Morning   Images

The second day of the Mahotsav began at 8 AM sharp on Saturday, July 5th, 2014. The beautiful divine marble murtis of Lord Shree Swaminarayan, Jeevanpran Shree Abji Bapashree, Jeevanpran Shree Muktajeevan Swamibapa, and our Guruparampara in the newly-erected sinhasan were revealed for the first time, as the curtains covering them were slowly drawn open. All those who laid their eyes upon the murtis were instantly enchanted by their divine darshan.

His Divine Holiness Acharya Swamishree then commenced the Vedic yagna ceremony, which is an important ceremony that invites and allows Lord Swaminarayanbapa Swamibapa to come and accept the new temple as His eternal abode.

After completing the first segment of the yagna ceremony, Acharya Swamishree was escorted from the temple to the sabha mandap in a golf cart that had been decorated to resemble a grand chariot. Swamibapa Pipe Band led the way for Acharya Swamishree and disciples. Acharya Swamishree was adorned in pearl vagha as disciples walked Him into the sabha mandap and to His gadi.

Sadguru Shastri Shree Jitendrapriyadasji Swami and Shastri Shree Prasantswaroopdasji Swami then concluded the scripture recitals of the Shikshapatri and Bapashree Ni Vaato scriptures, and parayan sponsors brought in decorated chhaabs with offerings for Lord Swaminarayanbapa Swamibapa. Acharya Swamishree blessed all of the disciples, and they then performed aarti to Lord Swaminarayanbapa Swamibapa.

Acharya Swamishree proceeded afterwards to inaugurate Swamibapa Ni Vaato Part 1 and Swamibapa Ni Vaato Part 2 in audio CD and eBook formats. Up until this day, disciples all over the world had the pleasure of viewing live darshan of Maninagar Mandir’s Shree Ghanshyam Maharaj. With Acharya Swamishree’s blessing, after this day, disciples will also be able to have the divine darshan of Maninagar Mandir’s Shree Harikrushna Maharaj and Shree Sahajanand Swami. Acharya Swamishree inaugurated the live darshan of all three murtis on www.SwaminarayanGadi.com.

Everyone was then seated, and Acharya Swamishree showered His divine blessings upon the entire congregation that had gathered in the sabha mandap as well as upon all sants and disciples throughout the world who had prayed to be kept together and included throughout the celebrations. Acharya Swamishree described how the festival we had all been so eagerly awaiting for had finally arrived. Everyone’s hard work and preparations were coming to fruition with the Lord’s blessings. Thomas Jefferson, American revolutionary and third President of the United States, had coined Delaware as the “Diamond State” due to its prime location on the eastern seaboard for trade and enterprise in the early 1800s. On Sunday, Lord Shree Swaminarayan, Jeevanpran Shree Abji Bapashree, and Jeevanpran Shree Muktajeevan Swamibapa will be arriving in Delaware and making it one of their eternal abodes on this earth equivalent to Akshardham. In addition, Shree Harikrushna Maharaj will be ceremoniously weighed against none other than diamonds for the first time in Maninagar Shree Swaminarayan Gadi Sansthan’s history. As such, tomorrow, Delaware will truly become as precious as a diamond, the most precious jewel known to mankind.

Acharya Swamishree then explained that diamonds may be the most precious worldly object, but nothing is as precious to the Lord as a disciple’s humble love and selfless devotion unto Him. He reflected upon the first day of celebrations and expressed how extremely pleased the Lord, Bapashree, and Swamibapa had become upon seeing the many young disciples of the United States perform devotional songs and dances during the evening program. The Lord was singing and dancing alongside His disciples, giving them encouragement throughout the night. If a mother or father becomes extremely happy to see their child perform a kirtan or nrutya, just imagine how pleased the Lord, everyone’s true mother and father, becomes to see all of His children come together and perform devotion.

Next, Acharya Swamishree described how it is important for all disciples to become engrossed in the Lord’s divine darshan and service (seva). A true disciple of the Lord is one who has relinquished all desire for all worldly objects, has resorted to the shelter of the Lord and Shree Swaminarayan Gadi, and only has desire to service the Lord and experience His divine ecstasy.

Swamibapa Pipe Band then entered the sabha mandap, escorting the day’s honored guests from the community, and Acharya Swamishree momentarily paused His divine blessings. Honored guests included New Castle County Executive Tom Gordon, Father Roger Dibuo of Bear’s St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish (church that served as the starting point of the afternoon’s nagaryatra), and Mr. Palashbhai Gupta, a community member who has been extremely supportive of and pivotal in the temple’s public relations efforts.

