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Press Coverage of Diwali At House of Commons

submitted by Ramesh Kallidai, by Dipankar De Sarkar, Hindu Forum of Britain

Posted November 24, 2007

Presenting, British Prime Minister Shri Govardhan Brown

London, Nov 15 (IANS): Wearing marigold garlands around his neck and a bright vermillion teeka on the forehead, Britain's prime minister was anointed Govardhan Brown Wednesday by a large crowd of cheering Asians celebrating Diwali in the heart of the British establishment.

"From today, you are an honorary member of the Hindu community, as Govardhan Brown," said Ramesh Kallidai, general secretary of the Hindu Forum of Britain, to a beaming Gordon Brown inside a packed hall in the House of Commons, the British lower house of parliament.

"Please welcome Shri Govardhan Brown," he said to loud cheers and applause from a crowd that included scores of British members of parliament, as well as prominent Indian-born businessmen and politicians.

Hundreds of Asians had turned up from all over Britain for the occasion - an annual event that is organised jointly by British MPs and the Hindu Forum. This was the seventh Diwali at the House of Commons.

Kallidai explained that the word Govardhan had an auspicious and sacred meaning in Sanskrit - it's a hill in paradise - and told how Gordon Brown's ascendancy to prime ministership had been predicted by Keith Vaz, the longest-serving Asian MP, at last year's Diwali.

Vaz, a Labour MP and a leading light among Britain 's Asians, told Brown again, "You are going to be prime minister for a long, long time."

Not to be outdone, Brown, bent low with folded hands, said, "Namaste. Diwali Mubarak, saal Mubarak" - his Hindi sounding not a bit out of place inside the ornate Members' Dining Room room, which had taken on an appropriately Indian festive look for the occasion.

Huge traditional Indian brass lamps lit up the wood-panelled and carpeted room, its walls lined with painted portraits of British historical figures.

Throughout the hour-and-a-half-long event a steady stream of leading MPs from all political parties visited the function - and queued up to speak to an audience of Asian luminaries that included industrialist Swraj Paul, Indian High Commissioner Kamlesh Sharma, Indian hotelier Capt C P Krishna Nair and Dolar Popat, Chief Executive, London Inn Hotels.

Among dozens of leading MPs who turned up and spoke were Conservative Party chairwoman Caroline Spelman, Sailesh Vara, also of the Conservative Party, shadow leader of the House Theresa May, deputy leader of the House Harriet Harman, acting leader of the Liberal Democrats Vince Cable and Immigration Minister Tony McNulty.

Brown, lauding the Indian community for its contributions to British life and economy, said "you are playing an enormously successful role, showing that what we can achieve together is far greater than what we can achieve on our own.

"It is a role that will grow and grow in the years to come," he added, singling out Indian contributions in business, public services, faith groups and charity.

And then, tongue in cheek, he told Vaz: "I hope you will invite me next year too."

People: Hugo Rifkind
Gordon? Make that Govardhan

From 'The Times', London

And there we were thinking that Gordon was already a wildly exciting and exotic name. The Hindu Forum of Britain, it seems, feels not.

Welcoming the Prime Minister to the sixth annual Diwali reception at the House of Commons, Ramesh Kallidai, the forum's secretary-general, noted that one of the Gaelic meanings of Gordon is "hill with meadows". "In Sanskrit," he added, "the sacred language of the Hindus, we have a word for this too. It is a name for Lord Krishna, and it also refers to a sacred hill, called 'Govardhan'. We would therefore like to welcome you as an honorary member of our community, not as Gordon Brown, but as Govardhan Brown."

Govardhan Brown. Very cool. Stick that in your gap-year hubble-bubble pipes, you tie-dyed hippy Notting Hill Tories, you.

British premier to visit India in January

IANS, London, Nov 15 - British Prime Minister Gordon Brown is to visit India in January, Indian High Commissioner to Britain Kamlesh Sharma said Thursday.

Brown told a large gathering of Asians at the House of Commons Wednesday that he was keen to enter into agreements for health and education projects in India during an upcoming visit to India, but did not give the dates. 'The visit will be sometime in January,' Sharma told IANS.

The occasion is likely to be the fourth India-UK Summit - an annual event attended by the two prime ministers. The third in the series was held in October in London, attended by Manmohan Singh and Brown's predecessor Tony Blair.

The two premiers will however have the opportunity to meet well in advance of Brown's visit - at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Kampala, Uganda, Nov 23-25, where he said he looked forward to are suming my friendship with Mr Singh'.

