Sunday, 2 June 2013


Nav Aurora, GMB, Cllr Manjula Sood, Debbie from Asda
Late morning and early afternoon today I'm at Sant Nirankari Bhawan, for a Big Lunch event, celebrating the 60th anniversary of the Queen's coronation.

This is the first time I've visited the group's centre in Prebend Street, on the site of an old Quaker Meeting House - the second to be occupied by the Society of Friends in Leicester (built 1877, closed 1956).

Sant Nirankari Mission styles itself "an all-embracing spiritual movement dedicated to peace, love and human fraternity. ... The mission is a platform for spiritual awakening with the simple philosophy that God is for all humanity irrespective of age or background, age, gender, political ideology or any other differentiating factor."

On entrance, the first thing I see is an interesting exhibition showing a range of community activities: blood donor drive; Easter egg donation; Universal Oneness Community Games; Mystical Musical Events; street shows. 

The programme begins with half an hour of Bhangra dancing, that starts out as a demonstration and ends up a bit of a rammy. There's a nice photo above, taken around the halfway point. A couple of minutes later, I'm up dancing in the circle (I'd time the rammy as starting from that point). I'm not often seen dancing in public, but I'm dragged on to the floor by Cllr Manjula Sood and she's my boss, so how could I refuse? This is followed by a demonstration of Dandiya (below). No way am I getting involved in that: those women have sticks!

After this demonstration, I make my way to the langar and share in the vegetarian food and soft drinks. In the main hall, there's a "laughing yoga" session going on, with audio piped into the room where we're eating. It takes me a few minutes to figure out just what the bizarre noises are for - and when I do, it's a bit of a relief!

I'm moved to say that this is one of the most genuinely diverse, harmonious, joyous inter faith events that I've attended, in Leicester or elsewhereThe congregation here is remarkably varied. Going on visual cues alone, some are distinctly Hindu; others Muslim; others still, Sikh; a few are Christian. This could prompt a debate about the relationship between conventional markers of culture and geographical origin, spiritual belief and religious practice - but everyone's too busy getting along and being happy together for that.

A couple of Police Community Support Officers attending today appear to have resolved that hoary old chestnut about whether members of the emergency services should remove their shoes in a place of worship.

Given that this is my first visit here, I'll be back in just a few days' time. There's a talk on the Bhagavad Gita, given by Mrs Jaya Rowe this coming Wednesday (5 June, 1830).

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