The young disciples of Shree Swaminarayan Temple Delaware then performed the American national anthem, the “Star-Spangled Banner,” whilst the entire congregation stood in place and placed their hands to their hearts. Coincidentally, the 200th anniversary of the national anthem was on July 2nd, 2014.

Following the performance, all three guests were presented with prasad saals, flower garlands, chaandlo, boxes of prasad, and a Mahotsav memento by Acharya Swamishree. Executive Gordon and Father Dibuo also received prasad paags and then offered heartfelt words of congratulations and support to the temple congregation. They commended Acharya Swamishree and Maninagar Shree Swaminarayan Gadi Sansthan’s efforts to instill the highest moral values throughout the world and also stressed the message of peace and unity amongst all people.

Executive Gordon stated, “It is an honor for me to be here today with such a wonderful religious leader [referring to Acharya Swamishree]. What we need to do is study this culture and see if we can take one of our libraries and start to gather information on the Indian culture from all over the world because Delaware much needs the magic formula you have in your community – how you raise your children not to be involved in drugs, theft, crime, and failure. We need to do more than celebrate today; we need to work together and learn from you. The values from this festival should be contagious; they should affect every person, every church, and every community throughout Delaware, this nation, this country, and this world. I understand that your spiritual leader and congregation are dedicated to society before self, [which is] very important because everyone says it, but you practice it.”

Father Dibuo then went up to the podium and stated, “A young man, while showing me around the temple and explaining your religion, told me, ‘In order to understand the significance of our spiritual leader, the best way to describe him would be as our “Pope,”’ so we are definitely before an honored figure, and I am honored to be present under this tent with such an illustrious gathering of people. It is our honor to welcome you, and we are privileged to be in your presence. I, as a catholic priest, understand the importance of spiritual leaders and leaders at the highest level, and you have the highest-level religious leader of your community [here today] and the understanding of God and religious presence in our world, so this is an extraordinary moment for your temple and the state of Delaware. As your Pope here says and as Tom Gordon also says, ‘Your mission is for peace and unity,’ and so why would I ever not want to be with a community who promotes peace and unity across the world? On behalf of the Catholic presence in Bear, Delaware, I officially and with great honor welcome you to the neighborhood, and you will enrich our lives very much. I resonate deeply with your dedication to family and culture. I respect all you have done to bring peace to the world. What I like about the Holy Father present here today is that He preaches that inner peace must be conquered first in order to attain world peace. Your dedication to your families, work ethic, religion, and education of your children are why you teach us how to be better humans and better Americans.” Father Dibuo ended his speech by saying he was much looking forward to the temple’s grand procession in the afternoon that would be starting at his church, and he had invited all of the parishioners to join in on the celebrations.

All three of the honored guests received blessings from Acharya Swamishree once more and were escorted from the sabha mandap.

Joe Biden, Vice President of the United States and Delaware native, and Thomas Carper, U.S. Senator from the State of Delaware, were unable to join the Mahotsav celebrations due to prior commitments; however, they both sent their heartfelt congratulations and well wishes in letters to the temple.

Acharya Swamishree then picked up His divine blessings where He left off.  He stressed that in order for a disciple to dedicate his or her life to the service of the Lord as an adult, the disciple must first be instilled with spiritual knowledge, values, good habits, and highest moral values as a child. The child must be encouraged to seek the shelter of Shree Swaminarayan Gadi, the Lord, and His satpurush. The mind of a young child is a blank slate, and as long as we fill that slate with religious teachings, good practices, and devotional thoughts, the child will flourish into a strong disciple of the Lord when he or she is older.

Acharya Swamishree illustrated this concept with an example about a young child who was encouraged to place his father’s money into the daan-peti (donation box) each time he visited the temple. Giving away one’s hard-earned money is not an easy thing to do, but if a disciple is taught from a very young age that these donations to the Lord support good causes and the building of beautiful temples and centers of peace, and if this becomes a natural habit for them, they will realize as an adult that there is no better place to donate our hard-earned money. Following his father’s example and teachings, the child went on to donate his own money to support the sansthan’s many great causes when he reached adulthood. This example does not just apply to monetary seva; it can also be applied to performing devotional songs and dances, reading religious scriptures, cleaning the temple, respecting elders, exhibiting good behavior, and living by the five vartmaan. Just as the father in this story instilled good teachings and the highest of virtues in his child, we too should seek to do the same with our young children so that they too may live by the Lord’s teachings, support this temple and this sansthan’s many great causes, and perform all types of devotion in their adulthood.  With these valuable teachings, Acharya Swamishree concluded His divine blessings for the morning.

