Festive air mixed with spiritual solemnity as the BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha, a leading Hindu sect, held a regional round of its centennial celebration in East Rutherford.
The grand show Saturday was held in the presence of the sect's spiritual leader Pramukh Swami Maharaj at the 20,000-capacity Continental Airlines Arena in East Rutherford, New Jersey.
Dignitaries who addressed the audience included New Jersey Governor John Corzine, US Senator Robert Menendez and India's ambassador to the US Ronen Sen.
Corzine referred to the theme of the programme and said: "I am proud that BAPS and Pramukh Swami speak what all public servants should remember: 'In the joy of others we should find our own joy'."
Praising BAPS for its recent contributions to international disaster relief efforts, Senator Menendez, Democrat from New Jersey, said: "New Jersey has the third largest Indian-American community in the US. Your children give us hope for our future. Indian-Americans are a central part of the American community and India a central international force."
He presented a US Senate Commemoration about the centenary event to Pramukh Swami, who gave him and Corzine each a memento.
Sen, impressed by his visits to the marvellous BAPS temples in Chicago and London, said: "BAPS continues spreading the Indian message of love, oneness of humankind, and universal brotherhood. Thank you for making me and all my fellow Indians proud to be Indian."
Based on the teachings of Lord Swaminarayan (1781-1830), the Bochasanwasi Shri Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan (BAPS) Sanstha was founded in 1907 in Gujarat by the Shastriji Maharaj.
The sect, having a large following in India and abroad, especially among people from Gujarat, is holding centenary celebrations around the world. The celebration in New Jersey chronicled BAPS' history of working towards spiritual guidance, social service and cultural preservation.
Thousands of people from across North America filled the Continental Airlines Arena to the capacity and created a sea of waving BAPS Centenary flags in unison with the youths enthusiastically waving larger flags in the aisles.
The three-hour programme was a creative mix of ancient Hindu values presented in a modern context through multimedia videos, youthful dances, Indian classical music, plays and speeches.
In his concluding address, Pramukh Swami said: "We have all technically advanced in the world but forgot the main point that god is the all-doer."
He exhorted people to turn to god to lead a pious life without any vices or addictions. "God gives us life and we should use it for good purposes to serve our community, family, or whoever one believes in helping," he added.
Pramukh Swami is currently on a North American tour. He inaugurated a new BAPS temple in Toronto July 23 and is scheduled to inaugurate another one in Atlanta later this month.