Spiritual leader of the Swaminarayan Hindu religion and founder of the Neasden Temple in Brent has died at the age of 94.
His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj, the president of Bochasanwasi Akshar Purshottam Swaminarayan Sanstha (BAPS), passed away peacefully on August 13 at the sacred temple of worship in Sarangpur in India.
He lived by the motto 'in the joy of others lies our own' and was lovingly known by his devotees as Bapa.
Tributes poured in from around the world with Prime Minister Theresa May who visited the Neasden temple as Home Secretary in 2013 saying he had a 'legacy of selfless service' and “exemplified the values of British Hindus whose contribution helps make the United Kingdom one of the world's most successful multi-cultural, multi-faith democracies.”
In a heartfelt tribute, Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi said: 'Many have lost a Guru but I, a father'.
Prince of Wales, Prince Charles added: “I learnt with immense sadness of the demise of His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj.
“I have especially fond memories of his visit to St. James’s Palace in 1997, and our conversation about interfaith harmony and world peace.
“I have been a great admirer of His Holiness’s remarkable gift to London in the form of the Neasden Temple – an exquisite and traditional Hindu Mandir.”
His divinity was such for five days after his death he was placed in a -10 degree large glass cube to allow hundreds of thousands of followers from all corners of the world come for one last time to get the 'darshan' (to see) of a great saint.
Many families who regularly pray at the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir (temple) on Brentfield Road in Neasden were among mourners who flew to India to pay their final respects and attend the final cremation rites on August 17.
Those unable to be there were able to watch the cremation live online here .
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan who recently visited the Neasden temple added: “It is with deep sadness that I learnt of the passing away of His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj.
"His Holiness has given to London a priceless gift by building the Neasden Temple in our great city.
"The Temple stands as a testament not only to His Holiness’s vision and foresight but most importantly to the thousands of volunteers he inspired.”
Pramukh Swami had visited London on more than a dozen occasions to grace devotees with his presence and sermons.
MP for Brent North Barry Gardiner tweeted: “Although he passes from us, his spirit and wisdom lives in our hearts.
Born as Shantilal Patel on December 7, 1921 in the village of Chansad in Gujrat, by the age of 18 he renounced his home to become a saint (sadhu).
In 1950 he was appointed Pramukh (president) of BAPS serving under his guru Yogiji Maharaj until he passed away in 1971.
Then Pramukh Swami became the fifth spiritual guru of the Swaminarayan Sanstha (group).
Throughout his presidency, he visited more than 17,000 towns and villages, holds two Guinness Book of World Records and has been recognised as one of 20 most influential people in the world.
Throughout his life he has built more than 1,100 temples around the world; addressed the United Nations World Peace Summit in 2000 in New York; built hospitals and was at the forefront of providing relief aid to victims of natural disasters worldwide.
He suffered a heart attack in 1983 and had bypass surgery in 1998 and continued to travel the world to spread teachings of the Swaminarayn religion before old age meant he had to slow down.
Pramukh Swami is succeeded by His Holiness Mahant Swami, who becomes the sixth spiritual guru for BAPS and leaves behind more than 1,000 sadhus.
In a statement BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha said: “His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj, spiritual head and president of the BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha, inspirer of countless and a great servant of society, passed away on 13 Aug 2016, at 6pm in Sarangpur.
"We deeply mourn the departure of our revered guruji.”