The first day of the Shashtipurti (60th anniversary) Mahotsav began with His Divine Holiness Acharya Swamishree Purushottampriyadasji Maharaj being led through the streets Kera in a flamboyant procession. Acharya Swamishree was seated on a golden chariot that was drawn by disciples from the forecourt of Shree Swaminarayan Temple Kera to the Sabha Mandap, a short distance away. Throughout the route, hundreds of disciples and the wider public alike lined the streets to enjoy the divine darshan of Lord Shree Swaminarayanbapa Swamibapa and Acharya Swamishree. The near-forty Celsius temperature and early sunshine were accompanied by a refreshing wind – creating perfect conditions for the parade; the heat would have unbearable otherwise.
Acharya Swamishree showered His divine Ashirwad on the congregation, which was filled with disciples from not only Kera and the wider Kutch region, but from across the world including the UK, Africa, US, and Australia. People had travelled from far and wide to celebrate this auspicious festival.
Acharya Swamishree’s Ashirwad
It has been exactly 60 years since a Karan Satsang temple was established in the village of Kera. Disciples aspiring to please the Lord, performed a Vachnamrut parayan, five Swaminarayan Gadi Granth parayans and 103 Bapashree ni Vaato samuh parayans.
When such a grand mahotsav is being celebrated in Kera, we can remember the historic story of Sada ba of Kera. Sada ba was a very devout disciple, but her husband Rayabji bapu wasn’t a disciple of Swaminarayan Bhagwan.
Sada ba had a desire to attend all the Mahotsav’s held by Swaminarayan Bhagwan, but because her husband was non-religious she was unable to attend. Such was Sadaba’s devotion to the Lord that, Swaminarayan Bhagwan showered his mercy onto her and she was able to see all the Mahotsav’s held sitting at home.
Day by day Sada ba’s devotion to the Lord kept on growing and due to this, her husband became angry and asked Sada ba to leave the Satsang. Sada ba replied ‘No matter how much you hit me or even kill me but I will never leave this Satsang’
Hearing these words, Sada ba’s husband became very angry and raised a sword to hit Sada ba. To protect his loving disciple, Swaminarayan bhagwan sent a team of soldiers to stop her husband hitting Sada ba. The soldiers then exclaimed ‘You tried to trouble god’s disciple so we will not spare you.’ Sada ba’s husband realised his mistake and promised that he will never hit Sada ba. The soldiers then vanished.
In this way, Sada ba devoted her whole life to please god. During her old age, she became ill and Swaminarayan Bhagwan and his Mukta’s came to grant Darshan to Sadaba and took her to Akshardham.
The chief guest for the day was Shree RR Patel, Trustee of the Shree Kutchi Leva Patel (SKLP) community organization. Recognizing the immense charitable efforts of Maninagar Shree Swaminarayan Gadi Santhan under the inspirational leadership of Acharya Swamishree, Mr Patel said:
“This Sanstha genuinely uses the wealth raised from the community for the benefit of the community. Too few religious organizations follow this principle; that funds raised from the community should be used only for the well-being of society – not Acharya Swamishree and this Sanstha.
“Perhaps the most pertinent example of this is that of the education of girls; no organization I know of has done more for the education of girls than Maninagar Shree Swaminarayan Gadi Santhan. The Shree Muktajeevan Swamibapa Mayla Arts and Commerce College right here in Bhuj, is just one example. Acharya Maharaj – I commend you and your Maninagar Shree Swaminarayan Gadi Santhan”
Following the sponsors of the 103 samuh parayans (scripture recitals) receiving their paaghs, gifts and blessings, His Divine Holiness Acharya Swamishree adorned a special garland, lovingly created by the disciples of Kera. The garland was made entirely of wheat grain – with each individual grain having been threaded by hand into strands and multiple strands coming together to form the garland. This concluded the first day’s morning’s proceedings and everyone took Prasad lunch.
Evening - Bhakti Dance and Drama
The evening’s events was a compilation of live dance and drama acts, choreographed and directed by the renowned artist, Shree Rajyaguru. His Divine Holiness Acharya Swamishree graced the congregation with His presence at around 8.30pm, by which time the sabha mandap was filled with thousands, eager to catch the evening’s performances.
The night commenced with a range of devotional dances. An interlude of a short religious drama called, “Sanskar.” The story is of Pranay, a devout disciple of God who had just returned to India from the UK to look after his ill parents, and who was about to commence college. On starting college, he is harassed by the local bully, Rocky, who promises Pranay that he will make him break his religious vows. Despite Pranay’s adamancy that nothing could make him waver from his religious decree, Rocky dupes him into drinking alcohol.
While Pranay realizes what has happened and repents by fasting, Rocky is delighted with his prank. Soon, Rocky coughs blood, is sped off to hospital and diagnosed with blood cancer. Given less than six months to live, Rocky comes to realizes that this is all happening to him as a result of him maltreating a genuine disciple of God, and vows to repent. Rocky finds Pranay and begs for his forgiveness. As a true disciple, Pranay not only forgives Rocky, but introduces him to the ways of devotion, and brings him to the darshan of Acharya Swamishree. Rocky’s soul is saved as Acharya Swamishree grants him the Vartman ceremony and initiates him as a disciple of Lord Shree Swaminarayan.
After several further devotional dances, a special ballet was performed that conveyed an important message: A recent spate of suicides amongst the student community was causing concern across India. Apparently caused by overbearing stress and pressure on youngsters to do well at school and college, the musical drama demonstrated the inadvertent harm that could be caused, warned of the effects of too much pressure, and advocated positive encouragement.
The night’s final act with an innovative “UV dance” where in total darkness, only the gloves of the dances were visible under ultraviolet lighting. Acharya Swamishree then blessed all the performers for their devotional efforts, to conclude the evening’s events.
Day 1 Morning - Shree Ghanshyam Maharaj Shashtipurti Mahotsav, Kera
Day 1 Evening - Shree Ghanshyam Maharaj Shashtipurti Mahotsav, Kera