The disciples of Shree Swaminarayan Temple Delaware then presented Acharya Swamishree with two beautiful garlands. One was made out of individually-strung fennel seeds (varyari), cardamom (elaichi), betel nuts (sopari), and dry fruits. The other was made out of individually-strung almonds. Acharya Swamishree stood up on His gadi to bestow His divine darshan to the entire congregation whilst adorned in these two garlands.

This concluded the morning’s sabha, and Acharya Swamishree was escorted out of the sabha mandap by disciples. Everyone was then served lunch mahaprasad before proceeding to the St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church for the afternoon’s nagaryatra.

Afternoon   Images

At 3:30 PM, sants and disciples congregated at the St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church for the start of the afternoon’s grand nagaryatra, which would triumphantly proceed through the streets of Bear, Delaware to announce the imminent arrival of Lord Shree Swaminarayan, Jeevanpran Shree Abji Bapashree, and Jeevanpran Shree Muktajeevan Swamibapa to Shree Swaminarayan Temple and Cultural Center in Bear, Delaware on Sunday. Father Roger Dibuo as well as dozens of the church parishioners also joined the group to be a part of the procession kick-off.

At 4 PM, a helicopter emerged from the distance and started to approach the church’s vicinity. As soon as everyone realized that it was none other than our beloved Acharya Swamishree seated in the front seat of the chopper, loud cheers erupted from the entire congregation. Acharya Swamishree lovingly gazed down, waved to all of His disciples, and bestowed His divine darshan to all.

As soon as the helicopter landed, disciples eagerly approached Acharya Swamishree to garland Him and to escort Him to the beautiful, intricately-decorated chariots that had been hand-constructed for the nagaryatra.

Acharya Swamishree performed aarti to Lord Shree Swaminarayan and His divine spiritual lineage, who were seated upon one of the grand chariots. He also performed aarti to Lord Shree Swaminarayan, who was seated upon another magnificent chariot resembling the form of three colorful peacocks. Acharya Swamishree was then adorned in beautiful vagha, and He took His sit alongside Lord Shree Swaminarayan on the second chariot. Sadguru sants accompanied Him, and more sants took their seats upon the first chariot. Disciples were then given the opportunity to perform aarti to Lord Swaminarayanbapa Swamibapa.

The procession then commenced. The parade route weaved itself from the church, through some of the main streets in Bear, and to the temple location. The route of the parade itself exemplifies the significance this temple will have in strengthening community ties between all walks of life and all faiths. This parade joined together the Catholic and Swaminarayan communities, with all of Bear in between.

Throughout the entire procession, Lord Shree Swaminarayan, the Guruparampara, and Acharya Swamishree bestowed their divine darshan to all the disciples and spectators throughout the entire procession, which was roughly a mile long and lasted for two hours. Although there were scattered severe thunderstorms and very high winds during the previous few days, the sun was out and shining brightly, and not a single rain drop could be seen during the entire procession by the grace of the Lord. Lord Swaminarayanbapa Swamibapa was undoubtedly present for the grand procession towards His new home in Bear, Delaware.

Our very own Swamibapa Pipe Band (North America’s first Indian-American Scottish pipe band) from our temple in Secaucus, New Jersey, led the parade. Several disciples from Shree Swaminarayan Temple Delaware are also members of the pipe band, making it truly a united group. Young disciples from Delaware and New Jersey performed devotional dances to kirtans behind the chariots, and hundreds of disciples from all over the world walked in the procession, in matching uniforms, singing praises of the Lord. Elmo and Mickey Mouse also made special appearances at the parade to entertain the crowd! Hundreds of local residents and workers came out from their homes, offices, and stores to gaze at the procession, the divine murtis of Lord Swaminarayanbapa Swamibapa, and Acharya Swamishree.  They snapped photos on their cameras and phones and recorded videos with their camcorders. Lord Swaminarayanbapa Swamibapa and Acharya Swamishree bestowed their divine darshan upon them all.

When the nagaryatra arrived at the temple, disciples performed the welcoming back ceremony (punkhvaanu) and performed aarti to Lord Swaminarayanbapa Swamibapa and Acharya Swamishree. Acharya Swamishree then descended from the chariot and was escorted towards the temple by disciples. He performed the ribbon-cutting ceremony at the main doors of the temple, officially opening its doors to all salvation-seeking individuals. After this, Acharya Swamishree performed sandhya aarti, everyone performed daily evening niyams, and mahaprasad dinner was served to all before the next segment of the Mahotsav.

Evening   Images

After dinner, sants and disciples gathered back inside the tent for what would be quite the musical evening. Disciples escorted Acharya Swamishree into the sabha mandap at 8 PM, and He took His seat across from the stage to watch the evening’s performances.

