partnership with the UK, children of the Krishna Avanti School recited the national anthems of both India and the UK, and got to meet both Prime Ministers.
Later, at a VIP function organized by the Indian High Commissioner, three ISKCON devotees – Srutidharma, Gauri Das and Manor head of communications Vinay Tanna – were counted amongst the 1,000 VIPs.
There Gauri also got a chance to meet with Modi, and presented him with a box of Mangala-arati sweets too, saying, “These are made with milk from our own cows,” which delighted the Indian PM.
“Because we are introduced as ISKCON, attending these kinds of events builds our international reputation and brings us political support for any future ISKCON campaigns we might have,” says Srutidharma.