Speaking at a Diwali function organised by British members of parliament and the Hindu Forum UK, Brown said Britain's relations with India are stronger than ever before, and he hoped to build upon them by entering into education and health projects, so that 'every child will have the opportunity for education'.

Also on his agenda during his India visit is the eradication of diseases such tuberculosis, polio and malaria - three diseases that most affect the poor - by harnessing 'scientific knowledge for all the people'.

'When I visit India, we will join together in these projects,' declared Brown.

Brown is a strong supporter of India's bid for a permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council and reiterated his position Tuesday in his maiden foreign policy speech as prime minister.

This will be his second visit to India this year.

During a visit in January as Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer, he spoke of the inspiration he drew from the life of Mahatma Gandhi while tackling both national and global security challenges, especially in deciding 'what is right in the long term, even when there are easier short-term options on offer'.

Gordon Brown praises India's culture

London (PTI): British Prime Minister Gordon Brown was the star attraction at Diwali celebrations at the House of Commons where a spokesman of Hindu Forum of Britain described him as "Govardhan" Brown and a honorary member of "our community."

Addressing the packed gathering, including NRI industrialist Lord Swraj Paul, Keith Vaz, MP, former minister and several members of his cabinet on wednesday evening, Brown praised India and its culture.

The Prime Minister lauded the efforts of the Hindu Forum of Britain in helping the Indian community integrate with the British society and hoped that it would continue its role in a much bigger way.

Brown said he would be going to India in January and would like to take with him the message of "success of British Hindu community to India" and share it with "Prime Minister (Manmohan) Singh, who is a good friend."

He also praised Keith Vaz for taking the lead in organizing the Diwali festival in the House of commons.

Welcoming the Prime Minister, Ramesh Kallidai, Secretary General of the Hindu Forum of Britain, recalled his presence at the Diwali celebrations last year where Keith Vaz had predicted that "the future is Brown" and "you will come back as the PM."

"And today, nothing can make the Hindu community happier than to fulfill Keith's words. We are delighted to welcome you to this Diwali event as our Prime Minister."

He said the forum has been hosting the cross-party event in the House of Commons for six years. "Our organisation's motto is simple: Proud to be British, proud to be Hindu."

Addresing the Bristish Prime Minister, Kallidai said "your name 'Gordon' is very auspicious. Another meaning for the name Gordon is 'hill with meadows'. But in Sanskrit, it is name for Lord Krishna, and it also refers to a sacred hill - Govardhan.

"We would therefore like to welcome you as an honorary member of our community, not as Gordon Brown, but as Govardhan Brown," he said.

According to Kallidai, over 80 Parliamentarians, several Cabinet Secretaries and 200 multi-faith leaders attended the Diwali celebrations.

Participants were welcomed with the traditional 'tilak' being applied to forehead and sweats.

The Members Dining Hall was transformed into a mini-India with lamps, colourful rangoli patterns, sacred food displays, exhibits, Indian sweets, gifts and incense.

Brown an honorary Hindu!
Source: AFP

London o Britain's Prime Minister Gordon Brown (pictured) has become an honorary Hindu, taking the name Govardhan Brown, during a ceremony to mark the Diwali festival, an umbrella organisation for British Hindus said yesterday.

Brown, wearing marigold garlands around his neck and a bright vermilion teeka on his forehead, received the honour at the Hindu Forum of Britain's annual event to celebrate the faith's festival of light at parliament on Wednesday.

Hindu Forum of Britain general secretary Ramesh Kallidai introduced the prime minister to guests, including prominent Indian businessmen and politicans, as "Shri Govardhan Brown". He told Brown, who is a Scottish Presbyterian, "Govardhan" had a "sacred and auspicious" meaning in Sanskrit as a hill in paradise.

Diwali is rapidly becoming a national festival in Britain, where Indians make up the largest proportion of people of south Asian origin; in the east central English city of Leicester, 25.7 per cent of the population is Indian. Hindus are the second largest non-Christian religious group in the country.

Newspapers and TV that carried the above stories:

The Times, London

Asian Voice, London

Eastern Eye, London

BBC Radio (several)

NDTV News

Zee News

Aastha TV

British Satellite News

Times of India, India

Hindustan Times, New Delhi

Hindu, India

Frontline, India

Economic Times

Tribune, India

Khaleej Times

Peninsula, Qatar

Gulf Times, Qatar

The Mercury, South Africa

News 24, Southh Africa

Daily News, South Africa

Sunday Tribune, South Africa

Cape Times, South Africa

Cape Argus, South Africa

Pretoria News, South Africa

Independent , South Africa

South African Star

The Daily Star, Bangladesh

The News - International, Pakistan

Pak Tribune, Pakistan

Malaysia Sun