A young disciple from Delaware and a young disciple from Cleveland, Ohio, performed a tabla duet to kick-off the night. These two talented disciples, with help from our talented sants, had been practicing the performance together with a tabla teacher in India via Skype. The crowd thoroughly enjoyed their rhythms and beats.

Acharya Swamishree then went up on stage to welcome the evening’s main performer, Bollywood and YouTube sensation, Jeffrey Iqbal. Jeffrey is a Delaware-born musician and also the first American-born South Asian to sing for a Bollywood film. He has also been featured on a variety of Indian musical talent shows, including the prestigious “Sa Re Ga Ma Pa.” Acharya Swamishree blessed Jeffrey and presented him with a prasad paag, chaandlo, flower garland, box of prasad, and a crystal memento for the special occasion. Jeffrey, overwhelmed by Acharya Swamishree’s blessings and benevolence, bowed down to Acharya Swamishree’s feet in reverence before commencing His performances.

Jeffrey and his band then performed a dazzling array of kirtans – some in Hindi, some in Gujarati, some newly-composed, and some classic. Kirtans included: “Teri Mand Mand Muskan,” “Shreejibapa Swamibapa Teri Kirpa” “Pyar Barsate,” “Charano Mein Rakhna,” “Rumzum Karta Aave,” “Jay Jay Swaminarayan Bolo,” “Swamibapa Na Darshan,” and “Rumzum Rumzum Chaale Harivar.”

He captivated the entire audience – Acharya Swamishree, sants, and disciples alike, and he made all of his performances highly interactive and even asked the crowd to join him in song and dance in several of his musical numbers. During his performance of “Rumzum Karta Aave,” Jeffrey would sing one line of the chorus and then would ask the crowd to fill in the rest. Sants and disciples were craning from their seats and singing at the top of their voices so that their words would ring all the way to Akshardham.

When Jeffrey commenced the kirtan “Rumzum Rumzum Chaale Harivar Rumzum Rumzum,” with the words “Ho…Chaale Hari…” the crowd absolutely erupted! Sants and disciples began to sing the entire kirtan with him, and Acharya Swamishree was so overfilled with joy upon hearing Jeffrey’s rendition of the hit kirtan and all of His sants and disciples singing along, that he stood upon His gadi in the middle of the performance and danced throughout the rest of it. Sants and disciples could not help but stand up from their seats as well to dance along with and cheer on Acharya Swamishree.

At the conclusion of what was supposed to be the final kirtan performance, shouts of “Once more! Once more!” started to bellow from the crowd, and eventually, the entire crowd was begging Jeffrey to perform one more kirtan in unison. To entice the audience one more time and, above all, to please Acharya Swamishree, Jeffrey pulled a chair and his music stand right in front of Acharya Swamishree’s gadi. As his last performance of the evening, He serenaded Acharya Swamishree with the kirtan “Teri Mand Mand Muskan.” Everyone loved it, and loud cheers filled the tent at the conclusion. Acharya Swamishree blessed Jeffrey and his entire band once more, and He presented all of the band members with Mahotsav mementos.

Jeffrey then went back up on stage to wrap up the evening and thank the audience for their enthusiasm and encouragement throughout the night. This was the very first time Jeffrey had ever sung, let alone even spoken, anything in Gujarati. Between performances, Jeffrey stated, “When I put my first video on YouTube, I was expecting one hundred views, but in quick time, it reached 20 million views. This is the first time I have performed at an event like this, but due to the blessings I have received today [from Acharya Swamishree], it is one of my most enjoyable performances ever.”

As announcements for the next day were being made, and just when everyone thought the evening had ended, the recorded version of “Rumzum Rumzum Chaale Harivar Rumzum Rumzum” started to play from the speakers. Acharya Swamishree, upon hearing the kirtan commence, instantaneously got up from His gadi and went on stage and began dancing energetically, much to the delight of His sants and disciples. Everyone got up from their seats, and many disciples and even Jeffrey joined Acharya Swamishree on stage to dance along. Everyone present inside the tent was on their feet dancing through the entire kirtan. After an evening this phenomenal and with the Lord about to make this new temple His newest eternal abode on Earth the very next day, who would not want to jubilantly rejoice with our beloved Acharya Swamishree?

After the kirtan finale, the “jay” was triumphantly recited, and Acharya Swamishree was escorted from the sabha mandap. This finally concluded a remarkable evening, one that surely no one will ever forget. Disciples were served refreshing mango lassi before heading home to rest for the final and biggest day of the Mahotsav – Praan Pratishtha and Diamond Tula day.