RAM NAVMI CELEBRATIONS AT THE HOUSE OF COMMONS
Ram Navmi – House of Commons
This historic event, was hosted graciously by the Minister of State, Tony McNulty (MP) and marked the significant working partnership relationship of the British government with the Hindu faith organisations within the UK, and was attended by 270 guests.
Anuja Prashar (HCUK Executive) welcomed all the distinguished guests and community leaders, which included the Indian High Commissioner and the visiting Indian Minister of West Bengal. Anuja said it was apt, that this first celebration, of the birth of Shri Ram ji, at the House of Commons coincides in 2005 with the awakening of the British Hindu community to its own need to engage pro-actively with the machinery of Government and Policy making.
Anuja elaborated that the coincidence is remarkable and more significant because Shri Ram was the embodiment of the qualities that all Hindus aspire to as individuals and therefore the qualities that underpin the culture of our communities. Lord Ram demonstrated these qualities throughout his life. The qualities of:
– Respect for the Law of the Land, by obeying his father the King and going into exile in the forest.
– The pursuit of knowledge of his environment, to create harmony & prosperity through good relationships with other forest dwellers regardless of their station or background.
– Courage, self discipline and commitment to purpose to fight back, when his peace & prosperity, his Laxmi, his wife Sita was snatched away from him.
– Valuing the strength of diversity, by respecting partnerships and working together with Hanumanji and other forest communities to overcome adversity.
– Upholding the principle of SEVA, by gaining mastery over personal needs to serve the greater good of the community, when subjecting his Sita to ‘Aagni Pariksha’ in order to retain community cohesion.
The Maharaj from Maha Lakshmi Vidya Bhavan, Bankim Gossaiji enthralled the room full of Parliamentarians and Hindu leaders with a recital of the Ramayan, while Shri Ramesh ji lead the prayer ceremony.
There followed speeches from several dignitaries. Kamlesh Sharma, Indian High Commissioner congratulated UK’s Hindu Community on the dignity and strength they displayed, through the celebration of their own cultural values and suggested that the spiritual aridity of our times required more of the same.
The Rt. Hon. Hilary Benn (MP), Secretary of State for Culture, spoke of the increased developing partnership work between the Indian & British governments, on various projects and welcomed the opportunities for forging greater understanding between the Hindu & British cultures.
Dominic Grieve (MP), Shadow Attorney General, recognised the contribution that the Hindu community has made to British society and encouraged community leaders to take up the challenge of greater partnership working in the future development of a Multi-cultural Britain.
The visiting Minister from West Bengal congratulated the Hindu Council UK and the Hindu community of the UK for it’s exemplary ability to develop harmonious and effective relationships within a multi-cultural environment.
Two classical dances, Kathak and Bharat Natyam, were performed by students of the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, introduced with explanation by Dr. Shastry ji (HCUK Executive). The audience made up of several Hindu community leaders, Presidents of various Faith organisations and a significant number of Ministers of Parliament, who are involved with Faith and Hindu Community, such as Home Office Minister, Fiona Mactaggart (MP), Adrian Bailey (MP), Lord Dholakia (LibDem) and others, applauded as the three young women performed to the recital of the Ramayan.
Jay Lakhani (HCUK Executive) congratulated the British Government on it’s fore sight and affirmation of the value of the Hindu community in the UK, by inviting Hindu’s to celebrate a significant religious festival at the Houses of Parliament, and reminded the audience that this was not possible in the Indian Houses of Parliament.
Abhay Lakhani (HCUK Executive) paid special tribute to Tony McNulty(MP) and his support of the Hindu community and added that he hoped the British government would see fit to extend this support to effective resolution of international issues, that challenge the Identity and heritage of Hindu’s all over the world. Abhay ji’s reminder that Gandhi ji, at Independence, wished India to have a system of ‘Ram Raj’, was met with a roar of applause from the audience of 270 guests. Abhay ji went on to encourage community leaders to support the Hindu Council UK, as the collective voice of Hindu’s, because our future generations are depending upon us to ensure that we are recognised and valued as true strong Hindus.
Anil Bhanot (HCUK General Secretary) concluded by calling for a greater focus on Inter-Faith dialogue and explained the Hindu pluralistic approach.
He suggested that Religion is not a fixed phenomenon, it is a movement. It may appear fixed but it does change inevitably, with the passage of time and that is because it is not just a belief system, it is also a code for moral conduct. It is this moral conduct which is the living part of the religion that is continually placing new challenges, new pressures, on the inanimate belief part of the religion. Whilst belief is based on a result, a revelation, conduct is an evolutionary process.
Belief on its own can sometimes be irrational, but it is then the conduct part, the living part, that stretches belief to its limits of reason, that religion finally begins to change or evolve. Of course beyond reason there can only be belief that can take us to God but up to that fine point, we owe it to God to use all our intellectual faculties of which reason is the highest.
– If God is omnipresent then we can’t have a hell that is devoid of him.
– If God is omnipotent then we can’t have a devil upon whom God has no control.
– If God is infinite then we can’t limit him to a certain set of names.
The British Government has wisely opened doors to faith and acknowledged it, to influence policy & legislation. Anil ji commended the Home Office Faith Unit under, Fiona Mactaggart(MP) for always trying their best and urged religious leaders to begin to move from an already established culture of tolerance, thanks to the work of Inter Faith Network, to developing a culture of genuine respect for each others religions.
Anil ji continued that all religions agree on the very basic fundamental concept that there is only one God who created this universe with million of galaxies, perhaps millions of solar systems and perhaps millions of intelligent forms and perhaps millions of religions. When Lord Ram was asked to describe the nature of divinity he was silent. The devotee asked again, and Ram said that he was speechless, that there were no words which could describe it, that it is beyond everything that is in nature, that is the Absolute. If that principle remains central to our Inter faith dialogue we will then surely achieve our inter faith ideal.
Stephen Pound (MP), who chairs the Labour Friends of India at the parliament, reminded us of the ideals set by Lord Ram and how important it is for us not to forget those. Stephen confirmed that Hinduism has a lot to teach the world and he ended by greeting everyone with “Namaste”.
Tony McNulty (MP) reaffirmed that he was delighted at the celebrations especially, with the dignity and depth of the explanations that Maharaj, Bankim Gossai ji provided, from the readings of the Ramayan. The values of the Hindu code of conduct was evident in the joyous and gracious manner of the celebrations and Tony declared, to the rapturous delight of all guests, that Ramnomi and Janamashtmi would be celebrated every year at the British House of Parliament.