The Bhavan, India’s center of culture in Kensington, London opened the Indian festive season with a spellbinding talk on better understanding India’s Gods, Goddesses, and festivals by Dr. Priya Virmani. It was a sell-out event where Priya, a renowned proponent of Vedic philosophy, looked beyond the stories of the Gods and Goddesses we are familiar with including Brahma, Krishna, Shiva, Durga, and Rama to understand their significance and how we can apply this learning to our everyday lives. Renowned Odissi dancer Katrina Rute, flautist Gaurav Uniyal and tabla player Soumyaraj Das gave dimension to Priya’s voice and verse with their captivating renditions which enthralled the audience.
The evening opened with the serenity of mantra chants and lamp lighting by Lord Karan Bilimoria. In his opening speech, he spoke about festivals conjuring memories of his parents and shared anecdotes from his meetings with the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the mystic Sadhguru. Together with MP Virendra Sharma, Lord Bilimoria was welcomed by Dr. Priya Virmani and felicitated by Dr. Nanda, the Director of the Bhavan. They were also joined on stage by two inspirational, world record-making Indian cyclists – the mother-son duo - Gouri Mishra and Rian Kumar.
A little girl’s question (who was in the audience) was especially striking – she wanted to know if all Indian Gods had a message. Priya explained just as each one of us has various moods Indian Gods and Goddesses come with myriad messages to help us manage our different moods, for example, when you need strength and focus to study better it’s Hanuman; to start something new or partake in something out of your comfort zone, it’s Ganesha, and the like.
Priya imparted a new understanding of, and perspective to, the key festivals of Navratri leading to Dussehra and Diwali – the festival of lights that celebrates the homecoming of the Hindu God Lord Rama to his kingdom of Ayodhya.
The audience was especially mesmerised by Priya’s elucidation of the meaning of Ashtami (the eighth day of the Navratris) and of how the greatest ascetic Lord Shiva is also the greatest dancer among the Hindu Gods. Anjali, who was in the audience, commented, “I learned so much from Priya’s talk. It was so informative and well articulated and beautifully presented with so much energy, clarity and beauty.”
Food for the evening was specially curated by Michelin star and celebrity Indian chef Atul Kochhar and the team at his restaurant, Kanishka in Mayfair. The audience was treated to some beautiful vegetarian fare with Jain and vegan options.
Virendra Sharma MP, brought the celebratory evening to a close with his talk on the seminal importance of contributing to our communities as he extended a mention of unwavering support for Priya’s work to make ancient Indian spirituality, a GPRS for a happier life, accessible to all and relevant to current times.